Monthly Archives: April, 2015

Kudos to Cunningham

RTP salutes Ben Cunningham for his early and impressive opposition to the coming attempt to raise the Gas Tax on Tennesseans.

With little or no fanfare, Ben has accumulated over 5,000 signatures on a petition that sends a message to the cunninghamgovernor and the legislature:  “Don’t go there.”  This, in light of Sen. Jim Tracy’s pledge to tour the state later this summer to convince Tennesseans they need to increase  the taxes on gas or other “revenue enhancements” to keep our roads in good shape (btw, CNBC already ranks the quality of Tennessee roads in the top two in the nation).

gas tax

Yeah, Jim,  Let us know how the “I Want To Raise Your Taxes Tour” works out for you.


Haynes considering breaking promise to step down.  Trying to rig election for a Haslam ally?

Double dipping the taxpayers?

The RTP tipsters are hard at work, and the latest leak is a doozy.

In a private conference call (yes, RTP is everywhere) of the TN GOP state executive committee on Monday, Haynes floated the idea that, on second thought, he may not step down until nearly seven months after he promised to do so.

It seems young Ryan is trying to delay his resignation — which was a major issue in his razor-thin victory in the GOP chairman’s race earlier this month — until November.  Haynes said in a confidential memo (below) such a move would save Knox county taxpayers $200,000 for a special election (how thoughtful of him). But Haynes left out a couple of other points.

For one, would Haynes be double dipping by collecting his legislative salary while also drawing a paycheck from the state party?  That could put thousands of extra dollars in his personal pocket (compliments of the taxpayers whose welfare he claims to be of such concern to him).

The second issue has to do with his possible successor.  By waiting until November to resign, the Knox County Commission would then be able to select a replacement for him who would serve until November of 2016, thereby denying the voters a direct say in who will represent them.  Wouldn’t want those nasty ol’ voters having a say in who represents them in the next session, now would we?  Already, at least one name has been floated as someone who is seeking the interim appointment, which would give that person a big head start on winning the seat in 2016.  This particular person is someone who would be a rubber stamp for Gov. Haslam.  It would be an extra vote for Obamacare/Medicaid expansion, a gas tax increase, etc.

This really stinks.  The very first thing Haynes appears to be trying to do as the new state party chairman is to manipulate the SEC and line his own pockets.

Re-vote anyone?



From: Ryan Haynes, TNGOP Chairman [] On Behalf Of Ryan Haynes, TNGOP Chairman
Sent: Tuesday, April 28, 2015 10:35 AM
Subject: Recording of Yesterday’s TNGOP Conference Call

Dear SEC Members:I appreciate those of you who were able to hop on yesterday’s conference call to update everyone on everything we are doing here at the TNGOP.For those of you who were unable to join us, we have taped the information portion of the call for you to listen to at your convenience. It may be accessed at the link below:TNGOP Conference Call – April 27, 2015

Additionally, here is the outline of what was discussed.Statesmen’s Dinner

  • The event is going really well.
  • We’ve had a solid response thus far and, as is usually the case, we anticipate things to increasingly start picking up as we move closer to the event itself.
  • I’m personally excited about the event–it’s going to be great.
  • At the same time, as you attend meetings, please remind folks about the event details and encourage them to join us on Saturday, May 30th.

Red to the Roots Phase II

  • Additionally, we are looking ahead to next year on our operations side.
  • Beginning today, your county chairs should begin receiving letters letting them know we are planning a second phase of Red to the Roots.
  • There are already several judicial races that are going to take place to fill vacancies in 2016 and, at the same time, every county property assessor’s race will be up.
  • We’re going to send a follow-up letter to each chair reminding them of how to call for a primary and how to partner with us if they decide to do that.
  • We’re very excited about the prospects of getting even more local Republican leaders elected in 2016.
  • Additionally, to avoid the costs associated with holding a local primary, we have been in touch with the Supervisor of Elections office and we have confirmed that county parties may hold a primary at the same time as the Presidential Preference Primary and the cost to the county will be zero. This was a major hurdle for a handful of our counties in 2014 and we believe this will answer any of those concerns for 2016.

