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TNDP Renew Demands for Haslam to Release Tax Returns

Press release from the Tennessee Democratic Party; July 10, 2013:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Haslam’s repeated self-dealing and government handouts to wealthy friends has prompted Democrats to renew a challenge to the governor to release his tax returns.

“With Haslam’s wealthy and well-connected friends lining up for multi-million dollar handouts from the governor’s office, Tennesseans have a right to know if Haslam is profiting from this double-dealing, too,” said Brandon Puttbrese, spokesman for the Tennessee Democratic Party. “It’s time for Gov. Haslam to stop hiding his tax returns and prove he has no conflict of interest in these no-bid contracts and huge handouts for his rich friends.”

In recent days, news agencies have reported multiple state contracts and inside deals that financially benefit Haslam’s friends and well-connected special interests. They include:

  • A top political adviser to the governor, on Haslam’s personal payroll, was given high-level access to government officials for his clients. [NewsChannel5.com, 7/8/13]
  • A current board member and part-owner of Pilot being appointed by the governor as the interim president of University of Memphis. [MemphisFlyer, 6/4/13]
  • Another Pilot board member running the parent company of a mining firm that wants to extract coal from public land in Tennessee. [AP, 6/26/13]
  • A $38 million deal to manage state buildings and lease negotiations with a commercial real estate firm Haslam once listed as one of his major investments. [NewsChannel5.com, 6/26/13]
  • A no-bid contract to outsource the state motor vehicle fleet — at a greater cost to taxpayers — to a well-connected rental car company. [NewsChannel5.com, 5/13/13]

“Working and middle class families need a leader who looks out for regular Tennesseans and proves it with their policies — not a self-serving politician who only looks out for himself and their wealthy friends and then tries to mislead us about it,” Puttbrese said.

The Tennessee Democratic Party is collecting signatures on a petition hosted at TNDP.org calling for Gov. Haslam to release his tax returns.

Categories
NewsTracker Transparency and Elections

It May Be ‘Sunshine Week,’ But TN’s Transparency Forecast is Partly Cloudy

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam is among politicians and government officials from around the country who got called out by USA Today over the weekend for adopting anti-transparency measures.

Specifically, writes USA Today, Gov. Haslam “blithely exempted himself from state financial disclosure rules” with his first executive order after assuming the governorship.

The editorial writers lament that even though state and federal governments “now have laws that largely require public bodies to meet in public and make government records available to citizens…politicians, bureaucrats and law enforcement officers who don’t want the voters to know what’s going on obstruct access to information and decision-making.”

According to USA Today:

This is Sunshine Week, an annual event sponsored by advocates of open government to call attention to the ongoing struggle over the public’s access to what’s being done in its name. (Wednesday) also marks the 260th birthday of James Madison, father of the First Amendment and the man whose copious notes of those debates inside the Constitutional Convention, when eventually made public, became the accepted historical record of how our government came to be.

As these and other struggles show, an ongoing sunshine effort is indispensable. Absent public scrutiny, politicians, law officers and bureaucrats will act like the 18th century aristocrats in their zeal to keep the public in the dark.

TNReport.com has compiled what information the Haslam administration has made available here.

Categories
News

Gibbons Pushing Open Gov’t Agenda

Forcing public officials to release their personal financial records may be an intrusion of privacy, but it’s necessary if voters are to get an accurate picture of their backgrounds and business interests, said GOP candidate for governor Bill Gibbons.

Currently the district attorney for Shelby County, Gibbons wants to mandate that people in public office make more of their financial dealings open to citizen review. He said he plans to publish his own federal income tax returns for 2009 soon.

“When you think about it, there’s no more reliable, trustworthy way for the public to know whether or not we have any conflicts of interest, and the scope of those conflicts, as a result of our income and investments,” Gibbons said.

During a press conference in downtown Nashville Thursday afternoon, Gibbons continued to hammer on cross-state political rival Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, also a GOP gubernatorial candidate, for not being more forthright in releasing financial information, particularly the financial stake he has in the Haslam family-owned Pilot Corp. fuel company and chain of Pilot Travel Centers. (See video below.)

Gibbons released five years worth of federal income tax returns last fall after a request for financial data from Tennessee’s largest newspapers.

Gibbons and his wife, a federal judge, reportedly earned just above $300,000 for the past three years, mostly from their government jobs, and have paid about $62,000 a year in federal income taxes.

The Memphis Republican said he’ll push several other open government initiatives if elected governor, such as requiring public officials to disclose how much money they’ve received from financial interests along with how much they have in various investments. The law currently only requires lawmakers to disclose the sources of those dollars.

Gibbons promised also to:

  • hold public budget meetings with state agencies when discussing budget requests
  • change the formula used when governments charge for public documents
  • reestablish as many as six regional governor’s field offices throughout the state
  • pin down lawmakers on each significant vote they take in the General Assembly including procedural action and committee votes.

The general primary election is Aug. 5. Gibbons is one of several GOP hopefuls, including Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp and Haslam.