That mewling sound emanating from the offices of the Tennessean is the reporters there who have lost control of a story they helped create.
Having conducted a jihad against the hapless Rep. Jeremy Durham, editors and reporters at the paper leaned back from their keyboards, lit cigars and broke open a bottle of their best Andre champagne while they waited for the public execution and expulsion of Durham from the House.
It didn’t happen.
Don’t get us wrong. By all early indications, Durham appears to be a skirt-chasing cad whose behavior was highly inappropriate for a state legislator (which is, by definition and history, a sometimes very low bar to crawl under). But before Harwell could effectively deliver a political decapitation, there was the annoying little fact that no one has filed a complaint against Durham — legal, ethical or otherwise. It matters not what your opinion of Durham might be, there is an inconvenient thing called due process and Harwell/Herbert have tried their damnedest to blow right by the niceties of the law and go straight to the beheading.
But now things have taken an ominous turn for Harwell and her allies, and the Tennessean is Johnny-not-on-the-spot. After being out-reported by Breitbart News, Rocky Top, Mrs. Johnson’s 5th grade newsletter and a number of other outlets, the Tennessean finally “discovered” the witch hunt story and tried to re-write it in time to dump it out on a Friday, hoping no one would notice their late arrival to the party.
In so doing, they used some of the same language they had undoubtedly read in the other outlets and cobbled together a half-assed article. But even under the theory that even a blind hog can find an acorn ever now and then, they quoted Ad Hoc committee chairman Steve McDaniel, who made a startling comment. Typically, the Tennessean didn’t or did not want to understand the significance of McDaniel’s brief comment, which was buried deep in their buried story. But that is why Rocky Top is here: to help the great unwashed of the MSM understand political reality – a frequently Herculean task, we admit.
McDaniel: “The scope was very narrow and was limited to Rep. Durham per the Speaker’s appointment letter, and the committee’s authorizing resolution.”
Did everyone catch that? Did McDaniel take a direct shot across the bow of the HMS Harwell as well as the Good Ship Slattery? Sure looks like he did.
Why do we say that? Because when he made that statement, McDaniel knew that Breitbart had interviewed at least three of the people who had been called into the AG for the inquisition, which is apparently three more than those interviewed by the Tennessean.
From those interviews, it was glaringly clear the Durham “investigation” has wandered far, far outside the bounds of the original mission McDaniel says they were authorized to conduct. If Harwell is not compiling a blackmail list of secrets to use on her political opponents, she is sure trying her dead level best to make it look as though she is. And if she is, no legislator – not one – is safe from such attacks.
This is getting really messy – and really important – with each passing day.
But not to worry: the Tennessean is on the job! (cue laugh track).
Is the AG’s office “back-channeling” the Speaker with dirt on her fellow Republicans?
Once again, our cracked team of investigative busybody tipsters (RTPtipline@gmail.com) delivered something of interest. The photo below shows the lead investigators from the AG’s office huddled with the Speaker’s chief of staff Scott Gilmer and Harwell sycophant Joe McCord, with nary an Ad Hoc Committee member in sight.
The photo shows Gilmer, McCord, AG attorney Bill Young and a woman believed to be the other lead AG attorney. The woman to the far left looks like it could be Hillary Clinton, but that would create a conspiracy theory that even we find a little hard to swallow.
Ya see, the Ad Hoc committee was formed just days after Harwell jumped the gun and announced an investigation of the hapless Jeremy Durham. It seems the Speaker did not have the authority to unilaterally engage the AG in an investigation and had to quickly backpedal and form a committee to administer that request and to reportedly run the investigation. One would think that the Speaker would know the damn rules of the House.
One would be wrong.
So once the Ad Hoc committee was formed, the Speaker planted her informants in the committee room. Doug Himes was there, and as the lawyer for the House ostensibly had a reason for being there. House Clerk Joe McCord was placed there by Beth, even though he had no official role to play. Committee members quickly figured that out and McCord’s butt was booted from the room.
But Harwell is not allowing such annoyances as rules and due process to get in the way of her apparent drive to dig up dirt on those GOP caucus members who disagree with her. Everyone even remotely involved in the whole sordid investigation have voiced suspicions that the AG’s office is delivering their dirt directly to Harwell. So take another look at the photo and ask yourself:
“Who are you going to believe — the Speaker or your lying eyes?”
After the flurry of Breitbart articles that exposed the disturbing turns in the investigation of Jeremy Durham, one had only to walk near the office of the Speaker on Monday to detect there was something wrong in Harwelland.