Financial Review

  • I also wanted to update you on the financial review that we’re undergoing.
  • We are currently in the “field stage” of the review.
  • This essentially means we are turning over the documentation related to contributions, disbursements, and record keeping over to the accounting firm.
  • I think all of us want to confirm the party is in good shape, that our accounting procedures are accurate, and that we are properly tracking the resources we are provided.
  • I should mention, if any of you are going to be Capitol Club members here in the first half of this year, I would ask that you turn in those contributions sooner rather than later so we can make those records part of what we turn over to the firm.
  • I’m looking forward to the results of the review and how we can improve on what we do and we will share those results with you once we have them back. There are a couple of phases to this but we should receive the results in the next few months.

District 14

  • That brings me to my final point and I really would appreciate your feedback on everything we’re discussing today but especially this.
  • I am currently working with the Governor’s legal counsel, Secretary Hargett’s office, and the Knox County election administrator’s office to determine the best time for me to step aside.
  • Politically, all of us want to make sure that seat remains in GOP control.
  • But philosophically, I think all of us are interested in minimizing the cost of that transition to taxpayers.
  • Essentially we are faced with two choices: I can resign as soon as possible, which will costs upwards of $200,000 to Knox County taxpayers or I can wait and resign in November of this year, meaning the seat will line up with next year’s regularly scheduled elections–bringing no additional costs to taxpayers.
  • I have made a commitment to all of you that I will step down. And I want to be sure to do that in a way that respects that commitment and causes the least amount of hardship to Tennessee taxpayers.

Please review and let me know what you think.

As always, I can be reached at the office (615-269-4260), on my cell phone (865-919-4094), or by email (

Thank you for all you do for the Party,


Common Core advocates get their asses handed to them, declare victory.

defeat 7

Bless their hearts….

This is getting downright pitiful.

After spending millions of dollars and hiring every available out-of-work political hack to lobby for the Obama-style, socialist, education program called Common Core, the various front groups were humiliated when a couple of very conservative legislators (Rep. Bill Spivey and Sen. Mike Bell) passed legislation to “review and replace Common Core” as the standard for public schools in Tennessee.

We draw particular attention to the word “replace.”  That is a word the Common Core drones just can’t seem to wrap their heads around.  Instead they trot out ludicrous statements such as these:

“[The legislation] ensures the high standards Tennessee adopted will stay in place, at least for the next two years”

(It takes two years to roll in a new program, ya moron.)

And this one from Common Core supporter and Education Fuhrer Candace McQueen:

“We are gratified Tennessee decided to keep high standards.”

(Yeah, like anyone was ever in favor of lower standards).

They seem to think if they repeat such obvious claptrap enough times, maybe people will believe it.  Doubtful.

No, the bill does not keep existing (Common Core) standards past the necessary two-year transition period.  It is going to replace those standards.  What’s worse, the “stakeholders” like the Chamber, the Business Roundtable and Pearson have essentially been cut out of the process.  The 10 appointments the governor had to name the selection committee on the new Tennessee Standards have been reduced to just 4.  The anti-Common Core crowd (aka: the state legislature) has been given 6 of the 10 appointments.  But instead of facing reality, the Common Core movement tries to cheer:

“Hey, our team just fell behind 20 points.  We’re winning!!”

Oh, sure, there is an occasional rogue conservative “grassroots” group who tend to condemn anything they did not come up with who might say the bill is just a re-branding of Common Core, but such criticism by conservatives is rare to non-existent, not to mentioned uninformed and wrong.  The most conservative, anti-Common Core legislators drafted and passed this bill over the vociferous public condemnation and objections by SCORE and Jeremy Harrell’s soon-to-be-defunct front group (Tennesseans for Student Success).  You know you are on the right track with enemies like those.

We can understand why many politicians and bureaucrats caught with egg all over their face would try to spin this as something it is not, but they are making double fools of themselves with these lame and tortured explanations why they were cut out of the process and their precious Common Core standards were repudiated.  It was an expensive and humiliating lesson.  And there are a lot of big donors who are asking themselves just what all that money went for.  We are pretty sure it wasn’t to “replace” Common Core standards, but that is EXACTLY what happened.  Offering up Orwellian press releases that declare” up is down,” “right is left” and “day is night” are not going to work.

