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…