While it was hard to hear above the whirring of paper shredders and the sound of hammers destroying iPhones, one could not miss the scurrying of lawyers in and out of the Speaker’s office. RTP sources say the lead scurry-er was Doug Himes, the Speaker’s in-house lawyer and someone who appears to have direct access to the Speaker, the Ad Hoc committee as well as the Attorney General’s office. That would make Douglas an important – or should we say a “marked” – man.
There have been more than a few rumors that Himes, among others, was using his position to funnel information from the AG investigation to the Speaker’s office through and around the Ad Hoc committee. To put it another way: is any dirt the AG’s investigators-for-hire turned up on legislators (other than Durham) being delivered to Harwell for use as political pressure (i.e., political blackmail) against her opponents, especially those in her own caucus?
That Himes appears to have been irretrievably compromised is just the tip of the iceberg headed for the HMS Harwell. There are also the persistent rumors that Harwell has known about other cases of sexual harassment and personal peccadilloes among legislators and staff that she and/or her minions have conveniently covered up.
But the Durham investigation has moved from a tar-baby mess casting serious doubt on Harwell’s leadership credibility, and has now morphed in to something far more serious.
It could take more and better lawyers than Doug Himes to put Humpty Dumpty Harwell’s speakership back together again.
Has the Speaker turned the Durham investigation into a political Witch Hunt? It’s sure looking like that may be the case…
Doing the job the state’s main stream media won’t do, Breitbart News today delivered a major story that could result in one of the biggest scandals to hit the Tennessee state legislature in modern history. If any portion of this information is true it could be the biggest debacle since Rocky Top (the scandal, not the blog).
It’s that serious.
We will leave it to our readers to click on the exhaustive story and read the whole thing, but here is what we believe are some of the top takeaways:
- Speaker Beth Harwell initiated an inquiry into the activities of Rep. Jeremy Durham that some constitutional experts say is without precedent and could possibly be illegal.
- The office of Attorney General Herbert Slatery has employed investigators and staff who have controversial histories in conducting similar inquiries which turned out to be either “witch hunts” of political enemies or the paid whitewashing of politicians who were under investigation by other law enforcement agencies.
- Information about the progress and detail of the investigation is being funneled straight back to the Speaker and her cronies, presumably for their own use.
And here is the killer point from the article:
- Women who have been interviewed by the investigators say their inquisitors used intimidation tactics and were far more interested in the personal lives of legislators other than Durham. One said the legislators whom the AG’s people were interested in were known political opponents of the Speaker. Here are verbatim quotes from some of the people interviewed by the AG’s Star Chamber:
“The takeaway for me was, My God, I’m only here to talk about other people.”
“It was a fishing expedition.”
“They were hunting down gossip on them.”
“It has the appearance they were expanding the scope of the inquiry …. to other legislators. That’s a frightening thought. Somebody’s gathering information for future use.”
This last point is devastating. Legislators on both sides of the aisle were already questioning the Speaker’s leadership on this and other issues. Even the hint of a political witch hunt or the creation of a “Speaker’s Book of Secrets” will spark private — and perhaps public – outrage, especially in the House GOP caucus.
Any legislator could be the next target.
How could AG Slatery — who many describe as Gov. Haslam’s “best friend” — allow himself to get involved with these kind of people in conducting this type of investigation? Is he a willing accomplice or is he just in over his head?
As for Harwell, she has some deadly serious explaining to do. This could definitely result in the end of her tenure as Speaker. If any of these charges are anywhere close to accurate, how could legislators trust Harwell going forward?
Short answer: They won’t.
Another shoe to drop?
Taylor Ferrell delivered her brief email to the press last week in an attempt to tamp down the growing scandal involving her working for the Republican state party while she is also working against incumbent Republican office holders.
Among the complaints listed in a letter to Chairman Ryan Haynes and signed by 27 GOP House members, was the inherent conflict of interest of someone working (and living) with the state party’s political director while trying to defeat the very people the state party is supposed to help get re-elected. At the time, Haynes and his executive director, Brent Leatherwood, stood silent while they trotted out the 28-year-old Ferrell to deal with reporters.
Ferrell claimed she was going to resign from two clients, but refused to say who those clients were. RTP has learned and numerous sources confirm Ferrell was working for at least three, maybe more, candidates who were challenging elected GOP incumbents. For example, as of this morning – over a week later – the candidate running against conservative Rep. Judd Matheny still had Ferrell listed on his website as his consultant. And since Ferrell was the one who designed the website in the first place, you would think she would be competent enough to remove her frickin’ name.
