Image Credit: capitol.tn.gov
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
In an 87 to 3 vote, with 5 representatives abstaining, a bill that would require non-profits to report all expenditures of 60 days prior to elections was passed by the Tennessee House.
Republican sponsors of the bill have continually stated that the purpose of House Bill 1201 is to provide greater transparency to Tennessee voters.
“The voters of Tennessee want more transparency in campaign finance. They want to know who’s behind the money, how they’re spending the money, because they’re trying to influence elections,” stated House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville-District 25), the primary sponsor of the bill.
Companion Senate Bill 1005 was substituted for the house bill.
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Representative Sam Whitson (R-Franklin-District 65) presented the bill before legislators and affirmed Sexton’s statement, saying that the intent of the bill is to “increase public confidence and trust in the campaign process in regards to how campaigns are financed and to ensure elected officials and candidates are held accountable to the people of Tennessee rather than being held accountable to funded special interest groups that hide their funding activities with the help of our current campaign laws.”
Several representatives asked for clarification on various aspects of the bill, with several Democratic legislators noting that this was a rare case of both parties agreeing on legislation.
However, not all those who planned to vote in favor believe the bill is really solving the problem. Representative Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville-District 50) thanked Whitson for his work on the legislation, but he also expressed concern that campaign contributors were still being protected.
“Let’s just be honest – the c(4)s, where they spend their money is pretty much irrelevant. It’s where that money comes from, you know, today you can run down to the registry…they can name a treasurer, that person doesn’t even know they’re being named the treasurer…and then they get their money from, you know, some shady character to interfere in the election, and then you’re going to put down on the disclosure, yeah, they dropped $100,000 on you on TV or mail pieces, but you never know where it came from. Where it comes from is what they’re trying to intend on doing it…let’s be honest about it. So we need to know where the money’s coming from…protecting the donors of c(4)s, that’s criminal in and of itself,” Mitchell said.
He continued, “I support your bill, but it’s just a start. Let’s keep on going.”
Representative Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville-District 42) noted that the Supreme Court has already responded on a previous case and created the statute for allowing those contributors to remain anonymous.
Mitchell then stated that there were a lot of issues on which the Supreme Court has opined that many people in the room ignore on a daily basis.
Williams responded, “So, you want us to ignore the Supreme Court, is that what you’re suggesting?”
“We’ve passed many pieces of legislation this year that haven’t paid too much attention to the Supreme Court,” Mitchell quipped.
The bill then went to a vote. Only three representatives – all Republicans – voted against the bill: Scotty Campbell, Bruce Griffey, and Todd Warner.
Republican representatives Scott Cepicky, Clay Doggett, Susan Lynn, and Brandon Ogles and Democratic representative Joe Towns were present but did not vote.
About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career. Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others. He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History. Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com