Nice try, losers.  Using your definition of “success,” we expect you will want to be the first to congratulate the Tennessee Titans on winning the Super Bowl last season.  Maybe you can get Gov. Charlie Brown (D-Oakdale) to invite the team up to the Capitol for a ceremony or something.

Pitiful.  Just pitiful.defeat 6

Part Three: Barbarians at the Gate

The Rabble Starts Racking Up Wins


The core group of conservatives, flush from their Common Core revolt in the 2014 session, decided they needed an early target to help facilitate and test their theory of conservative power. They did not have to wait long.

According to RTP sources, the Conservative Majority Caucus organized just days before the inauguration.  They realized it would be a trial by fire to see if they could coordinate and operate as a group and whether they could positively impact issues during the session.

Their first target was a rule change crafted by leadership during the organizing session in January. Leadership attempted to curtail or end personal privilege speeches from the floor, ostensibly to remove a platform for the Democrats to draw attention to their issues. But the conservatives saw it as attempt to not only silence the free speech of the Democrats, but to silence conservatives as well.

One of the group’s members, who agreed to talk to a RTP contributor on the condition of anonymity, said: “Republicans didn’t like it when the Naifeh crowd tried to shut us up. So for us to stand by and let the Republican leadership try to do the same thing with the Democrats seemed to us to be just as wrong. But we also had a sneaking suspicion their real target was to prevent free speech by dissenting, conservative Republicans.”

Leadership tried to assure the GOP caucus the rule change was merely an innocuous little piece of “housekeeping,” but the conservatives weren’t buying it. In a hastily called recess by leadership to tamp down the mini-revolt, the Republicans gathered in the well for an emergency caucus meeting. Speaker Harwell tried to convince her caucus to just pass the rules that day and then they could “take out” the offending rule change the next day. That brought a spontaneous and very vocal protest from a clear majority of the caucus members. The Speaker and majority leader Gerald McCormick quickly retreated. No rule change. Victory #1 for the CMC.

Emboldened by their initial success, the group turned their sights on the special session. Through meetings and phone calls during the two-week recess leading up to the special session, the group devised a modest but pig-22effective plan of action. Members of the CMC were asked to talk to their colleagues to try and get a sense of the support (or non-support) in the body for the governor’s InsureTN program. Some of them worked, at arm’s length, with groups such as AFP. Others fanned out to quietly lobby undecided members, especially Senate Health Committee members, where the measure died 7-4. Victory #2 for the CMC.

The MSM, typically, got it wrong.  They harped on the 7-4 vote in the Senate committee and whined that if only it could have been voted on by the entire legislature, things would have been different.  Such an assertion reveals a profound ignorance of the sentiment of this legislature and the electorate.  Internal whip counts conducted by the Speaker as well as by the CMC showed the governor’s plan was hemorrhaging votes. The senate committee was merely selected by leadership as the place for the execution — allowing the other members of the legislature to avert their eyes and not have to vote. With the ignominious death of the governor’s proposal (as well as a second killing two months later – call that CMC victory 2+), the quiet talk around LP was not only about Haslam’s fecklessness, but a growing resentment that members were put into this position in the first place.  And that has breathed new life into the conservatives.

Time now for a little RTP analysis: For the last couple of years, there have been other factors helping precipitate this uprising. CMC members and other legislators have long complained about broken promises, threats, appeals to “not embarrass the governor,” the pernicious bogus fiscal notes, “flagging” bills, creative calendaring of legislation, withholding key information, obfuscation and sometimes outright untruths by leadership in an attempt to “keep the lid on” conservatives. But now it seems the frustration is quickly approaching a full boil.

Harwell has been walking a tightrope between her members, her own political ambitions and her fealty to the governor.  She is nothing if not adept at making it appear to be sympathetic and responsive to her members, while at the same time trying to pass the governor’s agenda over their opposition.  It’s a tough job.  But as we are beginning to see, Harwell’s balancing act has put her in an untenable position.

Harwell’s recent sops to the right are surely tied to her desire to be the next governor – a path that must go straight through a Republican primary where conservatives have a dominant role. Lately, she seems to be more reluctant to walk out onto the plank on Haslam’s behalf and has found a new interest in reaching out to the conservatives in her caucus.  As she nears a gubernatorial run, don’t be surprised to see her attempt to pivot to the right. But so far, no pivots – only feints in that direction.


