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TFA: Harwell, Allies ‘Pandering’ to Business Interests on Guns in Parking Lots

Newsletter from Tennessee Firearms Association; Feb. 13, 2012:

A lot of my comments are based on my involvement with the 2nd Amendment issues in this state. In that context, I often make observations about legislators in that context. I give no quarter to whether those legislators may be good on other issues because, well, even a broken clock is right twice a day. I could care less if they pass resolutions naming streets or pass laws to protect chickens.

Why? Well, let’s look at the Constitutional oath of office that these legislators are required to take.


§ 2. Oath of Office; General Assembly

Each member of the Senate and House of Representatives, shall before they proceed to business take an oath or affirmation to support the Constitution of this State, and of the United States and also the following oath:

“I ………. do solemnly swear (or affirm) that as a member of this General Assembly, I will, in all appointments, vote without favor, affection, partiality, or prejudice; and that I will not propose or assent to any bill, vote or resolution, which shall appear to me injurious to the people, or consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State”.

Each of these legislators take an oath of office that they will first and foremost support the Constitution(s). The right of the citizens to keep, bear and wear arms is EXPRESSLY protected under each constitution.

Note also that they take an oath that says that they will NOT “… consent to any act or thing, whatever, that shall have a tendency to lessen or abridge their rights and privileges, as declared by the Constitution of this State”.

That affirmation draws an unequivocal line that they cannot cross. That is that no change in law, statute or policy will be allowed which would or could lessen or impair not only those privileges created in the constitutions but those RIGHTS which exist independent of the constitutions. The rights of self-defense, political resistence, and the related rights to keep, bear and wear arms are such rights.

By her own statements, Beth Harwell and those aligned with her on 2nd Amendment issues will pander to business interests (which are flooding money into her and their campaign accounts) even if such pandering would “have a tendency to less or abridge” constitionally protected rights or constitutionally created privileges.

Do their actions reflect that they take the oath of office seriously? You decide before you send campaign funds or vote again.

There are times when issues arise that show us which individuals in government are truely putting the Constitution first and those whose primary alliances are toward issues and interests which have nothing to do with the Constitution at all.

Beth Harwell and her shadow operatives are as much a problem, if not more, than Jimmy Naifeh ever was. At least in the early years, he did not use muscle against members of his own party against their willingness to support the 2nd Amendment. Reports are that the Harwell clan does.

New Push Underway for Passage of ‘Guns in Parking Lots’

* * *

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey last week declared he strongly supports passage of the key proposal, which would authorize handgun permit holders to take their weapons to work — provided they are left in a locked car — even if the permit holder’s employer prohibits guns on company property.

It almost negates even having a permit if you can’t do that (keep a gun in car),” said Ramsey in an interview.

House Speaker Beth Harwell said * * * “It’s not a priority to me this session,” she said in an interview. “I want to be sure not to do anything detrimental to business … (but) I think we can work something out.”

* * *

Similar bills, dubbed “employee safe commute” legislation by proponents or “guns in parking lots” by others, have failed for the last three years even as several other measures aimed at protecting gun rights were approved, especially in 2010. Ramsey said the proposal is “the last thing we need to do” as legislators to ensure Second Amendment rights in the state.

* * *

In the House, no vote has been scheduled yet, but the parking lots bill has been the subject of much discussion — including an angry argument in the Legislative Plaza cafeteria between Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.

According to various accounts, Harwell had admonished Matheny for soliciting other legislators during a House floor session to sign up as co-sponsors of Bass’ bill in apparent violation of a policy against those holding leadership positions advocating a bill when there is no House Republican Caucus consensus on the legislation. Matheny apparently believed Niceley — mistakenly, said Niceley — had reported his actions to Harwell.

* * *

The House speaker acknowledged hearing much discussion among fellow Republicans about the parking lots bill, ranging from concerns that it sends the wrong message to businesses considering Tennessee as a location to unhappiness that Democrat Bass is sponsoring the House bill.

* * *

Harwell two years ago was the only Republican voting against overriding then-Gov. Phil Bredesen’s veto of a bill that allowed handgun permit holders to take their weapons into establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. She has since been the target of occasional criticism by gun rights advocates.

* * *””

See,  New Push Underway for Passage of ‘Guns in Parking Lots’ | Humphrey on the Hill

A new effort is under way toward passage of legislation that pits the interests of gun rights advocates against the property rights of businesses, a politically volatile mix that was apparently a fact.

Another troubling report but one which sheds light on what is happening with and among Republican leadership in the House comes from news reports about the astounding amounts of corporate cash which are being pumped into the campaign accounts and political action committees of sitting legislators.

This is one of the reasons why the “Employee Safe Commute” bill is in harms way – entities that have no right to vote are destroying your right to vote with huge inflows of campaign funds in all likelihood primarily to Republican candidates. This is probably just a drop in the bucket compared to the unreported support these same organizations provide through “selective” infrastructure improvements (look at AT&T’s developments), big business “awards” to schools and other local organizations in selective areas, and the communications from employers to employees regarding candidates.

