Haslam’s personal war on conservatives confirmed.
Targeted (and non-targeted) GOP legislators are furious.
It has been rumored for several weeks that the attacks on conservative legislators were directed by Gov. Haslam through his staff and consultants.
There were numerous hints and substantial anecdotal evidence that chief of staff Mark Cate personally attempted to recruit candidates to run against conservative legislators who had drawn the ire of the governor for daring to oppose his agenda, especially on Common Core. There were suspicions the governor had directed some of his closest financial and business associates to fund the attack. There was talk that political consultants who were working for the governor were involved in creating and delivering the attack ads.
It now appears to all be true.
RTP has learned, thanks to its Merry Band of Tipsters, of direct links between the governor and the unprecedented (at least for the GOP) attacks. Below is a promotional page produced by a direct mail company called Persuasion Partners, Inc. Advance Tennessee was a last-minute PAC formed and funded by a handful of wealthy individuals, most, if not all of whom have close political and/or business relationships with the governor.
Advance Tennessee, is located above a UPS store on the second floor of an old, nondescript Capitol Hill townhouse in Washington, DC. Interesting choice of locales.
Gee, locating a PAC to influence just Tennessee legislative races in Washington makes all the sense in the world. Why, when RTP wants to influence political races for, say, city council in the District of Columbia, our choice for PAC headquarters is Bulls Gap, TN. Yeah, right.
But Advance Tennessee didn’t stop there with its obfuscation. In a rather obvious attempt to hide or misdirect those trying to uncover who was behind the effort in the closing days of the primary election, the PAC listed its direct mail firm, Persuasion Partners, as having a Madison, Wisconsin address. But what the PAC did not reveal in its filings was that persuasion Partners has an important presence in Tennessee. It seems that one of the Persuasion Partners’ partners is none other than Brian Kaegi.
Ah, yes – Brian Kaegi. RTP readers will remember him as the lobbyist who refuses to register as a lobbyist and who has particularly close ties to Gov. Haslam. Just how close? Well, on its self-promotion ad, it lists Gov. Haslam as one of its leading clients (along with TNGOP chairman Chris Devany). Brian is the brother of Kim Kaegi, the fundraising guru to Gov. Haslam as well as Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander. All of these officials are current clients of Tom Ingram, the governor’s closest advisor.
Brian is a protégé of Ingram. It is absolutely inconceivable that Kaegi would move to attack other Republicans unless he received prior approval from Ingram. And there is not one chance in Hell that Ingram would sign off on the Kaegi attacks on fellow Republicans without checking in with the governor first.
Bill Haslam, either directly or by acquiescence, is responsible for trying to defeat sitting Republican legislators. Period.
And that is what has the legislature in an uproar. RTP has spoken with numerous legislators and staff since the election. The animosity towards Haslam by targeted lawmakers would be understandable. But a significant number of legislators who were not believed to have been directly targeted are just as furious. One told RTP he figures he “could be next” on the governor’s hit-list and is not looking for ways to hit the governor’s agenda. “I will not let some SOB attack me or my friends without a fight,” he said.
Wow, governor. That’s quite an accomplishment. You and your cronies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and defeated exactly two legislators, while those opposed to your Common Core agenda picked up two seats of their own – a wash? But your attacks did succeed in one critical area: There is now a large portion of your caucus who is royally pissed off at you and can’t wait to try and kick your butt, starting with Common Core.
Have a nice session, governor. You’ve earned it.