published Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Expanded lawsuit includes U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann


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.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann is now a defendant in a lawsuit alleging that Chip Saltsman, his chief of staff, defamed and slandered an aide for the congressman's top rival during last year's Republican primary.

"As Chuck Fleischmann's lackey, Mr. Saltsman acted only upon the instruction and approval of Chuck Fleischmann and on his behalf," said a court filing for Mark Winslow, the former aide to Robin Smith.

Financial disclosures show Fleischmann's campaign has already paid $7,565.38 to the Nashville law firm defending Saltsman, raising the question of whether a sitting congressman can use campaign donations for his own legal defense.

Jordan Powell, a spokesman for Fleischmann, said the congressman "was advised by counsel not to comment on any pending litigation."

  • photo
    John Bruce "Chip" Saltsman Jr., is seen in this Dec. 12, 1998 file photo
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Earlier this year, Fleischmann's office consulted with the federal agency that oversees election law. In a May 26 advisory opinion, the Federal Election Commission determined the Saltsman legal expenditures were campaign-related and not for "personal use." The opinion did not address whether a congressman is allowed to use such funds, but it hinted at the issue.

"[The] lawsuit against Mr. Saltsman would not exist irrespective of Representative Fleischmann's campaign," the opinion states.

Gary Blackburn, Winslow's attorney, said amending the original complaint to include Fleischmann as a defendant didn't take "any more than 15 minutes."

"If Saltsman's liable, so is Fleischmann," he said. "You're really talking about the same set of underlying facts."

Fleischmann became a defendant in Winslow's lawsuit about the same time Smith, the former chairwoman of the state Republican Party, began talking publicly about challenging the congressman again. In an interview, Smith said she'll make a decision about whether she'll run in 2012 within the next few weeks. She said she wouldn't rule out hiring Winslow for a rematch.

"He lives in Nashville -- it would be difficult to ask him to uproot again," Smith said Friday, "but that's not something that would be completely out of the question."

In 2010, Saltsman managed Fleischmann's campaign. Winslow served as the Tennessee Republican Party's chief of staff while Smith was chairwoman, becoming Smith's media director during last year's primary.

Fleischmann beat Smith by 2 percentage points after an acrimonious primary race.

Acting as a Fleischmann consultant a month before the election, Saltsman "improperly obtained" Winslow's confidential employment records and gave them to reporters, the complaint filed by Winslow states. In a subsequent radio interview, Saltsman and Fleischmann falsely accused Smith of using state GOP funds to pay Winslow for services to her campaign, according to the complaint.

Saltsman has denied the allegations. In a recent interview, he defended campaign donations as legal payments, equating political work with the private sector.

"I think most companies, when their employees get sued for doing their jobs, their offices cover that," he said last month.

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Echo said...

Yawn. Any idiot can file a lawsuit, and an idiot did.

November 27, 2011 at 5:27 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

I don't like Robin Smith's politics but as long as I've know her, I'd trust her over Fleischmann who will not even let you post a note to him on his web-site unless you are lock-step with him or give him money.

If he lied, or his aide lied, he ought to suffer the consequences and he definitely should not be using money solicited to run for office for his legal defense. Even though we do have a solid record of electing Republicans who lie (weapons of mass destruction, for example), or have silver spoons in their mouths, it is only useful to teach our children how NOT to act.

November 27, 2011 at 8:19 a.m.
Facts said...

InquringMind, I agree with your statement. I actively worked against Robin Smith FOR Chuck Fleischmann last time. I saw some of the most unethical people behind the scenes I could ever imagine. The worst was seeing former preacher and Governor Mike Huckabee thump his Bible in the crowd and connive off-stage. The entire Fleischmann campaign depended on tearing down others. Now, we get Zach Wamp's son. You know, the family who is not too far off the mark from the Huckabee philosophy-"Praise the Lord if it benefits me!" We should all be really sick.

November 27, 2011 at 2:31 p.m.
chattcitizen said...

First, Don't elect Weston! That would be the first step to setting Chattanooga back another 20 years.

Second, Echo, you are exactly right. Any idiot can file a lawsuit and that's certainly what has happened. Public officials, such as Ms. Smith, rarely if ever succeed in these types of suits. Similar to how the national inquirer can publish virtually anything about hollywood actors. Additionally, Ms. Smith is going to have to prove the statements were indeed false. Unfortunately, for her, the official paperwork was published, showing the deficit claimed by Fleischman's staff. Nevermind that these types of deficits are fairly normal, that was never the claim. The claim was that there was one there, which is evidenced in the paperwork.

As for the trust issue, I don't think i would necessarily trust either one. Mainly because I don't know them, so i don't know what factors are influencing them or their votes. I do know that this lawsuit Ms. Smith has filed is borderline frivolous, and that her timing of the suit is right in line with her announcement to run again in the upcoming election.

Surprise Surprise, she's attempting to divert attention from an old issue, paint Fleischman as a name caller and attempt to get Chattanooga's vote back. What's funny is that her attack ads were against a big bad trial lawyer, Fleischman. How he shouldn't be trusted, etc. Now, she's hired her own big bad trial lawyer to bring a meritless lawsuit. So, my question Ms. Smith is why should we trust you?

