State Republicans criticized for fundraiser at governor’s mansion

Thursday, September 8, 2011 at 4:30pm

Tennessee Republicans drew criticism Thursday for planning another fundraiser at the governor’s mansion, this time asking for as much as $50,000 from high-dollar contributors.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s press secretary, David Smith, defended the Oct. 3 fundraiser as “not out of the ordinary.” But Democrats said Republicans give the impression that state government is for sale by extracting so much cash from special interests at a political event at the publicly owned Executive Residence.

“This kind of reeks,” said Brandon Puttbrese, state Democratic Party communications.

“Only corporations are going to be able to afford a price tag like that. This is only going to add to the perception that our government is bought and paid for by big corporations.

“And it’s hard to say it’s not true when all these corporations are the ones who wanted the caps on damages to limit their liability. It just stinks up and down,” Puttbrese added, referring to the state’s new tort reform law pushed through the legislature by Republicans in the last session.

The event is to raise 2012 campaign cash for Republican state House and Senate candidates. A contribution of $50,000 admits five people to dinner with the governor and first lady upstairs in the residence.

Tickets to the main event — called the “Taste of Tennessee Ball” — are $2,500 for a couple.

“Invitations will go out within the week. Maintaining our Majority will take a lot of work, and your support is critical to our efforts,” House Republican Caucus chair Debra Maggart said in an email to supporters about the event.

Republicans also were criticized last spring when they took thousands of dollars from special interests and lobbying firms at an event at the mansion, despite a ban on fundraising during legislative sessions.

The fundraiser was legal because the money went to the state Republican Party. While lawmakers can’t accept contributions for their own campaigns during legislative sessions, political parties can raise funds to pay for party operations and certain political activity.

Maggart said Republicans have paid a $2,500 state fee to stage their upcoming fundraiser at the mansion and have every right to raise campaign cash there.

“We have paid the fee. I even have a receipt,” Maggart said. Of the Democrats’ criticism, she said, “That’s interesting because I believe the Democrats have held fundraisers at the residence. Governors through the years have done it.”

Some of the evening’s festivities will take place inside the mansion’s Conservation Hall, a $9 million underground banquet facility that was built by Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen and opposed by Republicans as a waste of public money.

Maggart was one of the more outspoken Republicans against the construction but she said, “It would be unrealistic to think that we would boycott [Conservation Hall] forever. It’s there. We might as well use it.”

15 Comments on this post:

By: Nitzche on 9/9/11 at 6:54

don't worry Barry will be in hollywood next week, then we want hear a word from them when he is soiling up he landscape out there?

By: LizzyD on 9/9/11 at 6:57

I think it would be nice if the Republicans had hired a LOCAL BUSINESS to supply the food and fancy for their fund raiser.. I'm sure Nashville, our Capital City, has such to offer.

However, if this is Standard Operating Procedure for whichever party is living in the Mansion, it needs to be changed OFFICIALLY, not by whining.

Politics-by-whining is getting really OLD! From both parties.

By: govskeptic on 9/9/11 at 7:15

For those short minded, let's not forget who built this underground Bunker
bunker at a huge cost to taxpayers for just such an event. Better to raise
the funds in this open manner than through much darker and even more
underground means, wouldn't you say!! At least our Governor isn't using
taxpayer funded "Stimulus funds" to buy donations!

By: Radix on 9/9/11 at 8:06

Can't criticize them if it's legal. If you don't like it, change the law.

By: pswindle on 9/9/11 at 8:34

Since the GOP has taken control of the state, they feel that they can do whatever they want. Haslam is the biggest disapointment to date.

By: tennliberal on 9/9/11 at 9:31

Well govskeptic, you are exactly wrong, but I wouldn't expect yot to let facts stand in the way of repeating a lie that sounds good on talk radio.

Conservation Hall (i.e., "the bunker," a term that only some nitwit who has ever been in it would use) was built with donated funds. It will, over time, result in savings since tents and all the equipment and materials that had to be brought onto the governor's mansion grounds over and over and over again will not have to be rented and utilized. And Governor Haslam and future Governors will be able to host more than 22 people at a time, you know, when he's trying to persuade someone like Volkswagon to invest tens of millions of dollars in our state. Uprading, maintaining and improving the Governor's mansion, a state-owned property, is as appropriate and necessary as doing the same of the State Capitol or the White House. It will be there long after this particular governor is gone.

Now, I actually think Rep. Maggart is right, to this extent. There is no reason not to use the facility because of sour, constantly carping, misinformed fools like govskeptic or predictable partisan sniping from Democrats.

