The mystery of P.O. Box 1292
The gang here at RTP just loves a good Whodunnit. And there is a doozy brewing down in Alabama that has tentacles reaching all the way to Tennessee.
The Alabama Education Association (AEA), having been helped run into the ground by their former and present leadership, is essentially bankrupt and was on the losing end of a hostile takeover by the National Education Association (NEA) last month. It seems that ever since the Republican-led state legislature in Montgomery clamped down on the teachers union’s notorious lobbying and millions in political contributions to Democrats, things haven’t been so good at the AEA. In fact, its critics believe the AEA was borrowing large sums of money against their membership’s dues so that they could plow money into the primary campaigns of RINO candidates through a series of phony front groups in a desperate attempt to try and buy influence with the new GOP majority after decades of supporting only Democrats and trashing everything Republican.
But the AEA’s troubles did not begin with the disasters of 2014. There had been rumors of similar questionable financial dealings and political strategies going back to the 2012 election and before which resulted in the desertion of thousands of their members, loss of income, staff reductions, etc. Immediately following the election in 2012, even the communications director/spokesperson/board member of the AEA – who was also a former political director of the Alabama Democratic state party – abandoned ship and moved to another state, taking a job with another teachers union. He had been at the AEA for over six years and was a key player in its downfall.
Which leads us to the Tennessee connection with the troubled Alabama union. Reporters investigating the unusual financial situation of the AEA discovered a $2 million dollar loan taken out by the union. The largest expenditure from that fund was $710,000 written to an outfit called National Research Services. The only information provided by the AEA disclosure reports was that the money went to a P.O. Box (#1292) in Brentwood, TN (photo at top of page).
The Tennessee Secretary of State’s office said it had no filings of any company by that name doing business in the state. Internet searches also reveal no useful information about such a company. More troubling was the fact National Research Services was incorporated in Delaware on a Friday, then received the $710,000 in its Brentwood PO box the following Monday, which it then spent on advertising for legislative candidates in Alabama. Nah, that’s not suspicious at all.
So what’s the deal? Well for one thing, it seems highly likely the National Research Services LLC, with offices housed solely in a P.O. box in Brentwood, is a front organization intent on hiding the ultimate purpose of large political financial transactions laundered through the mail by the AEA. But why Tennessee?
If the AEA’s scheme of trying to stave off growing irrelevance by attempting to compromise the Alabama Republican caucus by funding RINOS in GOP primaries sounds familiar, it should. That is practically the same scheme the TEA has been trying here in Tennessee with independent expenditures and strategic contributions to select Republican legislators and candidates. RTP reported on this a ways back.
Remember that Democratic Party operative/senior AEA official who hightailed it out of town and took another job with another teachers union in another state? Could it possibly be that this person’s old friends back in Alabama asked for their former employee’s help in “laundering” nearly three quarters of a million dollars for political purposes? Might they have asked him to open a P.O. box somewhere outside of Alabama to avoid prying eyes? Could it be that a possible AEA scandal brewing in Alabama could ensnare this recent transplant now living in Tennessee?
More specifically, could that person be Jim Wrye — the governmental affairs and communications director for the TEA?
It is not an idle question. Running that much money through a political organization without leaving a paper trail is a risky proposition, to say the least. There are possible state and local tax implications, disclosure filings, among other things.
To add to our circumstantial case, let’s take a look at the exact location of the Brentwood Post Office where box #1292 is located. And let’s take a look at the route Jim Wrye reportedly takes every day from his home in Franklin to the Tennessee state capitol and the TEA offices downtown:
Twice a day, Jim Wrye passes within a few feet of the Brentwood Post Office, just step away from the Old Hickory exit on I-65, on his way to lobby for the union. Oh sure, we know lots of people from Franklin drive by that post office everyday on their way to work. But how many of them are a past senior official of the AEA and a current senior official of the TEA? Just one – Jim Wrye.
To all of this, we say: “How convenient.”
Let’s make one thing clear: RTP is not accusing TEA lobbyist Jim Wrye of anything, illegal or otherwise, at this point. But we think it is perfectly reasonable and legitimate that someone should be asking Jim Wrye what he might know about the AEA’s Alabama problems (after all, it was during his tenure at the AEA that the scheme that bankrupted that union began).
And what could he tell us about the $710,000 deposited in P.O. Box 1292 in Brentwood, TN?