With everything that’s going on with the debacle at State GOP headquarters, one would think there could not possibly be room for another scandal.
One would be wrong.
The rumor mill is abuzz that a former top aide for a current top legislative leader was hustled out the door a couple of years ago to avoid the embarrassment of a sexual harassment charge against the staff member. The departure was so rapid, many did not know the staffer was gone until weeks later.
While the incident(s) and the names of the people allegedly involved have been known for some time to a fair number of people, the principals were hoping it was all water under the bridge (“What happens in the Plaza, stays in the Plaza”). But supposedly a recent series of inquiring phone calls has generated new attention about the situation.
As the story goes, the person who was being “harassed” by the top staffer had also been carrying on a liaison amour with an elected official who was caught in flagrante delicto by their spouse (sorry for all the Frenchie words. One of the RTP crew just finished a refresher course at Roane State).
At this point all we know is that if true, the incident(s) could easily create a massive shakeup in legislative leadership, especially if the sexual harassment charge is true. Kinda hard to cast the first stone when you live in such a large glass House.
In addition, yet another current senior legislator is said to have had his paramour (is that another French word?) on his payroll for years before the heat of the situation compelled him to move her to another Capitol office job, where she still works. But he still sees her on regular basis and we hear the relationship is smokin’.
And for a change, neither the harasser(s), the harassed nor the randy legislators has anything to do with Jeremy Durham. We think.
Sacre bleu! — the crew at Rocky Top are just glad we didn’t get one of those phone calls.
Boy, the leaks just keep on coming. Seems that Rocky Top kicked over a rock and all sorts of noxious secrets are now slithering out from underneath. The Rocky Top Tipsters (www.rtptipline.com) have given us so much inside information, we are having to line up the stories like planes at the Atlanta airport. Here’s the latest:
Unable to refute the facts of their conflicts and insider dealing, the state party staff and some officials have resorted to ad hominem attacks and threats. Their only defense has been to fall back on a narrow and dubious interpretation of the party by-laws.
But more to the point, they have built their entire defense of their obvious misdeeds on their own personal definition of a “contract employee” by claiming Taylor Ferrell’s clients outside of her state party contract duties is “her business” and cannot be questioned. Here’s an explanation for the sleazy reasoning as defined by SEC member Beth Campbell:
“Taylor Ferrell’s…contract started last fall and will terminate the end of July. Mrs. Ferrell has her own business and her clients are her business.
“The members of the Admin Committee of the SEC was informed about this contract. As for staff members our by-laws forbid them from getting involved in a Republican primary.”
–SEC member Beth Campbell, 4/24/2016
Did you catch that, readers? Ms. Campbell tries to explain — poorly — why state party officials don’t see anything wrong with the ethically challenged state party staff and their sweetheart deals, even in the face of the facts. According to Campbell, state GOP contractor Ferrell can work for anyone she damn well pleases because “her clients are her business.”
The hell they are, Ms. Campbell. As the following will reveal …
And now for a dirty little secret
Before Leatherwood & Co. took the reins of the party, contractors and part-time employees were expected to abide by the same set of policies and procedures required of full-time employees. Why? Because that is standard practice in any other legitimate business and it was designed to prevent the very kind of thing we see happening now – the attempt of state party “contractors” to defeat incumbent GOP officeholders while drawing a check from the state party and using state party prestige, resources and offices while doing so.
Somewhere around 2006, employment job descriptions as well as policies and procedures were revised and updated by the state party. It was a firing offence to “blur” the lines of responsibility (like Taylor Ferrell claiming to speak for the state party by calling national media reporters), or to inappropriately use data (like Taylor Ferrell using fundraising databases for her clients who are running against incumbent Republicans), or to inappropriately use other TNGOP resources (like Taylor Ferrell using TNGOP offices while servicing her other clients), among other safeguards.
Even for such tasks as fundraising special events, comptroller and other positions that did not require full-time employment the same policies and procedures demanded from ther egular party employees were also in effect for the “contractors.”
