Forrester Calls for Investigation into Haslam, Ingram Dealings

Press release from the Office of Chip Forrester; August 15, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nashville political organizer Chip Forrester will call for ethics officials to investigate Gov. Bill Haslam’s hidden payments to campaign consultant and lobbyist Tom Ingram.

Forrester Press Conference Remarks

“Immediately following this press conference, I am submitting a complaint to the Tennessee Ethics Commission and asking for them to investigate Governor Haslam’s secret payments made to a lobbyist working on his political campaign.

“Tennesseans deserve honest leaders who say what they mean, especially when they’re claiming to be on our side.

“Governor Bill Haslam is hiding the truth from Tennesseans, just like he’s hiding his tax returns.

“Governor Haslam is hiding the full extent of his financial relationship with Tom Ingram, his chief campaign consultant and a controversial lobbyist.

“It’s one more stitch in what has become a disturbing pattern of rule-breaking and secrecy:

  • He refuses to release his tax returns like at least four governors before him;
  • Haslam Executive Order No. 1 erased transparency rules and further hide his income;
  • Haslam uses a “blind trust” loophole to hide more income than any other governor in Tennessee history;
  • He gave secret raises to his top deputies;
  • Haslam unlawfully hid from taxpayers a $5.5 million loan to a Knoxville developer;
  • He tried to authorize millions worth of cash grant payments to secret business owners; and
  • Haslam has an abysmal record on transparency and open records.

“The more people learn about Bill Haslam, the more questions they have about what he’s hiding.

“What is Bill hiding that he thinks is worse than voters believing he’s working for powerful lobbyists and special interests?

“But secrecy from an elected official isn’t the same as privacy for a private individual. Our democracy is built on trust and accountability, and Haslam’s refusal to come clean on his relationships with lobbyists and special interests is costing him this trust.

“This is about character. Ever since Nixon and Watergate, candidates running for public office have been expected to release many years of tax returns and disclose their political relationships — but Haslam thinks he should get to play by a different set of rules.

“This is about trust. Our democracy is built on accountability, and we cannot hold our leaders accountable when they refuse to come clean on even simple matters.

“This is about jobs. Haslam has always run on his corporate experience, so voters deserve to know about his business dealings with lobbyists and special interests and how exactly he made all that money, besides stealing from trucking companies and outsourcing state jobs to Virginia and Illinois.

“He is running for a second term as the leader of this state. But he’s asking us to just trust him on his secret relationships with high-powered lobbyists.

“No one is above the law. That’s why I’m here today.”

Statement of Facts

From the beginning of 2011 through July 1st, 2013, Governor Bill Haslam failed to disclose expenses related to his gubernatorial campaign efforts, specifically the monies paid for the services of political advisor Tom Ingram.

Haslam’s campaign finance reports show that advisor Tom Ingram first appeared on his payroll in 2009, during Haslam’s gubernatorial campaign, and remained on his campaign’s payroll through the end of 2010.

However, since Haslam began his term as governor in early 2011, Haslam paid Ingram from a private account, which hides an expenditure that state law requires to be reported publicly, according to a News Channel 5 report dated May 10, 2013.

The governor’s statements indicate that this relationship with and personal payment of Tom Ingram continued through the end of June 2013. In an interview with News Channel 5 on May 13, 2013, Governor Haslam said, “I am paying him (Ingram) personally” for his “political advice.” When the reporter asked Haslam how much he paid Ingram, Haslam declined to answer, saying, “That’s personal. Like I said, I am paying him personally.”

A Nashville City Paper article dated June 25, 2013, reported that Governor Haslam would begin to pay Tom Ingram through campaign funds rather than out of his own pocket. A News Channel 5 report states that Haslam campaign officials confirm that campaign payment of Tom Ingram began on July 1st, 2013.

During this period of Governor Haslam paying Tom Ingram from private accounts, not subject to disclosure rules that promote transparency and safeguard citizens, Tom Ingram played a role in managing the Governor’s campaign events. In an article entitled “Did Governor Haslam Break Campaign Finance Laws?” News Channel 5 reports that state emails “reveal Ingram participated in campaign-related planning events while he was on the governor’s private payroll.”

Though Governor Haslam had previously said that Ingram “wasn’t doing political work where it should be campaign [money to pay Tom Ingram]”, the e-mails show that Tom Ingram attended a campaign retreat for Governor Haslam’s 2014 reelection campaign.

In one particular e-mail, Governor Haslam’s chief of staff Mark Cate asks Tom Ingram to set aside time for the eight-hour campaign event. In another e-mail, Tom Ingram suggests that the campaign host the campaign retreat at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel because he preferred “to get away from government space.” In another e-mail conversation between Tom Ingram and Governor Haslam’s chief of staff in September 2012 with the subject line “planning session”, Ingram told Cate that they “also need[ed] to discuss super PAC,” an apparently campaign-related subject.

Sources

  1. “Early Year End Supplemental 2009.” [Tennessee Registry of Election FInance, 7/14/10].
  2. “Haslam Keeps Payments Private” [newschannel5.com, 5/10/13] Accessed July 11, 2013. <http://www.newschannel5.com/story/22221599/haslam-keeps-payments-private>
  3. “Haslam Defends Secret Payments to Lobbyist” [newschannel5, 5/13/13] Accessed July 11, 2013. <http://www.newschannel5.com/story/22240399/haslam-defends-secret-payments-to-lobbyist>
  4. “Haslam to put adviser Tom Ingram on campaign payroll.” [nashvillecitypaper.com, 6/25/13]. <http://www.nashvillecitypaper.com/content/city-news/haslam-put-adviser-tom-ingram-campaign-payroll>
  5. “Did Governor Haslam Break Campaign Finance Laws?” [newschannel5.com, 7/11/13] Ben Hall. <http://www.newschannel5.com/story/22819524/did-haslam-break-campaign-finance-laws>