McWherter suggests Haslam has roundabout business ties to Iran

Monday, September 20, 2010 at 4:29pm

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike McWherter today criticized opponent Bill Haslam for what McWherter says are business connections the Haslam family’s company, Knoxville-based Pilot Travel Centers, has with Iran and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

“This is about who Bill Haslam owes and the type of people he surrounds himself in business with,” McWherter said during an afternoon news conference.

McWherter was referring to the 2008 sale of a 47.5 percent stake in Pilot to CVC Capital, a Luxembourg-based private equity firm that also invests in funds across the world. CVC invests in a company called Evonik Industries, which operates in the real estate, chemical and energy sectors. Evonik’s Chemicals Business Area has trading relationships with Iran and Egypt, according to a statement posted on its website.

Evonik has maintained those relationships for more than 40 years, according to the same investor relations statement. CVC Capital acquired a 25 percent stake in Evonik in June 2008, according to materials distributed by the McWherter campaign Monday. Evonik also operates 10 power plants in Germany and one in Turkey, one in Colombia and one in the Philippines.

In addition, Evonik owns the Plexiglas trademark in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia; the product is called Acrylite in the Americas. 

Haslam spokesman Dave Smith said the claims are "silly and insulting to the voters of Tennessee."

“Mike's desperate attack failed once so he’s back to try it again," Smith said. "His father had it right when he recognized the value of this homegrown Tennessee company, and we continue to be surprised by Mike’s persistent anti-business tone."

Most of Haslam’s income comes from Pilot, but the candidate has refused to offer a full financial disclosure during the campaign, arguing that he is protecting the interests of a private business. Haslam removed himself from a decision-making role in the company in 2003, when he was first elected mayor of Knoxville.

Asked by reporters whether McWherter was suggesting, by invoking Iran, that Haslam has ties to a possible nuclear program being established by the Iranian government, the Democratic candidate demurred, returning to a familiar line of criticism about Haslam failing to fully disclose his holdings through Pilot.

McWherter also said Pilot is incorporated in Delaware, which has relaxed corporate tax codes. He asked rhetorically whether the Haslam family’s company was skirting Tennessee taxes by incorporating in Delaware. But when a reporter suggested that might be part of a strategy for the company to eventually go public, McWherter said he didn’t know why Pilot was registered there, just that it raised questions. 

18 Comments on this post:

By: shinestx on 9/20/10 at 3:16

Does anyone believe anything a Dem-wit says. McWherter is an idiot.

By: Nash19 on 9/20/10 at 4:13

Mike McWherter is the son of Ned McWherter. Ned liked fig newtons. Figs grow in the middle east. Iran is in the middle east. Therefore, Mike is tied to Iran. This is like Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon.

By: global_citizen on 9/20/10 at 4:23

To Nash19, I think that's entirely clear to everyone except Mike McWherter. The fact that he's even pursuing this talking point, much less that he took to the podium himself to push it, shows a shocking lack of discernment and seriousness to Mike McWherter.

To say it reeks of desperation is an extreme understatement.

So this company, Evonik, that Bill Haslam doesn't own, doesn't control, and has no association with was bought by a company that also owns a less than controlling interest in Pilot, in 2008, after Bill Haslam was no longer in any executive position at Pilot.

This almost reads like something from The Onion.

If that's the best McWherter can come up with, I'll go ahead and start getting used to saying "Governor Haslam".

By: nashtnman on 9/20/10 at 4:54

And you McWeinner have ties to the trucking teamsters. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones, dumbass.

By: AmyLiorate on 9/20/10 at 8:57

Surely this means that little Billy Haslam is helping to build the nuclear reactor and thus weapon grade uranium!

Haslam = Islam. They rhyme so Haslam is a real muslim terrorist.

(end of sarcasm)

McWherter's team is trying really hard. Give them credit for fighting an uphill battle. I'm no Haslam fan but I'd be OK with a Dem governor and a Rep majority in the house. That arrangement really keeps things in line. Otherwise Billy will be unchecked and doing who knows what!

By: Moonglow1 on 9/20/10 at 9:05

Moonglow1 McWherter,s comment makes sense. The Republican Party represents multinational corporations. Indirectly any oil business has relationships with the Middle East. We all know Glen Beck and crazy Tea Party flakes believe Muslims are evil. Thereby why conduct business with them.

By: govskeptic on 9/21/10 at 6:17

Mr McWherter or his advisers are doing a poor job on selecting issues
to attempt using in this campaign. This one is truly a stretch! The
personals of I'm a better businessman or more ethical than you by
either side is now getting old. Let's move onto who can move the
state and it's citizens to a better standard of living and a more
secure economical foundational footing than the present!

By: bruingeek on 9/21/10 at 6:40

Speaking of connections to Iran, please read about Weapons Grade Budweiser (distributed directly and indirectly by both candidates):

Can we please get on with the highlights of the campaign? Can we have something productive like an arm wresting competition?...or a dash from the governor's office to the TN Senate chambers? I want to make my choice based upon tangible, measurable evidence of who is the best qualified

By: not_guilty on 9/21/10 at 7:45

Did Ned McWherter like Fig Newtons? His trademark was vanilla wafers.