Apparently, when executive director Brent Leatherwood was hired, he threw those standards in the trash. Case in point: In 2014 the mysterious Strong & Free PAC was formed to elect SEC members who would toe the line for the establishment (aka Gov. Haslam) and defeat those members who strayed from complete obedience. When they (Mark Cate, etc.) needed a treasurer to run their clandestine operation they only had to walk about 15 feet down the hall at the party HQs and enlist Troy Brewer, the then and current comptroller (and a “contract employee”) for the state party. Did Leatherwood knock on the wall of Troy Brewer’s office and ask why he – a contractor with the state party – was actively engaged in trying to elect and defeat SEC members who were more to the establishment’s liking? No, because Leatherwood knew exactly what he was doing (more on this in later postings).
Sound familiar? Sure it does. After successfully getting away with this egregious conflict-of-interest, it was a small step to using the same low set of ethical standards to justify hiring the wife of the party’s political director, knowing full well that she was working for or was going to sign up legislative candidates who were going to run against conservative legislators who were thorns in the establishment’s side.
And now ethically-challenged operatives like Walker Ferrell are lining their own pockets with money earned by his spouse for trying to defeat GOP incumbents, all the while defended by Ryan Haynes and apologists like Beth Campbell.
In closing, here is a little question for Ms. Campbell: Following your exact line of logic Beth, would it be just fine if Taylor Ferrell signed up to work for, say, Hillary Clinton because that would be — in your own words — “her business”? According to you, the answer is “Yes.”
We wonder if you would still think it was just “her business” if Ferrell signed up a client to run against you for re-election to the SEC next time, Beth. What a hypocrite you are.
What a complete crock of a defense these morons have cooked up — don’t address the charges, excuse the blatant conflicts of interest, paper over the obvious lies and half-truths and hope that it will go away. It is dishonest, disingenuous and wrong and they know it. That is why they are pulling out all the stops to threaten and discredit the two dozen legislators who signed the letter demanding they stop their corrupt conduct.
And that it why this will NOT go away.
Fire them all, and let God and Ronald Reagan sort them out.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
….in this year’s General Assembly.
AFP and Andy Ogles. When it looked like the Hall Income Tax repeal was dead on arrival, the AFP crew lathered up the paddles, shocked the thing back to life and Ogles was heard to exclaim in his best Gene Wilder imitation: “It’s ALIVE!”
Much to the sputtering outrage of Harwell, Haslam, and Charles Sargent Ogles was right…the bill was alive and soon the Hall Income Tax was dead! It was the top priority for AFP this year, and got what they wanted. That’s a win in anybody’s book.
TEA and Jim Wrye. As much as it pains us to tag the TEA/Wrye team as “winners” the RTP crew always tells it like it is. That’s why you love/hate us! The fact is that TEA and Wrye were on the ropes with Paycheck Protection and the Voucher bills rolling forward with Big Mo. Then the RINOs led by Harwell and her cronies stepped in to pull the rug out from under those who “trusted” Harwell, and to a lesser extent Haslam, as being on their side. But while the TEA and Wrye may have narrowly escaped with their hides intact this Session, those Republicans who took TEA money and do their bidding may not fare so well come GOP Primary time in just a few short months. Look for Paycheck Protection to make another appearance next year when there is no election to worry about. Payback is a bitch.
Sen. Randy McNally. With the retirement of Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey everyone kind of expected a brawl for the top spot in the Senate. But Randy looks to be in line to put on the “boots” without firing a shot. Presumably the brutal battle for the Lt. Governor’s office, or at least a slap fight, will begin soon once Randy lets us in on how long he actually intends to hold the office.
Rep. Billy Spivey. Orchestrating the surprising Hall Income Tax repeal as he was heading to the exit was masterful. It definitely ranks up there with the surprise repeal vote on Common Core in 2014 that shocked leadership. Oh yeah, Spivey was behind that one, too.
