published Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Chuck Fleischmann a defendant in Robin Smith ex-aide's lawsuit

by Chris Carroll
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn.
Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

A former aide to Robin Smith has officially named attorney and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in a lawsuit, charging him with defamation and questioning his legal abilities.

"The statements made by and on behalf of Mr. Fleischmann were intentionally and maliciously misleading," states a complaint filed Tuesday in Davidson County Circuit Court in Nashville.

The lawsuit was filed by Mark Winslow, a former Smith aide, and asks for $750,000 in damages. Last year, Winslow served as the Tennessee Republican Party's chief of staff while Smith was chairwoman, later becoming Smith's communications director during her run for Congress.

Fleischmann declined comment through a spokesman. By law, he has 30 days to answer the complaint.

The lawsuit revisits the bad blood between Smith and Fleischmann during last year's 3rd Congressional District GOP primary campaign and comes just as Smith decides whether to challenge Fleischmann to a rematch in 2012.

Smith has said she is not involved with the lawsuit, which names Fleischmann's chief of staff, Chip Saltsman, as the primary defendant.

The lawsuit says Saltsman, acting as a campaign consultant for Fleischmann, illegally obtained Winslow's confidential employment records with the Tennessee Republican Party and said Smith used state party funds to pay Winslow's campaign wages. Saltsman distributed the documents to several news organizations, including the Chattanooga Times Free Press, "cynically and with an intent to deceive," according to the lawsuit.

Winslow largely paints Fleischmann in a supporting role, alleging the soon-to-be congressman parroted remarks Saltsman made on local radio shows and approved ads which stated that Smith illegally "paid her future congressional staff lavish bonuses."

"Mr. Fleischmann is a licensed attorney and is therefore charged with knowledge of the law," the complaint states. "No attorney competent to practice in this state could truthfully describe the payment as 'illegal.'"

Fleischmann beat Smith by 2 percentage points after a primary campaign heavy on attacks. Since then, Winslow "has been unable to obtain employment with any other Republican Party organization, political campaign, candidate or elected official," the complaint states.

Winslow also has accused Saltsman of interfering with Winslow's employment application with U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, the Republican congressman from Tennessee's 4th District. Robert Jameson, a spokesman for DesJarlais, said he could not comment on pending legal matters.

Financial disclosures show Fleischmann's campaign has paid $7,565.38 to the Nashville law firm defending Saltsman. It's unclear whether Fleischmann can or will use campaign donations for his own legal defense.

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gstarnes said...

Apparently, Times Free Press reporter Chris Carroll just can't stop repeating the same story over and over. I believe that this is the 2nd or 3rd time that this story has either been mentioned or posted in a large article in the Times Free Press. I have detailed knowledge of these lawsuits and will set the record straight on behalf of Congressman Fleischmann.

First, anyone can file a lawsuit. The big question is can he or she prove their case. There are two (2) separate lawsuits. Mark Winslow, the disgruntled, former campaign aide to Robin Smith, sued Chip Saltsman, in approximately January, 2011, claiming defamation of character, slander, etc. It is very important to note that Mr. Winslow DID NOT SUE CHUCK FLEISCHMANN at that time. Why not?

In late June, 2011, Mr. Winslow suddenly filed a second "separate" lawsuit against Congressman Fleischmann making the same allegations that he made against Chip Saltsman. Query? Why didn't Mr. Winslow sue Congressman Fleischmann in January, 2011 when he sued Mr. Saltsman? Was this because Robin Smith just happened to start telling folks that she might run again? I don't know for sure but you can ponder the reasons behind the timing of this second, separate lawsuit yourself.

If you read both of the lawsuits, you might very well come to the same conclusion that I did. Both cases look very much like "sour grapes" from a disgruntled former Robin Smith campaign aide still reeling from losing the race. I am reminded of the old saying, "politics is tough. If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen."

Finally, let me address the attorney fees and other defense costs associated with defending Mr. Saltsman and Congressman Fleischmann in these two (2) lawsuits. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) advised Congressman Fleischmann that Mr. Saltsman's defense costs could be paid from his campaign funds much like a company or corporation would defend its own employee. As to Congressman Fleischmann, HIS DFENSE COSTS (ATTORNEY FEES, EXPENSES, ETC.) ARE NOT BEING PAID FROM ANY TAXPAYER FUNDS, CAMPAIGN FUNDS, NOR PRIVATE DONORS.

I wonder if Mr. Carroll will put this information in a front page article of the newspaper? I won't hold my breath waiting to see.

December 1, 2011 at 9:35 a.m.
Facts said...

This is rather enjoyable. The "power players" who were operating behind the scenes against Robin Smith are now being called into account and they don't like it.
As someone who did see these "power players" of Team Chuck knows the real hatred in the GOP primary was against a lady with a record of success. Chuck Fleischmann won, not on his own achievements, but by tearing down Ms. Smith. I bought into that. Now, I'm rooting for a rematch so I can get rid of my very guilty conscience and properly elected the one who would actually have the ability to serve. Mr. Starnes, you too are a trial lawyer. You too, know the fine lines of the law in destroying character. You too are a proclaimed Christian. At least that what I was led to believe. None of you all in the Fleischmann campaign will ever be able to be completely honest until you admit your hatred for a decent leader drove Chuck's campaign. Nothing else. That's why you all are obviously panicked.

December 1, 2011 at 12:53 p.m.

This is another example of dirty politics. The Fleishmann team without question used dirty underhanded smear campaign tactics with little to no proof. They should all, especially Fleishmann be made examples of. This will not happen! The powers that be most definitely pulled their ace cards out during the campaign to win. The defense is without question being financially supported by Taxpayer funds, Campaign donations and Private donors!! When the establishment is more concerned with Greed and Power the foundation of our great nation will lose every time. It's a shame this occurs. I predict that regardless of whether they run this story on the front page everyday forever nothing will come of this.

December 1, 2011 at 1:06 p.m.
zulalily said...

I didn't know anything about Chuck or Robin, but I voted for Chuck because Mike Huckabee made a commercial with and for Chuck. I agree with his votes so far and I doubt if either Robin or Weston could beat him next year.

December 7, 2011 at 4:02 p.m.
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