Keep in mind that often some when legislators say “jobs, jobs, jobs” that is really code for “big business, what do you want now at taxpayer expense?”

“Tennessee House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, of Chattanooga, right, and House Speaker Beth Harwell, of Nashville, are among the top five recipients of PAC funding in the Tennessee General Assembly for the current election season. Photo by Tracey Trumbul  / Chattanooga Times Free Press.”

Andy Sher with the Times Free Press reported this week:

NASHVILLE — Dozens of special interests ranging from AT&T to Chattanooga-based BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee have given $2.93 million so far to the campaigns of Tennessee lawmakers and legislative candidates during the 2012 election cycle, state filings show.

A political action committee operated by Memphis-based FedEx Corp. topped the list, according to figures from the state’s Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.

The shipping and logistics giant’s PAC gave $101,582 to dozens of lawmakers and candidates between Jan. 16, 2011, and Jan. 15, 2012, an analysis of direct contributions reported by lawmakers and candidates shows.

Government contractors, businesses regulated by the General Assembly and other interests, including organized labor, were among those giving through traditional PACs.

And joining the ranks for the first time are corporations, which can give under a 2011 law passed by the Republican-led General Assembly. In 2010, the GOP boosted its Senate majority and gained operational control of the House.

The analysis of giving to the 33 senators and 99 representatives shows Republicans as major beneficiaries of PACs and corporations.

The 20 top recipients of special interest contributions were Republican leaders and, quite often, powerful GOP Senate and House committee chairmen. The analysis excludes contributions to leadership PACs operated by top leaders, which raked in considerable contributions as well.

The No. 1 recipient in personal contributions was Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, with $88,242, the data show.

The top Democrat was House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh, of Ripley, whose $37,900 earned him the No. 21 slot.

“In a lot of these cases the money follows those who have the power,” said Tennessee Common Cause Chairman Dick Williams, who argues that the public and not private interests should fund the bulk of campaign costs. “People who contribute always want to have the ear of those in power.”

Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, who ranked No. 4 in special interest contributions to personal campaign accounts, said the money “just shows people agree with us that Republicans are taking the state in the right direction.”

“It’s not like the misconception that you’re buying a vote,” Ramsey said. “It’s just that you’re trying to keep like-minded people elected.”

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, was at No. 5 with $65,100.

McCormick said he has “never had a lobbyist ask me to do anything that was tied to a donation. I assume that’s illegal. It’s never happened to me, and I’ve never felt I was under undue pressure.”

The list of more than 250 donors shows several corporations making direct contributions or putting corporate money into PACs, allowable under the new law.

Cable giant Comcast gave $31,450 directly to lawmakers and candidates, while its PAC gave $14,750.

Government contractor Corrections Corporation of America, which operates two state prisons and accepts state felons at a third facility, gave lawmakers $13,750 in direct contributions and $4,250 from its PAC.

Communications titan AT&T’s PAC came in a close second to FedEx in overall lawmaker contributions, with $93,100.

In third place is the powerful Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of Tennessee’s PAC, which has so far put a cork on grocery stores’ efforts to gain legislative approval to sell wine.

That PAC gave $78,100 to legislative campaigns. Filings show Athens Distributing Co. outlets in Chattanooga, Nashville and Memphis collectively gave $25,000 directly to the PAC. The rest came from other distributors owners or executives.

The wholesalers’ legendary lobbyist, Tom “Golden Goose” Hensley, didn’t want to discuss the trade group’s contributions last week.

“I can’t answer that damned question,” Henley said in a brief interview at Legislative Plaza. “I’m not going to answer it. No comment.”

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee gave $20,250 to lawmakers through its PAC.

The insurer provides coverage to businesses and individuals and is a major player in the state’s TennCare and other state health programs.

“The PAC supports our lobbying efforts, which are devoted to maintaining the affordability of health care for our members as well as the quality of that care,” BlueCross spokeswoman Mary Danielson said in an email.


Other local companies and interests joined in giving as well.

Check Into Cash founder Allan Jones’ JMS PAC gave $36,000 to individual lawmakers’ campaigns. JMS stands for Jones Management Services.

It gave $10,000 to Ramsey’s leadership PAC and $2,000 to Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell’s leadership PAC.

Spokesman Jabo Covert said the company has a range of interests and Jones has always been interested in politics. He said his boss’ current passion is doing away with Tennessee’s motorcycle helmet requirements.

“That’s just participating in the process, which we do all over,” Covert said of the contributions.

Tennessee American Water Co., which operates in Chattanooga, gave $4,900 through a new PAC called the Tennessee Valley Water Alliance, records show.

The water company fueled its PAC with $21,550 in contributions. Of that, $20,000 came from Tennessee American’s parent company, American Water.

A PAC operated by insurer UnumHealth, which has extensive operations in Chattanooga, gave $6,700, while another PAC belonging to insurer Cigna Corp. contributed $4,450.

The money is not coming for grassroots voter organizations but largely from corporate and big business sources.

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