Billy will be missed; hopefully, not for long.
Political consultant/wife of state GOP political director working to defeat incumbent conservative GOP legislators while working out of office in GOP HQs.
Posed as an official representative of the Tennessee Republican Party to reporter covering the delegate controversy.
RTP has learned that party officials Brent Leatherwood and Walker Ferrell were repeatedly warned about the appearance and ethics of contracting with Ferrell’s wife. That arrangement on its face was highly questionable, but exploded into the public view when it was learned she was also under contract to defeat several Republican officeholders. This unethical “backdoor” attempt to circumvent party by-laws was exposed in a letter delivered by over two dozen GOP legislators last week.
In a new development RTP has learned Taylor Ferrell, the wife of state party political director Walker Ferrell, has been working out of state party HQs, acting like an employee and enjoying the HQ’s facilities event to the point where she felt comfortable representing herself to the media as a spokesperson of sorts for the state party — all while being paid to defeat incumbent Republicans.
Multiple credible sources, including state executive committee members, have told RTP that Mrs. Ferrell is described as not an employee but as a “consultant,” ostensibly raising money for the state party among other duties. While there, she is said to be enjoying the HQ’s facilities while servicing her other clients – candidates who are running in primaries against Republican officeholders. She regularly makes and receives calls from and to those clients while sitting just steps away from where her husband is supposedly trying to help Republicans get re-elected.
The relationship is so cozy that Ms. Ferrell felt empowered to present herself to a respected national blogger as a “representative of the State GOP” earlier this month while attempting to defend Chairman Ryan Haynes and other state GOP staff against charges from the Trump and Cruz campaigns that they were stacking Tennessee’s RNC delegation with party cronies – an effort that drew embarrassing national attention. (See links here and here.)
Mrs. Ferrell’s activities have been common knowledge among party staff and other officials and have been personally witnessed by several individuals who have now come forward. These sources have done so while also requesting anonymity, since they fear the same sort of attacks and threatened reprisals from some party officials who are now trying to cover up the scandal and intimidate the signers of last week’s letter.
State party officials have lamely tried to differentiate Ms. Ferrell’s activities from that of other state party officials (such as her husband) by saying she is an “independent” political consultant. Our sources consistently describe her as a “contract consultant or contract employee” who is given wide-ranging access to state party HQs facilities and, presumably, fundraising databases and other proprietary information that regularly and freely circulates within the walls of party offices.
So what’s the difference between regular a state party employee and a state party “contract consultant” working out of the same offices? Other than one gets a W-2 at tax time and the other gets a 1099, not much.
It’s distinction without a difference — and a rather pathetic attempt to build the thinnest of paper walls between Mrs. Ferrell and other state party employees – including her own husband. It is absolutely impossible to believe that Walker Ferrell has not shared inside information – information that should be proprietary — to help his wife land clients. It stinks to high heaven.
(Walker Ferrell: “Oh, look Taylor. That poll the we did on the 4th Congressional district came in and it’s laying right here on my desk next to the master donor list for the state party. I’m going to lunch now, but now don’t you go peeking at anything while I’m gone, okay sweetheart?”)
Pretending that Taylor Ferrell is not an actual employee, but an independent contractor is a disingenuous attempt to provide cover for the Ferrells and perhaps others to enrich themselves while playing both sides of the street. What’s to keep someone like Walker Ferrell, or even Brent Leatherwood from declaring themselves a “contract employee” then quietly going out and signing up clients on the side to run against loyal Republican incumbents? The answer is that nothing would prevent them from doing so, at least not according to the (low) standard claimed by Leatherwood last week.
Several of the crew at RTP have faced similar situations in our collective careers and some of us have fired and even prosecuted operatives who have tried to pull similar stunts. Perhaps it is the youthfulness and inexperience of those involved in this case that is to blame for what has happened. Perhaps it is a lack of character or common sense. Maybe they thought they were so clever no one would notice.