Now, back to our regularly scheduled program….

With their success helping turn back InsureTN, the CMC looked for their next target. It was an unlikely one.

Governor Haslam proposed a major revision of the longstanding “longevity pay” enjoyed by senior state employees. The governor tried to change the system by making it more like private business incentive pay schemes. Fair enough. But as has been the case all too often with this governor, he made a couple of bone-headed mistakes:

  1. He failed to recognize his sweeping reform of state employee compensation essentially violated the implied contract with the employees when they were first hired that provided the longevity pay. Not a smart move.
  2. He did not inform legislative leaders in advance of announcing his proposal, catching them flat-footed when they caught hell from state employees and their allies.
  3. He assumed that every Republican, especially the conservatives would be “all-in” on an ostensibly free enterprise-style reform. Wrong.

Every member of the CMC has state employees in his or her district. And many CMC members are small business people. They hold to the small business principle that “your word must be your bond” if you are to attract, motivate and retain good employees. Word spread the Haslam plan was being attacked not only by Democrats in the legislature, but by pro-business conservatives as well. The governor’s proposal was amended down to nothing. Victory #3 for the CMC.

Common Core:  The CMC out-maneuvers the establishment.

common coreThe importance of the Tennessee Standards legislation passed last week cannot be underestimated. After untold millions were pumped into promoting Common Core by the likes of Bill Frist and Bill Gates and the unwavering support of Gov. Haslam, opponents began to despair of stopping the juggernaut socialist-style, one-standard-fits-all education doctrine.

Between Jamie Woodson and SCORE, the governor, Kevin Huffman, the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, Bill Frist, a pliant news media and millions of dollars and scads of lobbyists and PR types, it is hard to remember when an administration had invested so much of its political capital and credibility in just one issue.

But members of the CMC decided to get behind a bill by Rep. Billy Spivey that demanded Common Core be “reviewed and replaced.” What’s more, it required a panel of Tennessee-only educators and experts. Even worse for the administration, it required the governor give up 60% of his appointments to the selection committee that would choose the review panels that would set the new standards. Although the bill did not go far enough for some members of the group, the CMC realized the importance of hanging together and held firm in their support of the Spivey gambit.

It passed overwhelmingly and gave the CMC its most important win of the session.  Victory #4.

Two “grass tops” groups which were formed to push for Common Core — SCORE and Tennesseans for Student Success — immediately rushed out to condemn the legislation only to find, once again, the governor had pulled the rug out from under his friends.  Jamie Woodson went quiet and is reputedly being held at an undisclosed Frist mansion somewhere in the Bahamas. Jeremy Harrell fumed against the bill while holding a rally with a handful of protesters wearing what appeared to be recycled AFP t-shirts. Meanwhile, the governor was quietly negotiating away any credibility his Common Core advocate groups may have once possessed. What’s worse, these special interest groups were not even allowed a seat at the negotiating table. They were shut out.

The pro-Common Core advocates and the news media are now comically trying to claim “victory” and praising what they term a “compromise.” Hard to claim there was a compromise when it stripped the governor of a majority of his appointments and you weren’t even allowed in the negotiation room. The Tennessean, predictably, got the story completely wrong when they called it a “re-branding.” After the recent self-prostituion of their newspaper, we can understand their confusion over the whole re-branding concept:LOGO edited



Before anyone (including RTP) even knew of its existence, the Conservative Majority Caucus was well underway.  Will they be able to capitalize on this momentum?  Stay tuned.


Coming up: “CMC’s last-minute victory.”


Sine or Die

With the end of every session, everyone rushes to produce a “Winners & Losers” list as a way of assessing the relative success or failure of various issues and politicians. But here at RTP, we have decided to dispense with the redundant and produce a different kind of list.

“Moron or Mensch?”

Okay Guys and Goyim, time to play that post-session game everyone is talking about.  “What’s that, you say? You’ve never heard of it?  If you don’t know the definition of the word “Mensch,” ask a Jewish friend.  If you do not know the definition of the word “Moron” then there is little hope you will understand the rest of this article.