Same goes for Grant Starrett – the 29-year-old Californian who parachuted into the 4th congressional district to challenge incumbent Scott DesJarlais. Starrett still lists Ferrell as his consultant and there has been no attempt to inform the public or his supporters that Ferrell has resigned, which leads us to the conclusion she’s still being paid. So just who the hell did Taylor Ferrell get rid of? Someone is lying in a rather obvious attempt to avoid further media scrutiny and hope that the controversy will go away.
Our guess is that Ferrell did not resign her most lucrative client, Starrett. That the state party honchos would allow Ferrell to keep Starrett as a client is problematic. When Haynes came in as chairman in April 2015, he was told and warned by at least two SEC members about Taylor Ferrell’s unethical business arrangement. She was on the state party payroll as a state party employee and had just signed on Starrett as a client. Despite Haynes and his core defenders on the SEC such as Beth Campbell trying to claim Ferrell as a “vendor,” it appears she did not become a vendor until the fall of 2015. Regardless of her employment status, Ferrell had broad access through her husband, Walker, to the state party’s entire donor database as well as any other proprietary political information that her husband chose to share with her. That insider information not only gave her a leg up on getting new business, it also gave her valuable resources she could use on behalf of her clients – you know, the ones running to defeat Republicans. This all stinks to high heaven, and is why Haynes is in the “duck & cover” position.
Haynes & Co. tried to placate the justifiably outraged incumbent Republican officials by allegedly removing Taylor from two of their opponents’ payrolls. But allowing her to keep Starrett is not only selective corruption, it has also raised an even more serious issue about the motives of Taylor Ferrell’s superiors as well as that of her husband. What is the connection between Grant Starrett, Brent Leatherwood and the Ferrells?
Unless Haynes, Leatherwood, etc address the concerns of the 27 Republican legislators – specifically and in writing — Rocky Top will feel compelled to discuss the exact nature of those motives.
We’re waiting, Ryan. The clock is ticking….
A few days ago we selected the “Winners” of this past legislative session. Today RTP brings you the Losers. This selection was much more difficult, as there were so many more Losers than Winners, but we gave it a shot:
Speaker Beth Harwell.
It is hard to imagine a Speaker having a worse legislative session. Ok, maybe former short term U.S. House Speaker Robert Livingston. Oh, and former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. But we digress. From the Jeremy Durham nightmare (where Beth not only shot herself in the foot by ignoring it, she then pulled out a full automatic and ran through the whole clip as she lurched for a way out), to Timothy Hill beating her leadership team’s choice to replace Durham as Majority Whip, to her failed backdoor attempts to block the Syrian refugee resolution, to the surprise 66-17 vote for the Hall Income Tax repeal at the end of the Session, etc.
Beth displayed a shocking, though not surprising at this point, lack of basic leadership skills. She probably knows her ambition to be Governor is over; soon she will figure out that her desire to remain Speaker has moved into the category of “you’re kidding, right?”
Governor Bill Haslam.
In the last session before his final lamest of lame duck legislative sessions the Governor didn’t chalk up many wins, and the atmosphere for his last two years will likely be even more toxic as his cronies again target, and likely lose, conservative House members who have thwarted his every move. He didn’t dare bring up his Obamacare expansion for a third humiliating loss. He did a couple of taxpayer paid road trips to promote a gasoline tax increase, and then took a pass for this year. Did everything he could to block a complete repeal of the Hall Income Tax, though he may still choose to further poison the well with the legislature by vetoing the tax repeal legislation that passed by the narrow margin of 29-1 in the Senate and 66-17 in the House. And should we even get into the complete incompetence of the Administration’s education policies…especially TN Ready??? It could be worse. He could be running something really important into the ground…like an NFL franchise with the quarterback of his choosing becoming one of the greatest flops since Ryan Leaf.
Wasn’t Jim Henry the Haslam pick to quarterback his administration back in to good relations with the legislature? Maybe Johnny Manziel can become Haslam’s final chief of staff…he’s available.
With absolutely no shot at relevance and even less grasp of the policy issues that “red state” Tennessee embraces out of the Democrats in Tennessee have little option other than silly grandstanding. Oh, and recruiting women candidates to run under the moniker “WTF.” Just as Republicans still struggle with how to act when in possession of a MAJORITY, the Democrats are just as clueless with how to act in a SUPER MINORITY. Putting them in the “loser” category may be too kind
With a surplus of over a BILLION dollars (meaning we were overtaxed by that amount) the legislature could only find its way to return HALF of the $260 million robbed from the road fund by Governor Bredesen. But they are still finding ways to waste money on the new state museum. You know the one. The $120 million boondoggle that we just discovered has no storage space for the museum artifacts…meaning they will spend MORE to get some closet space. Or maybe they can just get a few PODS they can put in Legislative Plaza.