Whatever it is, it’s wrong. And the Ferrell’s, Leatherwood and many others involved damn well know it.
Much more on this story in the near future.
Editors’ Note: For those wondering why Taylor Ferrell and Walker Ferrell were “unavailable for comment” as the controversy erupted last week, the photo on the left provides an answer. For several days last week, the two of them were sharing a room at the RNC Spring meeting at the luxurious Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood, FL, where rooms start at $210 per night.
And apparently they were both doing so on the state party’s dime.
The sheer chutzpah of these people is astonishing.
State Party Chair begs Legislators to take their name off letter.
RTP says waverers and others may be begging to sign back ON to the letter once they hear about new revelations.
GOP state party chairman Ryan Haynes, instead of spending his time correcting the sordid scandal enveloping state party headquarters, has decided to attack the messengers. In the meantime, we offer a friendly caution to those wavering legislators and others who have rushed to defend Haynes: RTP has been tracking down accusations of other misdeeds and questionable arrangements that will likely make letter-deniers pleading to get their signatures back on the letter once those revelations are made known over the next several days.
In classic Saul Alinsky-style tactics that could make Obama blush, Haynes, unable to effectively refute any of the charges raised by 27 lawmakers, has instead spent hours calling legislators pleading with them to take their name off of the letter — as if that would somehow change the facts of the case. According to second-hand reports, Haynes claims he has got nearly half of the legislators to refute the letter they all signed in ink just two days ago but he has offered no public proof to back those claims. One legislator said there was a “stench of desperation” in Haynes’ begging. “I swear, he was so frantic I think I could have asked him to clean my car and walk my dog for a year and he would have done it.”
Regardless of how many weak-kneed types Haynes manages to peel away, neither he nor his staff have been able to refute the substance of the accusations and have resorted to blanket denials saying that nothing is amiss, but providing no evidence to prove their claims. RTP has the “Exclusive” transcript of one of those phone calls:
Wavering Legislator: “You want me to what, Ryan”
Ryan Haynes: “I want you to take your name off that damn letter.”
WL: “What about all the inside dealing and conflicts of interest at the state party? It looks pretty convincing to me.”
RH: “Who are you going to believe: me or your lying eyes?”
WL: “But how do I get my name off? I signed the damn thing in ink and I printed my name underneath my signature.”
RH: “Don’t you worry about that. We got a Costco-sized bottle of White-out at the office that will do the trick.”
WL: “But what do I tell people why I am doing it?”
RH: “Tell them you were stupid. Tell them you never read anything first before you sign it.”
WL: “How about you fire those sleazeballs on your staff and tell everyone you’re the one who was stupid?”
RH: “Hey, whose job are we trying to save here? Yours or mine?”
Yep. Ryan has everything under control. All is well.
SEC members say GOP executive director making “veiled threats” against signers of letter.
Brietbart News posts major national story on the controversy.
The fallout over the crass conflicts-of-interest and “insider trading” by the ethically challenged state GOP staff and leadership is only just beginning.
After over one-third of the House GOP caucus sent a scathing letter to Chairman Ryan Haynes about the corrupt arrangement between the party’s political director and his political consultant wife, the immediate knee-jerk response came from the state party’s executive director, “Baghdad Brent” Leatherwood, who said that Haynes
“would in no way allow his staff to be involved in legislative primaries. It hasn’t happened and it never will.”
Leatherwood delivered his pronouncement with an apparent straight face, even though neither he nor Haynes challenged the facts laid out in the legislators’ letter. All he offered were vacuous bromides about the terrific and “valuable” staff down at the cesspool – er – party headquarters. Considering history is replete with political operatives such as former and current political staff constantly getting caught up in such violations, for Leatherwood to say “it will never happen” is ludicrous. Congressional staff receiving gifts and kickbacks to deliver contracts to vendors? Never happens. Governor’s staff selling pardons (see: “Blanton, Gov. Ray”) and liquor licenses for cash? It never happened. Walker Ferrell making car payments or buying dinner from money received by his wife for working against incumbent GOP officeholders? Would never happen.