For Tennessee Bible thumpers (both Old and New Testament) who are still ticked off that the book that was good enough to serve as the foundation for our entire nation was somehow not good enough to make it on our state’s favorite book list, this list is for you.

Today, it’s:


harrellJeremy Harrell – “Welcome to the Big Leagues, kid.”

Flush from demonstrating his brilliant political “strategery” capabilities by leading the governor to a win over a complete joke of an opponent, Jeremy “The Jerm” Harrell apparently thought he was ready to step into Tom Ingram’s shoes.

Not so fast there, Jerm.

In an attempt to ram through Common Core, the governor and Mark ‘Haters gonna hate” Cate came up with the brilliant idea to form and fund yet another pro-Common Core group. Since Jeremy was looking for work after the election, they chose him to head up Tennesseans for Student Success (an organization that consists primarily of a two-page website). The ink was barely dry on poor Jeremy’s business cards when Haslam and Hate Cate decided it was better to cut a deal with Rep. Billy Spivey (R-Epiphany) than to rely on Jeremy and his counterpart at SCORE, Jamie Woodson. Typically, the governor’s office forgot to copy Jeremy and Jamie on the memo, and the two organizations sallied forth and made knee-jerk asses of themselves by opposing the legislation in public.

We hear Jeremy is in line to head up InsureTN 3.

woodsonJamie Woodson – “The SCORE is a BORE”

What do you do with a phony mouthpiece organization with a multi-million dollar payroll when it outlives its usefulness? That’s the question facing the Frists, Bill Gates, Pitt Hyde, and other various radical Haslamists.

Like Jeremy Harrell, Woodson got caught by surprise when SCORE got thrown under the bus this session. You would think these people would learn, right?

Any chance for Common Core being instituted in our schools is declining quicker than the prospect for a Woodson for Governor campaign – and that’s a pretty damn fast decline.

harwellBeth Harwell – “Tap Dancing with the Stars.”

For a brief moment, RTP thought it detected a barely-noticeable shift in the Force. Speaker Harwell was talking to conservative legislators like human beings, even signing on to a couple of their bills. Was this the moment when, absent an epiphany of the Spivey variety, Beth would finally tack to the right, even if it was only to help prepare for a 2018 gubernatorial primary?


The moment of truth came when Harwell the Courageous was faced with the prospect of having to cast the deciding vote on legislation giving illegal aliens in-state tuition instead of them having to pay out-of-state fees (Note, the last time RTP checked, Mexico was out-of-state. Look for the citizens from other failed foreign states such as Kazakhstan, California and Alabama to petition for the same consideration).

Seconds before the debate and vote for the illegals tuition bill began, Harwell vacated the chair and left the podium in the hands of poor Speaker Pro-Ten Curtis “Who, me?” Johnson. When she returned after the vote was recorded she declared had she been there to do her job, she would have voted no. Good grief. Even when she had a chance to come down on the conservative side of an issue, she couldn’t even do that right.

RTP reported previously Harwell left the chamber during the entire debate and vote. We have now learned she did not leave the chamber, but instead hid out behind the wall behind the Speaker’s podium the entire time. Seriously.

Maybe she was looking for someone back there, but who? Randy Boyd? (Okay, now we’re just being paranoid….)

And the Winner of the Moron(s) of the Year Award goes to:

The Tennessean “How to sell your soul and your professional credibility to the highest bidder.”

That loud sound you heard during session was the big-spending, liberal ideologues’ heads exploding when the legislature decided not to pass Insure Tennessee. Never mind that it was nothing more than thinly-disguised key component to Obamacare. Never mind there was never an actual written plan. Never mind that a key provision was we would have to trust the federal government to keep its word. And try to ignore that the people spending big bucks to get it passed (the big hospitals) were the same people who were going to make a 900% return on every dollar they put into the program.

No, the fine socialists at The Tennessean decided that, by God, we are going to make those idiots take this money whether they want to or not and regardless of the fact that it would add hundreds of millions to the federal deficit. So in a fit of arrogance unusual even for the liberal media, the Tennessean then proceeded to run nearly one pro InsureTN article, editorial or columnist every day for a month. They even took the unprecedented action to run an editorial that took up nearly the entire front page of their Sunday edition. The Tennessean bellowed, stamped their feet, threatened, ridiculed and were rewarded with a second InsureTN defeat in one session.