Oh, and unless you wish to keep proving your incompetance to your voters, please stop writing political opinion articles in Chattanooga's local publications. Your making yourself sound even more like a loon.

November 28, 2011 at 10:33 a.m.
Facts said...

ChattCitizen,

I will gladly stand corrected but Ms. Smith's suing no one. Hope you feel better after venting erroneously.

November 28, 2011 at 12:13 p.m.
chattcitizen said...

Facts,

Forgive me, that statement required common sense.

Winslow = Tennessee Republican Party's chief of staff while Smith was chairwoman & became Smith's media director during last year's primary (see article above)

I'll make this real simple for ya Facts

Chip worked for Chuck during the campaign. Fleishman is now named in the lawsuit because he was chips boss during the campaign. (see comments from his lawyer above, as to why this makes sense)

You say Robin is not involved in this suit, I say Robin's name isn't on the paper...yet ( a process that takes 15 min, as stated by attorney above.) Robin was Winslow's boss during the campaign, similar to chuck and chip, described above.

The suit is brought by robin's employee during the campaign, winslow. winslow is claiming he was slandered and defamed by chip, and now chuck, while working for robin.

As mentioned in my "rant" (see above), slander and defamation are tough if not impossible to prove if the plaintiff is a public figure. A public figure being robin and argueably winslow for working as an agent for robin. Similar to chip working as an agent for chuck.

As always, follow the money. Who has something to gain here? Winslow, the one currently named as the plaintiff, not hardly. Winslow has to prove damages. They're aren't any. Zip, none, nada. But what about damage to winslow's reputation? what were the claims? The claims were that Robin left the party in debt upon leaving office. The records that were supposedly "falsely obtained" showed it in the red. If the suit had to do with falsely obtained records it would be theft, possibly fraud among other things, but it's not. The suit is for slander and defamation, nothing to do with falsely obtaining records. So there appears to be no credible damage to anyones reputation, besides robins.

The person that stands to gain from this suit is robin. It was her employee, the allegations were about her leadership, she's considering another run against one of the defendants of the allegations and she doesn't need the publicity of putting her name as a plaintiff.... yet. You best believe if she decides not to run or looses, expect to see her added as a plaintiff.

It's fairly clear to me that Robin's involved in the suit just as much as Chuck is. You can beg to differ, but the "facts", Facts, don't seem to fall in your favor.

November 28, 2011 at 2:43 p.m.
Facts said...

ChattCitizen, All I know is that I, unfortunately, worked to get Chuck elected. The behind-the-scenes talk was meant to tear every person apart in the Smith campaign. I now see how completely unqualified Chuck is to serve in his lack of knowledge and understanding on key issues. If you simply hate Ms. Smith ,so be it. I only hate elected officials who have ruined our nation, Zach Wamp included, and are trampling on our Constitution. Sadly, Chuck Fleischmann was elected by less-than-honorable means with no ability to speak without being coached or handled. He and Ron Littlefield operate out of the exact same handbook. I'm in this for my nation. Sounds like you're in it for a paycheck or some position.

November 28, 2011 at 3:18 p.m.
chattcitizen said...

Hardly in it for a paycheck or any position. I, like you, don't like any of them. It just so happens i really don't like the idea of weston wamp. Robin smith not only annoys me with her opinion articles but appears slicker than chuck, if thats even possible.

I, like you, also despise ron littlefield and the direction that he has taken chattanooga. My disfavor of ron has to do mainly with under the table real estate deals and his inability to find support for a police force that needs to grow with its community.

Although i don't like chuck, he seems to be the lesser of the evils at this point. He, at least, has real world success on his side, which can hardly be said for weston and seems debateable for robin. I don't see any reason for all three of them not to vote just as the rebublican party would have them vote. All, i assure you, are "coached and handled." How did you learn to do your job? You were probably coached, handled, encouraged, taught, call it what you will, but no one is born knowing how to be a congressman woman. I do believe 24 yr old weston and robin can be bought by republican donors easier than chuck could. Weston is already trying to get bought by daddy's old friends (its called raising money for an election based on promises.)

I know you have "seen chuck from the inside" but i'm seeing chuck as a professional, and understanding he wasn't born a congressman. He seems to be doing fine to me, fine enough not to risk handing it to a 24yr old or an extreme right winger who left her party with a deficit. Why don't you run, facts, and give us something better to vote for.

I also hardly believe "honor" ,as you state above, is hardley a qualification for political office anymore. Didn't that go out the window with all the political scandals that have occured since the beginning. I agree it would be nice, but certainly not expected anymore.

November 28, 2011 at 4:03 p.m.
EastRidger said...

A bunch of politicians fighting over inside baseball like this is amusing. Especially things that happened in the LAST election cycle. They actually think that a lot people care about petty stuff like this?

Is it any wonder that the approval rating of Congress is barely above single digits. With all of the serious problems this nation is facing and this is what some people focus on?

Maybe the 3rd District does deserve a 25 year old, spoiled, frat boy who has never done an honest day's work as their Congressman.

November 28, 2011 at 6:20 p.m.
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