Tell us another fairytale, Baghdad Brent.
But overnight the Rocky Top Tipline (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been pinging like crazy, with more than one SEC member saying that Leatherwood and Haynes are making no-so-thinly veiled threats against GOP legislators who exposed the corruption in the state party headquarters. One said party officials were insinuating that those legsilators “might not get as much help from the state party if they signed the letter” — an apparent crude attempt to peel off some of the more weak-kneed signers.
Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of the signers were sticking to their guns. The conservative news service Breitbart ran an extensive story in its national website this morning. Their headline says it all:
Controversy is threatening to bring an early end to the regime of thirty-year-old Ryan Haynes, who was named chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party in April 2015.
by Michael Patrick Leahy21 Apr 2016, 6:56 AM PDT
If Ryan and the others think by stonewalling they can wait out the storm and make this go away, they are fools. Haynes needs to cut these people loose or he will lose all credibility – and maybe even his own job.
And as for those wavering or wondering about the charges delivered by the Republican legislators yesterday? Stay tuned:
Rocky Top will have more bombshells later today and tomorrow.
GOP State Party officials caught in a huge conflict-of-interest.
27 GOP legislators call Haynes and staff on the carpet for “unethical” behavior.
Wife of state GOP political director paid to defeat incumbent Republican officeholders.
In the Pantheon of Dumb Political Operatives, these people deserve a special place of honor. Instead of us here at RTP rehashing today’s events, we provide our loyal readers (both of ‘em) the actual letter, delivered of course by (more than) one of our Merry Band of Tipsters.
There is already major fallout over this, what with everyone scurrying to cover their behinds. But the facts are pretty damning – and Haynes, the Ferrells, Brian Leatherwood and others (which we will name in coming posts) have a lot of ‘splaining to do.
Spiff up those resumes, kiddies. Time to look for a new job.
Starrett tries to fake it, California style.
Action Andy on the case.
This weekend, our crack team of analysts here at RTP had just finished their analysis of the latest FEC filings in the Tennessee’s 4th Congressional district and were preparing to write it up when Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Andy Sher beat us to the punch.
Some interesting facts gleaned from the Sher article and our own analysis of the latest filings by the Boy from California, Grant Starrett:
- Of 64 individual contributors listed, Starrett received contributions from just 19 people in Tennessee. Over 70% of his contributors came from out of state. Since he announced, over 90% of the contributors came from outside Tennessee
- Only two of those contributions actually came from individuals within the district he seeks to represent, and one of those from a guy on the campaign payroll (kick-backs, anyone?).
- Starrett included another $5,400 from two contributors, but left out the fact that those funds were for the general election and can’t be used in his race against Des Jarlais.
- Starrett’s biggest contributors, again, came from California where Grant lived until a couple of years ago.
- Starrett has (so far) plowed $1/2 million into his race to become the next congressman from Murfreesboro (or is it Malibu?). Even more amazing is that the lawyer who has never practiced the law did so as a 28-year-old trust fund baby.
Starrett and his Posse like to brag that his campaign is “knocking on 5,000 doors per week”, the implication being that he has a whole gaggle of volunteers going door-to-door with him. In reality, Starrett has hired 23 “volunteer” door knockers (paying them around $60,000 in the last two months). And less than half of them even live in the district.
The exact amount of money Starret has given his own campaign is $499,961. Apparently Poppy told him his trust allowance only went to $500,000 per year. Mummy said they would be willing to buy their boy a congressional seat, but they’d be damned if they were going to pay for a landslide.
The Bottom Line: Without pumping in another cool quarter million into his campaign just before midnight on the last reporting day for the F.E.C., Starrett would have raised less than $60,000 for his primary – meaning DesJarlais actually outraised Starrett nearly 2-to-1 during the last reporting period.
