published Friday, August 16th, 2013

Tennessee Democrat claims Gov. Bill Haslam payments broke ethics rules

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NASHVILLE — Former Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester said Thursday he is filing complaints against Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for failing to disclose personal payments the governor made after his 2010 campaign to political consultant Tom Ingram, a registered lobbyist, for advice.

Forrester charged in a news conference at the Capitol that Haslam should have reported the payments and that he broke state ethics and campaign finance law by not doing so.

"Tennesseans deserve honest leaders who say what they mean, especially when they're claiming to be on our side. Gov. Bill Haslam is hiding ... the truth from Tennesseans, just as he's hiding his tax returns," Forrester said.

He said the lack of disclosure is "one more stitch in what has been a disturbing pattern of secrecy" involving the governor, and added that he planned to file complaints asking the state Ethics Commission and the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance to investigate and take action.

A Haslam spokesman issued a terse statement in which he said only, "The governor is aware of the filing."

Ingram is one of the state's top GOP political consultants and lobbyists. He or others in his public affairs firm, The Ingram Group, have lobbied the administration on behalf of a number of clients, including the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Haslam told reporters in June that Ingram had advised him during his gubernatorial transition in late 2010 and early 2011, and he decided he wanted to maintain the relationship. Ingram was chief of staff and chief deputy for Gov. Lamar Alexander during the 1970s and 1980s and later served as Alexander's Senate chief of staff.

"I saw how helpful Tom was in thinking through and setting up state government," Haslam said in June.

He defended not disclosing the sums, saying the money came out of his own pocket.

"It wasn't fair for the state to pay Tom. And he wasn't doing political work to where it should be campaign[-related]. He was literally helping me as I thought through organizational issues inside state government."

Nashville television station WTVF reported in July on emails revealing Ingram continued to do campaign work and planning for the governor's 2014 re-election effort. In October 2012, Haslam Chief of Staff Mark Cate sent Ingram an email about a "2014 planning retreat," which officials later said was campaign-related.

Meanwhile, Ingram and Marcille Durham, his partner in the Ingram Group, are in the midst of a show-cause hearing over their failure to register as lobbyists for a client. Durham, who said she was responsible for the situation, said she thought she had filed the report.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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