Image Credit: represent.us
The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –
An investigation has revealed how special interest groups distribute campaign contributions among lawmakers before securing their votes and how lobbyists are using their influence to get Tennessee Representatives to sponsor legislation that benefits their clients, often to the detriment of Tennessee citizens.
NewsChannel5 Investigates specifically has been tracking legislation designed to limit Nashville’s ability to regulate short-term rentals. This particular legislation only serves as an example for how lobbyists garner the votes of Tennessee legislators using Political Action Committee contributions.
The legislation, pushed by Airbnb’s lobbyists, would benefit Airbnb but could be detrimental to neighborhoods.
Nashville now only permits “owner-occupied” short-term rentals in zoned residential areas but the legislation would amend that rule to redefine “owner-occupied” to include residences where the owner may actually reside elsewhere but the owner “has a definite intention to return” – a claim owners could make that regulators would have no means to disprove.
The issue some Nashville residents have with the legislation is that there would be more neighborhoods filled with “hotels that happen to look like a house” sandwiched between family homes and the like. With Nashville having a hot party scene, this could be an issue for residents who don’t want their neighborhoods to become party centrals.
*** Click Here to Support Conservative Journalism in Tennessee. We can’t cover stories like this without your support!***
NewsChannel5 discovered, as we have here at The Tennessee Conservative, that legislation isn’t always clear because bills are submitted with only a title, making them “caption bills.”
Once the legislation makes it to subcommittee or committee, amendments are added that fill out the bills, making it very easy for responsible reporters and members of the public to miss out on any usable knowledge of legislation before it’s too late.
NewsChannel5 dug into campaign contributions and found that last September, Airbnb contributed $40,000 to BIV-PAC – a political action committee run by the Bivens lobbying firm – for them to disseminate among Republican legislators in the General Assembly, who hold the supermajority vote.
• Representative John B. Holsclaw Jr (R- Elizabethton- District 4) received $3,250
• Representative Curtis Johnson (R-Clarksville-District 68) received $2,000.
• Representative Rebecca Alexander (R-Jonesborough-District 7) received $1,000.
• Representative Clark Boyd (R-Lebanon-District 46) received $1,000.
• And Representatives Patsy Hazlewood, Eddie Mannis, Greg Vital and Jason Zachary each received $500 for their campaigns.
In an interview with NewsChannel 5, lobbyist Michael Bivens, of the aforementioned lobbying firm, claimed that they were not trying to influence votes by making these donations right before the session started and also claimed his PAC is bipartisan and that they support “good government.”
The BIV-PAC initially ran into procedural problems with the Airbnb bill but found another legislator to carry their amendment with Representative Michael Curcio (R-Dickson-District 69).
According to NewsChannel 5, Curcio had a caption bill to which he agreed to attach the amendment pushed by Airbnb.
When Curcio presented the caption bill in subcommittee, Representative Zachary fired back that he was presenting an amendment that would target communities where he (Curcio) would have no concern about the effects of Airbnb’s business.
When asked to explain the amendment, Curcio relied on the lobbyist from Airbnb to answer.
Over the past 5 years, BIV-PAC has handed out $283,000 in campaign contributions. Representative Curcio was on the receiving end of $4,000 of that amount.
Special interest groups spend approximately $60 million a year in an effort to curry favor with Tennessee legislators. That’s almost a third of a billion dollars over the past five years.
And all of this is absolutely legal.
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