This may be the first time in a long time (maybe ever) that DesJarlais has outraised an opponent.
And Grant is learning that good knockers don’t come cheap.
“The Dean” of Capitol Hill journalists (which we suppose is somewhat akin to the “King of the crap house”), Tom Humphrey, was caught shilling for the GOP establishment operatives in his defense of Trojan Horse delegate Ken Gross.
But with typical aplomb, the Dean responded with good humor and even linked to Rocky Top in the process. Be careful there, Tom – you don’t want to start driving traffic to a site that only averages two readers a week. But we appreciate the gesture.
And thanks for playing. We owe you some links, Dean.
The Dean of the state’s political reporters (at least those who are left) took to his column on Sunday in a rather feeble and contorted attempt to defend the indefensible. In the process, he assigned dastardly deeds and mean motives to people he thought had offended an establishment candidate — on4 who was foisted on the public as part of a corrupt political process. He failed miserable at almost every turn.
State GOP executive committee member Ken Gross was appointed by Ryan Haynes and a majority of his fellow committee members to represent Trump. This was done despite the fact the Trump campaign opposed him and because Gross did not run as a Trump delegate, did not support Trump in the election, and publicly criticized Trump as a liberal Democrat on social media. The Trump campaign offered more acceptable names, but Chairman Ryan Haynes refused to consider them and created his own slate while not allowing any other slates to be voted on. Nah, nothing suspicious about that.
Even though hundreds of thousands of Tennessee Republicans voted for Trump and thousands campaign openly for him, volunteered for him and put signs up in their yards and stickers on their cars supporting him, young Ryan instead chose someone who openly attacked Trump. Gross said it was just “innocent political banter.” Oh, puhleeze. That lame defense is a puerile and pathetic. If someone had openly attacked Rubio as a piece of crap or worse, would Ryan have appointed that person a Rubio delegate? Of course not.
Humphrey said the Cruz campaign remained silent (as though shutting up while your candidate is being butt-raped by the party elite is somehow an attribute), but that is not true. The Cruz campaign was furious at what Haynes and his Hacks did to their candidate as well. Appointing Susan Williams – a known Cruz hater – to be an alternate for Cruz was but one example.
Then Tom tried to create some sympathy for poor, besieged Ken Gross. He wrote that the Blog-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named had (gasp!) actually published the phone number of Gross (the fiends!). Oh, the horror! What Ken and Tom failed to mention is that Rocky Top had Gross’ number in the first place because it had already been published by the freakin’ state party on their website for years. Also, Gross had put the number himself all over the Internet when the doofus went looking for a new job and posted his resume for the entire world to see it. And now, somehow, giving out his number was some sort of cardinal sin. Get real.
Finally Gross comically tried to claim that he was now reconsidering his “strong support of Trump” (a devotion to whom he apparently he has had for almost a whole week now). Humphrey wrote: “It’s been enough, Gross said, to leave him questioning the idea of being an ultra-loyal Trump delegate after the two first two ballots.”
What is this – a joke? Anti-Trump party hack gets appointed by the party establishment and is instantly turned into such an ”ultra-loyal” Trump supporter that he almost makes it an entire week before he starts to lay the groundwork for justifying what he undoubtedly intended to do all along – screw over Trump at the earliest possibility.
Humphrey’s entire column unintentionally confirms what he set out to disprove – that Trump, and yes, Ted Cruz were screwed over by petty party potentates who wanted to reward their cronies and create delegates who could be counted on the flip off the ½ million Tennesseans who voted for Cruz and Trump.
And once again, for the record the crew at Rocky Top are not big fans of The Donald (with the previously noted exception of Mrs. Hot Chick). We just think the party establishment is arrogant, deceitful and cares not one whit about the desires of Republican voters and that it is the dishonest and corrupt actions of not only people like Ryan Haynes, but party leaders in Washington that gave rise to Trump and his ilk.
Reap what you sow, Ryan. But fear not — the Dean is readily available to try and cover your ass.