For once, greedy overreaching catches up with McMahan.
RTP doesn’t usually get down in the weeds on something as mundane as a committee vote and the like. But one of our loyal Rocky Top Tipsters (www.rtptipline.com) delivered this doozy and we just couldn’t resist sharing it with all our readers (both of them).
It was quite the scene this past week when Rep. Curry “Armed and Loaded” Todd tried to highjack a wine-in-groceries correction bill at the direction of his lobbyist buddy, David McMahon.
For RTP readers outside of the LP who are not familiar with McMahan, he is a “juice” lobbyist like the legendary Tom Hensley — someone who uses his clients’ money to help “grease” the wheels of the legislative process. Now before anyone rushes out to call their lawyers, we are not suggesting that David McMahan and his lobbying firm have done anything actually, ya know, illegal.
We do, however, reserve the right to term what he did this week (as he has done countless times before) as sleazy.
It all started when the grocery store people, who are supposed to start selling wine in their facilities come July 1st, realized wine wholesalers and distributors would not be able to supply them their product instantaneously. They would need a little lead time to get the vino moving and into place so that desperate housewives from Germantown to Brentwood to Sequoyah Hills would be able to score a reasonably priced pinot noir when they pick up a steak for dinner. Those shoppers have been waiting a ridiculously long time for the privilege and helpful legislators offered to speed the process up so that consumers could pop their corks on the first of July and not have to wait weeks or months while the supply caught up with the pent-up demand. Practically every person in the Senate supported the effort. So the House should be easy-peazy, right?
Oh, were it that simple, you dear, clueless, Trump-addled taxpayers. Not when there was an opportunity for some “honest graft” to be made by a lobbyist known for self-dealing to improve his personal bank accounts.
McMahan proceeded to get his buddy, Rep. Todd, to sneak a clause into the legislation that would reverse the very thing he and his clients, the liquor store owners, had insisted upon when the WIG legislation was being approved nearly two years ago – to take the limits off of the number of stores any one person could own. Now they wanted to reverse the law they previously asked for by restricting the number of allowable liquor stores to just two per person.
Why would they do that, you may ask? Well, it was because large wine retailers were planning to open wine “supermarkets” around the state and deliver some serious competition to the liquor store owners. Now we can’t have any of that ol’ free enterprise competition stuff going on in the Volunteer state, now could we?
When the large retailers fought back, Rep. “Armed and Loaded” Todd proceeded to throw a temper tantrum and cried that he would “pull the bill” if anyone fiddled with McMahan’s sweetheart clause.
This ain’t the first time Ol’ “Armed and Loaded” has engaged in an unseemly close relationship with a lobbyist. Hell, he even shacked up with a lobbyist for a time in 2011. Ethical piety and political good judgement are not exactly the hallmarks of Rep. Todd’s legislative career.
But back to our story: Then came the critical vote in the House Finance committee. McMahan was in his usual cock-of-the-walk strut. When opponents offered an amendment to strip out the McMahan clause, Todd declared the amendment had not been offered within the required 24-hours prior notice, so it could not be allowed. That was when the committee informed Todd that when he had earlier sneaked the bill out of the previous committee by suspending the rules to do so, the rules were still suspended and that included no 24-hour notice.
But even though the amendment would be voted on, McMahan was still cocky because he thought he had the votes to defeat the amendment. That appeared to be the case when the roll was called and the amendment locked in a 9-9 tie with two passing on the first roll call, which would kill the amendment. At that point McMahan hopped and skipped out of the committee to break out the bourbon, cigars and, one would surmise, the campaign checks from his PAC.
Not so fast there, Davy boy. No sooner had the committee doors hit McMahan in the rump on his way to his victory party, than Rep. Joe Armstrong quietly asked the chair to change his vote from “pass” to “yea,” giving the amendment the required number of votes to pass. McMahan’s carve-out was kaput.
Out in the hall, there was pandemonium. McMahan was said to be cursing and blaming the staff, specific legislators, the speaker, the cash register ladies in the LP cafeteria and anyone else he could spit out of his trembling lips.
To all this, RTP says: “Bwaha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.”
— Couldn’t happen to a more deserving money-grubbing martinet.
Of course, McMahan has thrown so much money around over recent years that there is every possibility he will somehow be able to get the amendment reconsidered. But it would be cold comfort and a short-term victory since the big retailers have vowed a lawsuit to stop the obvious self-dealing, anti-competition, picking-of-winners-and-losers.
Such a lawsuit could easily delay tens of thousands of soccer moms from getting their hands on their elixir vitae for weeks or months longer than originally planned. If that happens, McMahan and Todd would be wise to stay away from any school pick-up lines. Accidents can happen, you know. Especially with desperate mothers behind the wheels of SUVs full of screaming kids.
UPDATE: Even though Rep. “Armed and Loaded” Todd petulantly withdrew his bill when he couldn’t deliver the goods for McMahan, word is that Rep. Jon Lundberg has helpfully stepped in and offered essentially the same bill, but with the anti-competition sweetheart deal provision stripped out.