But wait! What if their slavish devotion to creating yet another government entitlement program we cannot afford was just a ruse? What if this was some sort of guerrilla “re-branding” scam to boost their flagging readership and re-establish a modicum of influence? Were some of those billionaire bucks finding their way into the pockets of the Tennessean?

Our worst suspicions were confirmed when a RTP tipster leaked the new Tennessean masthead. This would explain everything:

LOGO edited

Harwell re-convenes the “Commode Caucus” to avoid difficult vote.

The mystery of the “Harwell Hiatus.”

The “Tuition Equality” bill that would have allowed illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition rates for Tennessee universities (at taxpayer expense) was defeated yesterday by one vote. Seconds before the controversial bill came to the floor for debate, Speaker Beth Harwell vacated her chair and turned the gavel over to Speaker Pro Tem Curtis Johnson and left the chamber with no explanation as to where she was going or why.  Maybe it was some sort of gastrointestinal distress which required a lengthy trip to the “facilities.”  If so, this wouldn’t be the first time Harwell employed such a tactic.

Immediately after the final vote on the bill, Harwell magically reappeared in the Chamber and bravely announced that, had she been there, she would have voted “no.”

Many of her fellow legislator are asking tough questions about Harwell’s Hiatus. Did she avoid the debate and the vote because she didn’t want to deal with the issue when she runs for governor? What was so damn important that she had to leave seconds before the bill was presented? Assuming she was needed somewhere else on some pressing matter, wasn’t it curious that the time to do whatever she was doing was exactly the same length of time it took to debate and vote on the bill?

But, hey. Let’s cut her some slack. Maybe, in fact, “nature called.”

And maybe the Tooth Fairy is real. tooth fairy 2

Part Two: Barbarians at the Gate

“The rise of the CMC”



Quietly but effectively, a new group has been created by conservative legislators.

RTP has been informed the group, which was formed earlier this year by House conservatives, believe the time has come to begin exerting a level of influence reflective of their growing numbers. Tension had been brewing for several years, but the victory against Common Core during the 2014 session lit the fuse.

The final straw came last summer during the Republican primaries. Gov. Haslam and his chief of staff, Mark Cate, helped direct the formation of a pop-up PAC called AdvanceTN. The unprecedented purpose of the PAC was to recruit opponents and target incumbent Republican legislators who had opposed Common Core as well as other administration initiatives. It was an unmitigated failure.  The governor-inspired PAC was able to defeat just one vulnerable House member, Rep. Tony Shipley.  The conservatives countered by knocking off two of the governor’s loyal legislators, for a net change in favor of the House conservatives. For the most part, leadership stood by and remained silent while their colleagues were being attacked. Their silence was noted and not likely to be forgotten anytime soon..

“The governor and his allies made a very serious miscalculation with AdvanceTN,” said one conservative legislator. “He laid down the gauntlet and we picked it up.”

After the battle against Advance TN PAC, the conservatives were loaded for bear. Their failure to run a slate of conservative candidates in leadership election in late 2014 taught the group a lesson: you have to be organized to be effective.

Thus the Conservative Majority Caucus was born.

The new conservative group within the House Republican Caucus, which began with an organizing committee of just a handful of members, has quickly doubled to approximately twenty members, with more legislators waiting in the wings to join. Such numbers indicate it is potentially a force to be reckoned with. It also has a proposed name: “The Conservative Majority Caucus,” or the CMC. One of the members joked that CMC could also stand for the “Cave Man Caucus” and added: “but you can call us anything you want – just so long as you call us.”

The inspiration behind the CMC?

The inspiration behind the CMC?

More details are emerging as to how the CMC came together. One of RTP’s Washington sources said the new group looks suspiciously like the old Congressional organization called the Conservative Opportunity Society (COS)  The Society was organized by a little-known backbench conservative named Newt Gingrich, who along with a handful of conservative colleagues used the COS to establish a set of conservative principles to serve as a guide to Republicans in the House and as a base to wrest control from the more liberal leadership. Once in power, the COS engineered the 1994 Republican takeover of the House, using their “Conservative Principles” as the foundation for the now-famous “Contract with America.”  The backbencher became the Speaker of the House.

