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Press Releases

Wamp: Haslam Should Release Pilot Earnings from Education Lottery Tickets

Press Release from Zach Wamp, Republican Candidate for Governor; June 14, 2010:

Says Haslam Needs to Itemize, Address All Conflicts of Interest

NASHVILLE – Zach Wamp, Republican candidate for governor, today called on Mayor Bill Haslam to voluntarily disclose Pilot Corporation’s total earnings to date from the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation through sales of lottery tickets at its retail stores and to be fully open and transparent with the public about his personal finances and obvious conflicts of interest with state government.

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 the Haslam-owned Pilot Corporation and its subsidiary, Pilot Travel Centers.

Reports indicate that Haslam’s Pilot Corporation ranks fourth all-time among the Lottery’s top 25 corporate accounts in terms of gross sales and commissions from lottery tickets. In addition, Pilot Travel Centers is listed separately among the Lottery’s top 25 corporate accounts, and it has an employee who sits on the Lottery Retailer Advisory Board, which directly advises the Lottery’s governing Board of Directors on retailer issues.

“Bill Haslam’s growing list of conflicts with state government and the citizens of Tennessee as a result of his ownership of Pilot Oil raises serious questions about his ability to lead and make decisions in the best interest of Tennessee rather than his company’s bottom line,” Wamp said.

“Mr. Haslam has been asked repeatedly to be fully open and transparent about his personal income taxes and his many conflicts through Pilot Oil, but he has refused every time. So today, I call on Bill Haslam to fully and completely disclose and itemize each and every business dealing Pilot Corporation and its many partners and subsidiaries has with Tennessee state government, and how he intends to deal with each of those issues if he is elected Governor.”

Last week it was revealed that Pilot Travel Centers partners with and derives income from casino gambling operations in at least three states, including hundreds of 24-hour slot machines throughout Nevada. Mayor Haslam holds personal ownership licenses for video poker machines at Pilot Casinos in Louisiana linked directly to his home address in Knoxville. In addition, CVC Capital Partners, which purchased a 47.5 percent stake in Pilot Travel Centers in 2008, owns and operates major multi-national gambling interests.

The legalization of casino gaming machines, such as slot and video poker machines, has been promoted and adopted by several states across the country Last year, Illinois passed legislation legalizing casino gaming in bars, restaurants and truck stops there. The State of Illinois will receive 30 percent of the revenue from all such machines.

Wamp urged Haslam not to hand the Democrat Party such obvious campaign issues by joining the rest of the gubernatorial candidates and be fully open and transparent about his personal finances by releasing his recent federal tax returns with support schedules, as well as information detailing all business partnerships and remaining conflicts of interest with government through his ownership of Pilot Corporation.

Haslam remains 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.

The Associated Press recently reported that Pilot Corporation received more than a half-million dollars in state taxpayer money between July 2007 and November 2009 to upgrade the company’s gas stations and increase its profits on the taxpayers’ dime.

Haslam was also forced to explain his personal stake in a $14 million downtown Knoxville real estate development in which he co-mingled his own money and family money with City of Knoxville funds on the profit-making deal. Haslam explained to reporters that his investment of $2 million was solely for civic reasons, despite the fact that he will reportedly earn a five percent annual profit over the next 40 years.

Yet Knoxville’s city charter expressly prohibits city employees from direct financial interest in the profits of city-financed projects:

From the city charter: “…It shall be unlawful for any member of council, member of the board of education, officer or employee of the city to have or hold any interest in the profits or emoluments of any contract, job, work or service, either by himself or by another, directly or indirectly…”

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Press Releases

Legislature Approves Campaign Finance Transparency Bill

Press Release from Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson; June 9, 2010:

Corporations Will be Required to Disclose Expenditures

NASHVILLE – A bill sponsored by State Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) requiring corporations to publicly disclose political financial contributions received final approval in the House on Tuesday.

“I’m proud that members of both parties came together and agreed that we need greater openness in our political system,” Finney said. “This legislation levels the playing field and ensures that anyone can find out how much corporations are spending on politics.”

The bill (Senate Bill 3198) will make corporations play by the same rules as political action committees and labor unions in publicly disclosing their political donations for independent expenditures.

Independent expenditures advocate or argue against a particular candidate without the consent of any other candidate. Current law prohibits direct contributions from corporations to candidates.

The legislation comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that it was unconstitutional to limit corporate independent expenditures. The state attorney general later opined that, under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, corporations could potentially keep such spending secret. Finney’s bill closes that loophole.

“When it comes to politics and money, there’s no room for secrecy,” Finney said. “Tennesseans have a right to know when corporations are spending money on politics instead of creating jobs for our citizens.”

The bill will now go to Gov. Phil Bredesen for his signature.

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Press Releases

Sen. Finney Wants Freeze on Lawmakers’ Per Diem

Press Release from Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, March 4, 2010:

Legislators shouldn’t see rates rise as families sacrifice

NASHVILLE – Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) is calling for a freeze on lawmakers’ per diem rate until 2014, saying that legislators shouldn’t receive an increase in per diems until Tennessee’s economy fully recovers.

“Tennessee families are struggling to make ends meet, and lawmakers have no business demanding an increase in taxpayer money for personal use,” Finney said.

Finney’s bill (SB3650) would freeze the current per diem rate until 2014, when Tennessee’s economy is expected to return finally to pre-recession levels, according to presentations to lawmakers by University of Tennessee economist Bill Fox.

Currently Tennessee lawmakers are eligible for $185 per day – one of the highest rates in the country – to cover travel and living expenses. The state faces a tough budget year that could include layoffs and cuts to TennCare.

Tennessee lawmaker per diems are increased automatically when the federal government’s per diem increases, meaning state legislators don’t have to vote on the matter. They can, however, put a freeze on the per diem.

Last October the per diem increased from $171. Under Finney’s bill, the freeze would go into effect Nov. 2010 and would expire in Nov. 2014.

“I hope that my colleagues will join me in supporting this freeze. Families across the state are setting priorities every day,” Finney said. “We should do the same.”

Finney plans to introduce his bill next week in the Senate.

Senator Lowe Finney represents Madison, Carroll and Gibson Counties. Contact him at sen.lowe.finney@capitol.tn.gov or (615) 741-1810 or 317 War Memorial Building, Nashville, TN 37243-0027.