They also found the extra money to fund $30 million for a mystery company relocating to Tennessee (Shhhh. It’s a secret). They also had another $8 million or so to make sure “Nashville” keeps filming in Nashville (What, was Toledo making a bid to move Nashville to Ohio?). With a BILLION dollar surplus, and about $130 million generated last month alone, the legislators fought against a mere $42 million tax cut this year as part of the Hall Income Tax repeal.
It seems a BILLION just doesn’t go as far as it used to.
Two weeks ago, 27 Republican House members sent a terse letter to state GOP head Ryan Haynes, demanding to know why one of their “contract employees” – who is also married to the state party’s political director (nah, no conflict there) – was working for candidates running against incumbent GOP officeholders in the August primary.
The legislators were ticked. While political consultant Taylor Ferrell was at the center of their complaints, the letter was also a vehicle for conservatives to vent their frustration over years of double-dealing by party poohbahs when it came to favoring more establishment-friendly GOP candidates. They have watched as huge sums of money went to keep the current power structure in power, while conservatives had to beg for assistance or, worse, had to watch as the governor and his allies spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to defeat them in primaries (i.e., AdvanceTN PAC in 2014).
The scathing letter set off a scramble among the party hierarchy who at first pretended there was no conflict (which was ludicrous on its face), then they tried to pressure the letter signers to recant (which failed miserably), then they had at least one member of House leadership threaten some letter signers with withholding campaign financial assistance.
After days of confusing communications, with irate SEC members and over a score of GOP legislators demanding answers, Republican chairman Ryan Haynes was desperate to stop the hemorrhaging of state party credibility.
But no one thought Haynes & Co. were this desperate, though.
Earlier this week, in an astonishing response to the controversy, Haynes and Leatherwood trotted out Taylor Ferrell to communicate with the press while they cowardly hid behind her and offering no substantive response of their own.
Her statement was actually kind of pitiful. In language and reasoning you would expect of a 28-year old “consultant,” Ms. Ferrell exacerbated the controversy facing the state party, while raising more questions and answering nothing substantive. In a nutshell, Ferrell:
- Said she was resigning two contracts, but refused to even say which contracts she has ended.
Last time we counted, she was working for at least three (3) candidates running against duly-elected GOP incumbents. Who is the third client Haynes and Leatherwood let her keep? Even in the face of retreat, by not identifying which clients she was giving up, she managed to flip off the Republicans legislators who had exposed the situation at state headquarters.
And everyone is just supposed to take her word for it? Just what the hell did you “resign” from, Ms. Ferrell? You think a poorly constructed email is going to suffice? Think again.
- Ferrell said those resignations were due to “some wrong information and false allegations.”
Care to enlighten us as to exactly what information was wrong and exactly which allegations were false? You can’t, because there were no “false allegations.” Yous are not telling the truth in order to keep you state party contract and the clients you have left. Telling egregious lies is hardly the best way to advance one’s career or credibility.
As for Haynes, he did not address a single issue raised by the legislators. In fact he didn’t have the courage to make any formal statement, by email or other means. He refused to address how or who approved the arrangements with Ferrell that were so conflicted and so sleazy that even a first year student who slept through Professional Ethics 101 at UT’s Haslam School of Business could guess the right answer on the final exam.
Haynes has now been reduced to hiding behind a short email from Taylor Ferrell. What a profile in courageous leadership.
Perhaps the most comical part of Ms. Ferrell’s short statement was that she tried to present her firm as a larger entity with plural employees. In fact she is the only employee of her “firm” which is run out of a house near Hendersonville.
And to those SEC members/Haynes apologists who will undoubtedly rush out to try and claim “the crisis is over.” Get real – this is not going to go away. There is an army of individuals — legislators, party donors, activists and voters – who will drag your sorry butts to account for what has happened and your failure to address the situation. There will be continuing calls for an independent audit of state party finances, contract and employment agreements, and more. Maybe even a lawsuit. Count on it.
Here’s a suggestion Ryan: How about you come clean about the sleazy practices of a state party that has become known over the years for consultants and employees acting like one big political daisy chain when handing out money to each other? You could start by firing the people who are at the center of this debacle? That would be Brent Leatherwood, Taylor Ferrell and Walker Ferrell. It would be nice to see you fire yourself, but that is likely beyond your professional or ethical capabilities.
Yep, the state GOP is in the very best of hands…