By: pswindle on 9/21/10 at 8:58

Of course Mike is on to something. Did you see how nervous and mad that Haslam got the other night in the debate? This was when Mike brought up that Pilot oil was not just a TN company as Halsam tried to make us believe, and that he had holdings in other countries. Also, when Mike told about his raising oil prices to $4 a gallon. He could not explain that one away. Of course, he is another Corker. Did you see where Corker was booed at the Spring Hill plant.? He was trying to take credit for something that he voted against. (The saving of the auto industry) The GOP will stop at nothing. We the people can only be fooled for so long.

By: AmyLiorate on 9/21/10 at 9:24

Nilla Wafers it was indeed.

"Weapons Grade Budweiser" - LOL, good one Bruingeek!

"Mike is on to something"? Yah right, he's on the campaign trail doing his best to make the Democrat party look relevant today in Tennessee. Just like Brett Carter. They sure can't run on the great job Democrats are doing in D.C. and elsewhere.

He's a long shot at best, but the Dems would have looked silly if no one had run for gov. Of course they don't have anyone better than Ned Jr. since the younger Ford has made his home New York City!

Good luck Mike, I may vote for you because I can't pull the leaver for a RINO like Haslam. Samuel Ducks or Brandon Dodd have about the same chance at winning as McWherter does.

Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Moe, select a governor not a RINO.

By: lawyer006038 on 9/21/10 at 9:30

skeptical1 Is Haslam buying oil from Iran, in contravention of sanctions imposed by the USA via the UN Security Council? He probably gets a pretty good price from Ahmendinizad since he can not sell it anywhere else. Buy low, sell high, the American way.

By: Nash19 on 9/21/10 at 9:48

You are correct! It was Vanilla Wafers.
BUT....Vanilla is slang for white. Does that mean he is a racist?

By: PromosFriend on 9/21/10 at 10:19

I love the lighthearthed tone (for the most part) of the comments thus far. The overall theme seems to be, though, that if McWherter wants to find issues that have some meat on 'em he needs to get a good dog to point 'em out, instead of poking a rotten stick at random into the bushes to see if anything flies out. So far, little Mikey (including his team) hasn't done a very good job of flushing out a real issue. If this is the way the campaign is going then I'll just make sure I vote for Haslam the first day of early voting and get it over with.

By: TN4th on 9/21/10 at 12:32

There are so many things disgusting about this that I (a lifelong Democrat) am likely to vote for Haslam.

First, it is factually stupid: a minority owner of Pilot also happens to own portions of other companies around the world ... big whoopee. A million other companies in the US have shareholders who also hold shares in other companies around the world. Heck, if you own shares in Exxon, you hold shares in a company that "has ties in the middle east."

Second, it is a lame effort to pander to xenophobes, who are primarily right-wingers. McWherter, get a clue! You will never get any votes from xenophobic right wingers no matter what you say! All you are doing is driving away the Democratic base, who actually look for their candidate to not stoop to the low denominator that to date has characterized the opposition, not the Democrats.

Finally, how about focusing on issues, rather than ad hominem attacks. Or don't you think Tennesseans care about substance, versus childish name-calling and fear mongering?

I am embarrassed that this is the best our Democratic candidate can do!

By: pswindle on 9/21/10 at 4:33


What has the GOP done for TN? We have two senators that do not have a clue. They are an embarrassment to TN. Wamp and Ramsey knew of Halsam's oil dealings, but they knew better than bring it up. TN had rather have a crook and liar in office than a democrat. Thank God for our present Governor or we would be in deep water with no way out. Have you thought why TN is not going the way that other states are going? We have a governor that knows how to do the job.

By: GUARDIAN on 9/21/10 at 4:34

I am not a Republican nor have i ever been.I was a life long Democrat until several years ago when I became so ashamed of their lies, half truths and communist ways that I could no longer be one. Mike McWherter you should be ashamed but I know you aren't because you have not the honor of your father. Baroco, Barry or whatever his name really is and his communist friends in Washington, D.C. have completely destroyed the Democrat party that once worked with Republicans for the good of the country and it's people. If you call yourself a Democrat, liberal, socialist, communist, marxist or progressive today you should hang your head in shame and Mike McWherter won't be getting my vote.

By: sds3252 on 9/21/10 at 8:25

Ned McWherter serves on the Board of the Jackson Foundation. The Jackson Foundation was established by Senator Doug Jackson. Goodlark Hospital in Dickson, TN needed assistance many years ago so the city sold bonds to fund the needs of the hospital. The Jackson's operated Goodlark, better know as Goodluck Hospital. The hospital sold about 15 years ago and the Jacksons decided to form a foundation in their name instead of returning the bond money to the city. Doug Jackson will be insured an income for a lifetime via the Jackson Foundation. The Wall Street Journal reported this transaction when the hospital sold and they referred to the citizens of Dickson as " hickville allowed this to happen."

Doug Jackson is the senator that abused his teenage daughter because of her reported friendship with a black person.