The mess at state GOP HQs just got worse.

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.

The Diplomat Resort and Spa

The Diplomat Resort and Spa

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.

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