Silent Beth and The Midnight Mailer.
Attack piece on Womick linked to S.C.O.R.E. / Common Core and Advance Tennessee PAC.
Ever since Rep. Rick Womick decided to take on the Herculean task of trying to unseat Speaker Beth Harwell, the race has devolved into two distinct opposing strategies.
On one hand is Womick, the sharp-tongued former fighter pilot who takes no prisoners. To be sure, his sometimes prickly personality can be off-putting to the faint of heart, but most agree you know exactly where Womick stands, regardless of whether or not you agree with him. His strategy from the beginning has been to focus on what he believes is the governor’s meddling in legislative business and the House leadership’s abuse of procedures and rules designed to kill legislation they don’t like and to punish those who stray from the governor’s agenda. Womick seems particularly incensed by the attack on incumbent GOP caucus members by the Advance Tennessee PAC last August.
Contrast that with Harwell’s strategy which consists primarily of going stone cold quiet, commenting on nothing and pretending Womick doesn’t exist. The “Rose Garden” strategy is a common one for an incumbent. But such a strategy has its risks and the events of the last few days demonstrate why.
It started when the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate, tried to recruit people to run against Republicans who didn’t toe the governor’s line. After limited success, Cate – with the governor’s apparent knowledge and acquiescence – played a role in creating Advance Tennessee PAC, an organization created in Washington, DC designed to launch a last-minute attack on several incumbent Republicans in the primaries. After spending six figures, the PAC picked up just one House seat (which was off-set by the loss of two of the governor’s allies in other House seats).
But in the four months since the primaries, it has been Harwell’s actions (or as it were, inactions) that have been noticed by many legislators. Harwell has yet to say one word condemning the attack on her own caucus members. What’s more, Harwell has amassed a war chest of over $1.3 million and did not share one thin dime with any of the legislators who were attacked, before or after the primary. What’s more, Harwell spent only a paltry sum (less than 5%) on other candidates, leading many in the caucus to ask why she was always hitting them up for contributions to the caucus campaign fund while she was only donating $7,500 (0.5%) out of $1.3 million from her own campaign accounts.
Now comes the attack piece on Womick, of which Harwell – true to form – has remained silent. But unlike the anonymous faux “hit pieces” done on Harwell (whose supporters rushed to blame Womick without a shred of evidence), the attack-Womick mailers actually had a disclaimer. And that disclaimer leads back uncomfortably close to Harwell.
The mailer (pictured below) says they were produced by an outfit called Stand For Children (SFC). SFC was the creation of the husband of Marian Wright Edelman – a leading left-wing national activist who staked out a leadership position in the “childrens’ reform” movement in the 70s and 80s. Edelman was infamous for having received part of her education in the old Soviet Union before returning to America with her unique brand of liberal activism. One of the first SFC chapters formed by Peter Edleman was in Memphis, the location of the return address on the mailer attacking Womick.
The executive director for SFC is Betty Anderson, a well-known Democrat lobbyist who is the former wife of former Speaker Jimmy Naifeh. She is also the former asst. executive director of the T.E.A. at a time when the teacher’s union spent their entire budget trying to defeat Republicans in the legislature.
When you visit the Stand for Children website, one of the first things you see is their prominent and enthusiastic support for Common Core – hardly a position you would associate with any Tennessee Republicans other than Bill Haslam. One of the major financial supporters of SFC appears to be the Hyde Family Foundation (Autozone), who brags about the SFC on the foundation’s website at every opportunity. And who sits on the board of S.C.O.R.E., the Common Core front group created by Bill Frist? Why, none other than J.R. “Pitt” Hyde III.
Then it is only a hop, step and a click away to discover one of the largest contributors to the Advance Tennessee PAC that was used to attack incumbent Republicans was – ta da! – Pitt Hyde.
See how easy that was, kids? You too can play this game. Just get yourself a buttload of money, buy off a couple of front organizations, shill for Common Core and purchase for yourself your very own Speaker of the House (maybe “purchase” is too strong a word. How about “rent-a-Speaker?”).
Silent Beth has made it clear she wants to run for governor in four years, and she will need Pitt Hyde’s money to do that – even if she has to take a pit out of the hide of her fellow Republicans to get there, including attacking fellow Republicans and standing silently by while others do her dirty work.
Hell, who knows? With all these skeletons in the Speaker’s closet, maybe Cap’n Rick actually has a chance in Wednesday’s vote. But even if he gets beat by a few or a few dozen votes, he has let the back-stabbing genie escape when it comes to the bad treatment of his GOP colleagues by the governor and Madame Speaker.
And it’s going to be hard if not impossible to put that sucker back in the bottle after Wednesday, regardless of the outcome.