In the current Congress, conservatives in the House have recently organized a group very similar to Tennessee’s CMC. It’s called the House Freedom Caucus, with goals and motives comparable to the CMC.

At its peak, the Congressional Conservative Opportunity Society only had about 30 members — or about 15% out of 190 House Republicans. “With our current membership we have nearly doubled that percentage,” said one CMC legislator. “And we are still growing.”

Coming up:

Part Three: “Picking a fight — and winning”



The revolt in the House last March was about more than Common Core — a LOT more.


As a public service to the taxpayers of Tennessee, RTP offers our own analysis of that seething cauldron of political intrigue called the GOP House Caucus.  We hope our insights will be beneficial or, at the very least, they really tick off Mark Cate.

After the TN NewsLeader broke the story about a “secret” conservative caucus this past week, RTP has tapped into its growing ring of tipsters ( to see if we could put some meat on the bones of the NewsLeader scoop. Our accomplices were rewarded with access to several members of the new group who were surprisingly open about their activities, providing detail and context. Their only condition was anonymity and RTP volunteered not to reveal any names of the members (mainly because it’s more fun that way).

This will be a rather lengthy series, but please bear with us. To keep our readers engaged we will intersperse the dry analysis with anecdotes of swashbuckling politicians performing feats of legislative derring-do. There may also be nudity. But you will have to read the whole series to find out if we are serious about that last part.

Recent History

Since achieving super-majority status, the inevitable internal strains and schisms within the Republican caucus have emerged, with serious implications for leadership, the governor and taxpayers not to mention the ambitions and agendas of the legislators themselves.  RTP has reviewed the body of work done in the past by the mainstream media (a very short list) as it relates to the internal politics of the GOP caucus.  The MSM consistently over-simplifies the caucus, preferring to write their stories through the prism of their own liberal bias.  This shallow “analysis” usually results in the following meme:

  1. The Governor is not as conservative as his party.  And to the press, that’s a good thing.
  2. Leadership is more moderate than many caucus members and frequently supports the wishes of the governor over their own caucus.  They think that’s a good thing as well.
  3. The more conservative wing is in the minority of the caucus and is generally comprised of knuckle-dragging teabaggers.
  4. Anything that promotes more government spending (such as Medicaid/Obamacare expansion) or government overreach (such as Common Core) is a good thing.  Those who oppose bigger government are ignorant troglodytes (see #3).

But events over the last couple of months as well as the last year have revealed the news media — as shocking as it may sound to some people — doesn’t know what it’s talking about.  But have no fear. Long-time readers of Rocky Top Politics will remember we got our start just four days after the revolt on the floor of the House over Common Core.  Until RTP came along, leadership and the media controlled the message among the caucus members and information, when available, was employed as a tool to manipulate members instead of informing them.

My, how things have changed.

Part One:  An Arithmetic Lesson

For at least a couple of years now, conservatives (as opposed to RINOs, establishment types, Haslam sycophants, etc.) in the House have had the sneaking suspicion they comprise an actual majority of the members of the GOP caucus.  Until recently, the available information of a member’s “conservative reliability” was largely anecdotal.   Even voting records were largely useless in making such determinations, since much of the killing and amending of bills took place in committees, giving other members cover from having to vote (or denying them the opportunity) on controversial bills on the floor.  But the events of March 13, 2014 changed all that.

Not long before that vote on Common Core, a small group of conservative Republicans began to meet and assess the level of conservative influence within the body.  They started by dispassionately assessing the relative conservatism of each member of the GOP caucus on key issues.  What they found surprised them.

With their initial assessment, they expected to find a hard-core base of 10-12 conservative members who could be counted on to stand up for conservative values on a consistent basis. The result revealed something much different.  Instead of a dozen reliable conservatives, they were looking at a potential core group of rock solid conservatives more than double that number. Add in the “weak-kneed” conservatives (who could be brought along 90% of the time if you held their hand) and the numbers went into the mid 40s.  In other words, all things being equal — absent threats or bribes from leadership along with the occasional parliamentary trickery — the true preferences of caucus members showed at least half and likely many more of the caucus members were reliable conservatives and not the “conservatives of convenience” found in most of senior leadership and almost all of the committee chairmen.

We will pause at this point to allow Speaker Beth Harwell, Majority Leader Gerald McCormick and Caucus Chair Glen Casada to whip out their calculators and do the math.


Let’s review the results (and remember – unlike Common Core, there are not multiple answers and you do not get extra credit for “critical thinking”):

73 divided by 2 = 36.5.  That means it takes 37 votes in caucus to win a majority of the caucus vote on any issue.  While the conservative backbenchers calculate their solid strength at somewhere near 30 votes, last March revealed something much more ominous for the governor and leadership was simmering down at the LP.

Another interesting number:  11.  That was the sum total of Republican votes the leadership was able to muster against the Common Core revolt bill on March 13th of last year.  Even in a key procedural vote immediately preceding the lop-sided 80-11 final vote, leadership was roundly defeated with huge numbers of Republicans voting against leadership.

But with the end of the session, the issue of conservative dominance and what to do about it lay dormant. After the conservatives failed to run a slate of candidates in the leadership elections in December, they realized they would have to get organized if they were to going to become a driving voice.

Coming Up:

Part Two: “The Rabble Gets Organized.”


TN NewsLeader breaks a big one

The Tennessee News Leader has been the first to publish a story that has been swirling around the rumor mill at Legislative Plaza for some time.

According to the NewsLeader, the conservatives of the Republican caucus have put together a caucus of their own and have been coordinating their own agenda.  secret meetingWe here at RTP  believe that rumor to be true and congratulates the NewsLeader on a great scoop.

We have fanned out to our sources and will soon be able to put some meat on the bones of information about the new conservative caucus. Those who have information about the new caucus and want to share with ol’ Rocky Top, you can do so (anonymously or otherwise) at:

Look for our first installment on the caucus to hit sometime Sunday.


The Tennessean goes WAY back to justify InsureTN

war painting

According to the Tennessean, the guy on the right needs to be on InsureTN.

Damn that Continental Congress for not giving us the money.


The Tennessean’s over-the-top obsession with the legislature’s decision not to participate in Obamacare/Medicaid expansion (InsureTN) has reached a whole new level of absurdity. Their fixation on an issue that the state’s duly elected legislative body rejected twice in two months has now reached the “crazy-ex-girlfriend-keying-your-car” phase.

Their latest installment on InsureTN is just plain silly. In a story in this morning’s paper, they focus on what they claim are the effects of not having InsureTN on the health of a descendent of an early 19th century historical figure. We kid you not.

James Davy Crockett says he is a descendent of Davy Crockett. He is ill and he claims having InsureTN will make him better. We doubt that, but we wish Mr. Crockett well. But Mr. Crockett’s possible genetic link to the past is completely irrelevant to a 21st century debate on the best ways to deliver health care to Tennesseans.

So what’s next from the “Davy-on-the-spot” journalists at the Tennessean.  Here are some rumored upcoming hard-heating stories:

  • “Government’s failure to subsidize psoriasis research threatens the well-being of Nathan Bedford Forrest’s great-great-granddaughter.”
  • A four-part series on how the lack of government money (money the government does not actually have) for out-patient surgery for tennis elbow is ruining a life of happiness for Madame Curie’s great-great-whatever-grandniece who lives in Sneedville.
  • A Tennessean expose on how the healthcare system has failed the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of George Washington. Even though the Father of Our Country never actually fathered any children, we feel confident the Tennessean can invent some if doing so will promote InsureTN.

There is more than a little irony here that the Tennessean is using Davy Crockett to advance their agenda, because the historical Davy Crockett gave a famous speech in which he condemned the spending of people’s federal tax dollars for charity:

David Crockett Lobbyist for InsureTN

David Crockett
Lobbyist for InsureTN

“Money with [Congressmen] is nothing but trash when it is to come out of the people. But it is the one great thing for which most of them are striving, and many of them sacrifice honor, integrity, and justice to obtain it.”

Crockett specifically admonished Congress against the very type of spending (not to mention deficit spending) so beloved by the Tennessean.

Surely the Tennessean’s managers are not so desperate to reverse their falling circulation that they are now using a distorted depiction of someone with a famous name from 200 years ago to sell their ideological bias along with some newspapers.

Yep. That’s exactly what they are doing.