Press Release from Zach Wamp for Governor; June 22, 2010:
NASHVILLE – Zach Wamp, Republican candidate for governor, today called on Bill Haslam to fully explain all of the details of his company’s history of price gouging consumers at Pilot Corporation gas stations in Tennessee and at least two other states.
Pilot Corporation, which Haslam co-owns with family members, was forced to pay fines and penalties for its actions against consumers when it violated the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act by overcharging for gasoline at prices up to $4.99 a gallon over a three-day period following Hurricane Ike in late 2008.
The Tennessee attorney general sued Pilot Corporation and its subsidiary, Pilot Travel Centers, to force the company to stop raising gas prices and restricting its supply during that crisis. The court later ordered the company to repay every customer who was overcharged at its gas stations and fined Pilot thousands of dollars for its illegal behavior against Tennessee motorists.
Pilot Oil was also caught price gouging its customers at travel centers in Georgia and Kentucky during the same period, and the company was again forced to reimburse consumers and pay court-ordered fines – $100,000 in Kentucky alone – for its actions.
“Pilot Corporation’s price gouging of Tennessee consumers, as well as consumers in at least two other states, is the ultimate betrayal of public trust. Mayor Haslam needs to explain what happened, why it happened, who was responsible and why he tried to blame local gas station employees when he was first asked about it,” Wamp said.
“Since three different states punished Bill Haslam’s company for price gouging its own customers at the pump, it was clearly a systemic attempt to run up their profits at the expense of consumers during a national crisis. Now Mayor Haslam refuses to release his tax returns, which would show how much in wind-fall profits he made off the backs of hard-working Tennesseans.”
Haslam has made his experience at Pilot Corporation the major theme of his campaign for governor, repeatedly referencing his time with the company at campaign events and in his multi-million dollar TV ad campaign that began in February.
“Those who seek to serve Tennessee as Governor should be held to a high standard of conduct,” Wamp said. “But it is clear from Mayor Haslam’s repeated refusals to be fully open and transparent with the people of Tennessee about his personal finances and his many conflicts of interest with state government from his Pilot Oil holdings that he believes those standards don’t apply to him or his company.”
Last week Wamp called on Haslam to voluntarily disclose Pilot Corporation’s total earnings from the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation through sales of lottery tickets at its retail stores, yet another conflict of interest Haslam has with state government. Pilot Corporation ranks fourth all-time among the Lottery’s top 25 corporate accounts in terms of gross sales.
The Tennessee Education Lottery has generated more than $6.5 billion in sales since its inception in 2004 and has paid out roughly $393 million in commissions and bonuses to its retailer partners, including Pilot Corporation and Pilot Travel Centers, which is listed separately among the Lottery’s top 25 accounts and has an employee who sits on the state Lottery Retailer Advisory Board.
Mayor Haslam has also failed to be fully open and transparent about the partnerships Pilot Travel Centers has with casino gambling operations in at least three states, including hundreds of 24-hour slot machines throughout Nevada. Last week the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Mayor Haslam, his brother and father hold personal ownership licenses for locations in Louisiana that operate video poker machines and that Pilot Travel Centers in Montana partner with gambling operators that offer poker, keno and other games.
With less than a month remaining until early voting begins, Haslam is the only gubernatorial candidate not to comply with a request by the Tennessee Newspaper Network to release copies of his federal tax returns from the last three years. As a result, taxpayers are left in the dark as to the size and scope of Haslam’s personal stake in Pilot Corporation, which pays a registered lobbyist to watch over its investments and lobby for government funding for the $16 billion company at the state Legislature in Nashville.