I would note, for the record, that because the Governor's Mansion was in such dismal shape, because of decades ofnnot performing basic maintence (like roof repairs, which meant a leaky roof, or foundation cracks, or warping floors), the Bredesens lived in their own home at their own expense throughout almost all of their 8 years in office. Repairs to the actual residence were in fact made at taxpayers expense, that is true. That was not a waste of money, and every living Governor including Dunn and Alexander and Sundquist heartily endorsed those improvements. The construction of Conservaton Hall was done with private money raised for that purpose.

For all the carping b.s. about a "party bunker," more predictable partisan nonsense, the Bredesens barely utilized the facility, since it was completed near the end of his term. And the vast majority, if not all, of what he did there was for public and official events, not partisan fundraisers. The Haslams are using it much more, of course, and a lot of what they are doing is social in nature. But Haslam is the Governor, after all; he lives there, and I don't think that is bad or inappropriate. In this case, I think Democratic criticism is not warranted.

A side note, both Bredesen and Haslam are to be commended for not accepting their salary for being Governor, as they are both independently wealthy. You should note that, because of a quirk in the law, they still have to pay income tax on the amount of the salary.

By: tennliberal on 9/9/11 at 9:32

That's "never been in it."

By: sidneyames on 9/9/11 at 10:17

By: pswindle on 9/9/11 at 9:34
Since the GOP has taken control of the state, they feel that they can do whatever they want. Haslam is the biggest disapointment to date.

swindle, WHO built the decedant mansion bunker to start with? Duh! Bredesen! And Obama aka O'Drama had a $50,000 a plate birthday party for himself.

Democrats spend more money than anyone else and that's a fact. And democrats are big business.

By: tennliberal on 9/9/11 at 12:32

Un, no, that's not "a fact" Sidney. The unfunded "wars" (occupations) of Afghanistan and Iraq have cost us trillions, and Bush's medicare drug program ain't cheap. If you want to find the root cause of our national budget deficit, look no farther than the invasion of Iraq on demonstrably false pretenses. Clinton balanced the budget, and Bush busted it. Now, I know that your version sounds good when stated unchallenged on the Phil Valentine program, where facts don't matter, and mindless repitition of the taking points sent down by Rush and FOXNews are gospel, but that won't fly in the real world.

And a "decedant" (I suppose you mean "decadent") Conservation Hall? Seriously? Have you ever been in it? Clearly, you have no clue what you are talking about. You sound exactly like what you must be: a mindless, right-wing, nitwit fool.

By: sidneyames on 9/9/11 at 3:57

Well I misspelled a word and didn't use spell check. Thank you for bringing that to my attention and in order to recognize a mindless right-wing nitwit fool, you must be looking in the mirror at the left wing fool calling me names. You go on now, ya hear?

By: tomba1 on 9/9/11 at 5:40

Lizzy -

I missed the part of the article which described the service providers for the gathering.

I would appreciate your enlightening us with the details you must have and the source(s) for the information.

I, too, would prefer that they use and support our local businesses, but, this is a private, invitation-only affair and they certainly do have a right to contract with whoever they choose for whatever reason, unless the rental agreement for the space stipulates otherwise.

Thanks

By: pswindle on 9/9/11 at 6:25

You have your facts wrong. The Mansion was remodeled with private funds and the 'Bunker" was remodeled with public funds. I know this for a fact becasue some of the organizations that I belong to, donated money for the Mansion's remodeling.

By: govskeptic on 9/9/11 at 7:42

tennliberal:

You say donated funds? Yes, the first lady started that for the Mansion renovations;
but then the "bunker" was thrown in and all of a sudden the donations were for that
with taxpayers supposedly paying for the home repairs. The absolute facts are
that the two projects cost about 19 million dollars and less than 7 million were donated.. So, don't attempt to belittle someone who knows what they are talking
about on this one subject, While bunker may be a slang word (but a good one) for
the Conservatory, , under ground place for the Governor and family in addition to
others in some emergencies was certainly a fact , other than just looks or attractiveness, when the state architect explained the project to the State Building Commission!

By: govskeptic on 9/9/11 at 7:43

tennliberal:

You say donated funds? Yes, the first lady started that for the Mansion renovations;
but then the "bunker" was thrown in and all of a sudden the donations were for that
with taxpayers supposedly paying for the home repairs. The absolute facts are
that the two projects cost about 19 million dollars and less than 7 million were donated.. So, don't attempt to belittle someone who knows what they are talking
about on this one subject,
While bunker may be a slang word (but a good one) for the Conservatory, , under ground place for the Governor and family in addition to others in some emergencies was certainly a fact , other than just looks or attractiveness, when the state architect explained the project to the State Building Commission!

By: Nonliberal on 9/14/11 at 10:11

To the Bush basher,

Clinton is responsible for sending all the jobs to the other countries via NAFTA.

The lack of jobs is our largest single problem today. Check your facts.