Strategy now focuses on the November election and helping Democrats defeat Republicans who opposed Haslam’s Common Core and Obamacare expansion agenda.
Forming a 527 to launder the money?
Do they REALLY want to go there again?
RTP has learned high-level meetings have taken place among some of the same individuals who carried out the unprecedented attack on sitting Republican legislators at the direction and/or consent of Gov. Bill Haslam, his chief of of staff Mark Cate and others.
Under discussion was an assault focusing on up to nine Republicans who have significant Democrat opposition and who are considered potentially vulnerable. All but two of the targets are incumbent members of the legislature. The idea would be to have a new PAC swoop in at the last minute and run negative ads against the Republicans, the theory being the winning Democrats would be more amenable to supporting the governor on Common Core and Medicaid expansion.
RTP will stop for a moment and let that last paragraph sink in for members of the GOP caucus. The governor and/or his staff and/or his allies are going to actually try to defeat Republicans who disagree with the governor and elect Democrats instead?
Breathtaking, isn’t it?
After spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat two of the eight targeted Republicans in the August primary, members of the Advance Tennessee PAC are still smarting from being exposed by Andy Sher, RTP, Andrea Zelinski and others. Advance Tennessee filed a last-minute PAC, which hired a close adviser to the governor to coordinate the attacks on numerous members of the GOP caucus, including Rep. Tony Shipley and Sen. Stacey Campfield (however, polls showed Campfield was trailing far behind his opponent well before the PAC made its expenditures, causing some analysts to conclude the $150,000+ expenditure actually resulted in the defeat of only one legislator, Rep. Shipley).
The consultant, unregistered lobbyist Brian Kaegi, apparently tried to hide his participation by running attack mailings through a Wisconsin company with which he is affiliated.
[Editors’ note: Ya know, for a bunch of people who are supposed to be political pros, these guys are pretty ham-handed. We’ve seen better-kept secrets at Rachel’s Beauty Shop in Blountville]
One source told RTP that after the embarrassment of filing the papers for Advance Tennessee in Washington, DC — only to be exposed within days of doing so — the group is now considering a 527 or equivalent in order to protect the identity of it’s contributors. Records show that the largest contributors to Advance Tennessee were board members of SCORE — the Common Core P.R. and lobbying group bankrolled by former Sen. Bill Frist and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Forming a 527 would allow contributions to be “laundered” or remain private. It would also help facilitate the hiring of non-Tennessee consultants and vendors to carry out the attacks.
The question that must now be asked is just how much of this will caucus members endure before they rebel against the governor? The August attacks were clearly “payback” for opposing one or more of the governor’s key pieces of legislation, and now it appears some of those same players are not finished with trying to punish Republicans whose major crime seems to be voting their convictions and those of their constituents. If this is not enough to start an outright rebellion, then individual GOP legislators will have only themselves to blame if and when the Governor’s henchmen come after them.
And what will leadership do? A curious aspect of this story is the complete silence from the one person who has the most to lose from the actions of the governor’s henchmen — Speaker Beth Harwell. More on that in later editions of RTP.
And to all of this, RTP gives its highest honor: