Monthly Archives: May, 2015

NEWS ALERT: Harwell calls “emergency” caucus meeting over “InsureGate”

Legislators have just been notified there will be what some legislators are calling an “emergency” House GOP Caucus conference call at 2:00pm CST.  The message is below (thanks once again to RTP Tipline contributors:

We have graciously blanked out the call-in number and PIN number.  Wouldn’t want any nasty old reporters calling in surreptitiously, now would we? (Oh, wait. They already have the insurance information — thanks to the Governor and Mark Cate.)


From: House Caucus <>
Date: May 8, 2015 at 11:40:18 AM CDT
Subject: Conference Call – TODAY


Speaker Harwell will host an informational conference call for members of the House Republican Caucus this afternoon at 2:00pm CST regarding the media requests for details on insurance benefits. The call-in information is listed below.

Dial-in Number: 641-XXX-XXXX


Thank you-

Daniel Culbreath



Nice job “Fixing” your mistake, guys.

According the Rep.Gerald McCormick’s letter late yesterday, the governor’s chief-of-staff Mark Cate “knows they have made a mistake and they are working on trying to correct it.”

So how dd the governor’s office “correct” their “mistake” of allowing select reporters unprecedented access to view Republican legislator’s personal health insurance policies?  The InsureTennessean just announced the guv’s people has delivered hard copies of everything the media asked for.

The InsureTennessean even provided a helpful chart that listed how legislators voted on InsureTN, along with their premiums.

“Good job, Mark.”  “Thank you, Gerald.”

Nah, there was no political hit job in all this.  Move along, nothing to see here…..



Governor and his Chief of Staff “stepped in it” with release of personal information on legislators.

McCormick scrambles to distance himself. Could this cost him his job?

Just when you thought relations between Gov. Bill Haslam and the Republicans in the legislature could not get any worse, they just did.

At the exact same time RTP was reporting yesterday about the administration’s cowardly attack on legislators regarding their health insurance, the administration was also trying to call back its leak to reporters from The InsureTennessean and the Associated Press. The ham-handed hit job from the administration proceeded to go from bad to worse. Debbie Koch, who was assigned the job of leaking the info, tried to buy time when the reporters showed back up at her office to take her up on her offer to give them hard copies of what she had let them see the day before. She declined and gave no reason why she had changed her mind.

The butt-covering did not stop there. F&A Commissioner Larry Martin released a letter that said “this administration did not at any time proactively seek out opportunities to release enrollment information.” That assertion brought howls of derisive laughter among GOP legislators.

Late yesterday afternoon House majority leader Gerald McCormick sent a letter (see below) to all House GOP caucus members in what most members viewed as a cynical attempt to cover his derriere. After all, this was the same Gerald McCormick who personally carried the governor’s Insure TN legislation and who berated his colleagues for not supporting it. And it was during that battle that the administration began to selectively leak some information on the health insurance policies of House members. It is believed the information leaked this week went much further.

Why is this happening? Well the crew at RTP humbly offer the observation that all of this took place within days of the Chattanooga Times News Press editorial page taking a pointed shot at the governor’s lack of leadership, making a thinly-veiled insinuation that Bill Haslam did not have the guts it takes to be an effective governor. This was immediately followed by RTP’s own analysis that typically went (almost) over the top. RTP regrets that we referred to the governor’s private parts as “golden niblets,” which caused several of our readers to inquire just as to what the heck that meant. What we meant to say was that we doubted the governor possessed the testicular fortitude to lead. We apologize for the confusion in terms, but not the assertion.

But back to McCormick’s backpedaling. RTP’s sources within the House caucus are telling us there are very few caucus members who are buying Gerald’s new-found disgust at this administration’s feckless attempts at bullying the legislature. After all, McCormick has been the administration’s chief water carrier, and on more than one occasion has made derisive comments about members who would dare to disagree with the governor. There was already simmering talk that Gerald would be challenged for his job next time. With his latest CYA attempt, that talk has now reached a full boil.

And what about Mark “Haters Gonna Hate” Cate? The governor’s chief hatchet man has, in McCormick’s words, “really stepped in it.” McCormick took pains to note it took Cate over 18 hours to call him back over the matter.

Smart move there, Mark. Keep it up and you’re going to need a special pass and full body armor to get into Legislative Plaza next session.


From: “Gerald McCormick [tnhouserepublicancaucus]” <>
Date: May 7, 2015 at 5:05:20 PM CDT” <>
Subject: [tnhouserepublicancaucus] Insurance Information update
Reply-To: Gerald McCormick <>

Members,A quick update. As you all are probably aware, F & E reversed and decided
not to release the information when the media actually showed up to collect
it. The Administration has really stepped in it and I am pretty sure they
know it by now thanks to a lot of you letting them know how you feel. I
tried to call the Governors Chief of Staff last night to express what I
think is our pretty much unanimous disgust at this and I left a voice mail
to that effect. He communicated with me this afternoon that they know they
have made a mistake and they are working on trying to correct it.That is all I know right now but if I hear anything else from the
Administration I will communicate it to you all right away. I am directing
my inquiries directly to the Governor’s office as I can not imagine an
attorney in F & A is doing this type thing on their own authority.Thank you.

Gerald McCormick

P.O. Box 1087
Chattanooga, TN 37401
Legislative: House Majority Leaders Office 615/741-2548



GOP Legislators to Governor: “You realize, of course, this means war.”

bugs bunny

(click here)

And you thought that just because the session was over the fireworks had subsided. Think again.

Obviously smarting from the open challenge to his manhood (Chatt. Times Free Press), Gov. Haslam wasted no time assuming the role of  “Brave Sir Robin” in an effort to find his golden niblets once again. sir robinThe governor’s chief of staff, Mark “Haters Gonna Hate” Cate, is said to be directing the effort. “Hate” Cate is also apparently really pissed (when is he not?) that the recent editorial took a not-so-veiled personal swipe at his competence.

Even as Speaker Beth Harwell revealed today that the governor’s InsureTennessee could muster no more than a paltry 17 of 73 GOP votes in the House, the administration decided to throw more political capital at a bad program and is now threatening to release personal information about state legislators.  Tellingly, the governor’s office is releasing the information to The InsureTennessean and the Associated Press.  Nah, there’s no punitive retribution going on here.

In a pointed letter to members from Connie Ridley of the Office of Legislative Administration, legislators were informed the administration is going to selectively release personal health insurance information and only on legislators (see below). Ridley accurately describes the move as “dramatic and unprecedented” as well as “a blatant violation of members’ privacy.”  Mark Cate is going to lose his two remaining friends over this Bozo move.

Yeah, it is so-o-o on.

If the governor thought last session was rough on him (defeats on InsureTN, Common Core, longevity pay, subsidized tuition for illegal aliens, etc.), we can hardly wait to see his reaction in the next session, when the legislature takes his initiatives and shoves them down his throat.

The Chattanooga TFP editorial pleaded for the governor to “get some steel-toed boots” to deal with the legislature. With this inept attempt to kick the legislature while they are out of town, the governor is likely to find his steel-toed boot firmly planted in his own rear.


Fwd: From: Connie Ridley
Sent: Wednesday, May 06, 2015 4:04 PM
To: Senate Members; House Members

I write to inform you that the Office of Benefits Administration, a division of the Department of Finance and Administration, is releasing further detailed information to the media regarding member health insurance benefits.

This is once again a dramatic and unprecedented departure from policy. As you may remember, I wrote to you in February to inform you that Benefits Administration was departing from their policy to release only the number of legislators and staff on the state health plan. Today, Benefits Administration is going further. They are releasing, both to the Tennessean and the Associated Press, not only the names of legislators on the plan but what type of plan they have, as well as the full cost.

The Office of Legislative Administration views this as a blatant violation of member privacy.  It is the long standing policy of the Office of Legislative Administration to release only the number of legislators and staff on the state insurance plan. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) precludes releasing names or “any other personally identifying information” as such information is protected health information. It is the opinion of this office that release of personally identifiable enrollment information would be in violation of federal HIPPA privacy protections.

I would like to emphasize that decision was made in the executive branch at the direction of Benefits Administration Executive Director Laurie Lee. The Office of Legislative Administration did not approve of this release nor did we authorize it. Our policy of releasing only the number of legislators and staff goes back decades. This policy was also the policy of Benefits Administration until the concluding moments of this February’s special session on Insure Tennessee.

Okay, now we’re thinking you are just intentionally trying to hurt our feelings….

LOGO edited

Last week Rocky Top Politics broke the story about Ryan Haynes broken promise to resign his legislative seat. Just 12 hours later The InsureTennessean wrote the same story (sans the snarkiness), using the key elements from the RTP posting while adding a couple of quotes. But did The InsureTennessean give RTP credit as the obvious source of their article?

Hah. Fat chance.

No, The InsureTennessean was content to pretend their dwindling team of actual reporters dug the story up on their own. We are sadly not surprised.

But, hey, we are big boys & girls here at RTP and we are willing to turn the other cheek.  If the newspaper wants to label Rocky Top as “not a legitimate source” for Tennessee political information, Rocky Top is happy to apply the same label to The InsureTennessean.

We so look forward to The InsureTennessean’s next breaking political story. We will let them know just as soon as we write it.

Weasel Words

The new GOP state party chairman, Ryan Haynes, has put himself in a painful device of his own making. Haynes appears torn between doing what is expedient and doing what is personally and politically profitable. (Actually doing what he promised the state executive committee he would do does not appear to be part of his deliberations).

First Haynes said he would resign when he became chairman. After he was elected by the slimmest of margins, he changed his tune and said he might not resign for seven months. He said since this year’s legislative session is over, not having a representative would be no big deal for his constituents (of course he failed to note there are numerous important committee meetings between now and November).

Then he said he was concerned about keeping his seat for the Republicans in a special election. News Flash to Ryan: If in your first test as chairman, you fail to retain your own seat in one of the most Republican districts in the state, then we are going to have major problems with your leadership when it comes to winning more difficult seats.

weasel awardThen Haynes said that if he kept his legislative seat, he wouldn’t take legislative per diems (how noble!). When that stupid offer didn’t get the desired response, a party spokesman said Haynes could donate his legislative salary to charity or return it to the state. But Haynes himself has not yet made that public commitment.

Haynes next excuse was that he was concerned the special election would cost taxpayers a lot of money. Really? Then why didn’t he address that issue when he was running for chairma?. If you doubt Ryan’s sincerity on the whole “saving taxpayer money” thing, you are not alone. Just 5 days ago, it was revealed Haynes had to pay back thousands of dollars to the state when a TV station revealed he had double charged taxpayers for expenses.

Another day, another excuse for Ryan Haynes.

A little advice for our boy Ryan from his friends at RTP: Starting your chairmanship as a self-serving weasel is not helpful to your long-term success.

Do what you promised, Ryan.

Resign. Now.

“More Mush from the Wimp?”

haslam wishy washyA reference to the above infamous Boston Globe editorial headline from 1980 describing Jimmy Carter was the lead in a brutal editorial attack on Gov. Bill Haslam’s leadership abilities in today’s Chattanooga Times News Press.

It was so brutal that some have suspected the paper had contracted out the writing of the editorial to Rocky Top Politics. Not true, but we appreciate the sentiment.

Some excerpts:

“Our governor [has a] shyness toward any hint of forceful leadership.”

“The governor’s mild manners seem to be all he is left with…”

“It might be the governor is simply too reasonable, a bit over this head and not particularly well advised by the people around him.”

“Please, Governor.  Get yourself some steel-toed boots.”

Man, compared to this, it appears RTP has been too soft on Gov. Haslam. But despite the editorial plea for steel-toed boots, it’s little too late at this point to be trying to grow some cajones. Any attempt to strong-arm legislators is likely to backfire – bigtime.

Here’s a thought. How about if this governor starts trying to govern like the conservative he pretended to be during his campaigns? It is obvious his “governor as pastor” and his left of the legislative center philosophy ain’t working. That approach has led to the administration’s humiliating defeat on issues from Common Core standards to Insure Tennessee. And the governor seems to be surprised that a number of Republican legislators are still miffed about his attempt to defeat incumbent members of his own party while hiding behind a bogus PAC (Advance TN). Those elephants have got some long memories.

If the governor is perceived as a wimp, it is only because his actions and those of his henchmen have put him in the unenviable position of being compared to Jimmy Carter.

Steel-toed boots don’t work if everyone knows you’re wearing ballet slippers as socks.