Thursday, July 28, 2005

Small steps

Well, Lois Deberry stepped down from her position on the ethics committee therefore leaving it up to lawyer/lobbyist/legislator Kim McMillan to hold down the fort alone as ethics chairman. (Sorry Rep. McMillan, you should step down to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest with your new job.)

I am sure someone will soon replace Lois Deberry, but don't expect Frank Buck to be named. His ideas are too good for the business as usual crowd.

I still believe Lois Deberry should step down from her leadership position in the House and in her party. If she can't see that stepping down from those positions is the right thing to do, then I call on all ethical democrats to ask her to step down.

This would be a good first step in showing Tennesseans that it isn't just Republicans, but Democrats who want real ethics change.

As the old saying goes, all it takes for evil to rule is for good people to do nothing. In the continuing wake of the Tennessee Waltz, silence speaks volumes.

A similar situation continues to be debated surrounding the topic of Islamic extremists. When Islamic extremists attack our country and others, many people believe the non-extremists should speak out loudly against the actions of the terrorists.

Not to compare apples to oranges, but in a similar sense, when are the democrats going to speak out against corruption and ethics abuse? At least at the heart of the Islam debate is the fact that there are religious elements involved. What's the excuse for the democratic party in Tennessee?

Play Money/ Lois Step Down

Rep. Lois Deberry, the number 2 person in the House of Representatives, has admitted to accepting gift certificates for a spa and $200 in spending money from a good friend at E-Cycle on a chauffeured trip to a casino.

I wonder if the news that investigations were still ongoing helped her decide to come forward. (Or perhaps, it just took weeks of consulting with attorneys and friends to get the story straight.) Rumors around Capitol Hill are hot.

I wonder if indicted members are beginning the "roll over" process where they divulge information on each other in order to help in their own cases and plea-bargaining.

This entire story reminds me of another similar story of the famous "who's going with me to Vegas?"remark Deberry recorded by an undercover reporter from News Channel 5 in 2003. From NewsChannel 5 reportDeberry said:

"Anybody interested in going to the Super Bowl with us-and Vegas-let us know by tomorrow."

"Sherry [Hopkins, lobbyist] is our host, and we are hoping the Titans win the Super Bowl and we'll be in Vegas and we'll be having a great time."

News Channel 5 sounded the alarm back in 2003. In the February 2003 article, they reported: "Yet, despite taxpayers' demand for change-which ushered in a new governor and 27 new legislators-a lot remains the same."

True then, true now.

Another reminder from this undercover operation:

Dropping hints for Super Bowl tickets with his lobbyist friends, Ford says "I need four tickets. I'll take two, but I need four."

"Later, Ford confides to an undercover NewsChannel 5 producer: 'I always get tickets.'"

"'My friends don't take me to the Super Bowl," the producer tells Ford."

"'These really are not friends,' he replies. 'These are corporate people, like corporate sponsors."

All these "corporate sponsors" sure do spend a lot of money on gifts (and of course, a lot of bills get passed.) It seems like one more of the long tailed cats is about to get rocked on, but I'm not holding my breath. Nothing happened last time and these two were re-elected. I guess it only makes them more brazen.

Name recognition for incumbents is hard to beat, especially in a primary. And democrats seldom have primaries against incumbents, no matter what they do. I think this leads to the feeling of invincibility and cockiness that many of our legislators possess.

By the way, guess who else was on NewsChannel 5's 2003 report? Sen. Jerry Cooper.

It's worth looking back at this report and asking why anything hasn't ever been done to improve the image and integrity of our legislature.

For a look back, go to:

http://www.newschannel5.com/content/investigates/1135.asp




Now Speaker Naifeh is trying to cover for his choice (Lois Deberry) to be on the
ethics committee saying more or less that it is not so bad really, that $200 is
in the realm of an acceptable gift (bribe?).

I remember a story told by Teddy Roosevelt where he asked a rich woman if she
would sleep with him for a million dollars to which she replied "yes." Then he
asked if she would sleep with him for five dollars. She replied "No, what kind
of woman do you think I am?" Teddy shot back "that has already been decided.
Now we are just determing the price."

I guess the going rate in Nashvegas $200 in nickels.

This legislator is asking that Ms. Deberry step down from her leadership
position in the House as well as any position or role on the ethics committee.
As a leader of the House, she should be setting the highest example for all
members. Instead, she's setting an example of why we so desperately need ethics
reform.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Potential bloger/Guest Bloger

A fellow legislator who is thinking about starting a blog wanted to see what it all about so I told him he could do a guest spot on mine if he wants to give it a try and check response off of it .Let him know what you think.


Dear Stacey,

I want to alert your readers to a real threat to our state’s sovereignty. CAFTA, like NAFTA, contains an extensive bill of rights for foreign businesses. These rights grant special legal protections and new rights to foreign corporations doing business in other countries covered by the trade agreements. Foreign companies can, under NAFTA, and CAFTA if it passes, actually sue the state of Tennessee in a Trade Tribunal -- not in the Tennessee State Courts nor even in the U.S. Courts.

Imagine that you and I, after having passed a law in the state legislature, could then face the prospect that a foreign business in Tennessee could get around it – even those business which are controlled by their governments – thereby escaping the state law if CAFTA is passed. This means Congress will be giving foreign companies more control over our laws than our own state government has.

This isn’t a conservative or liberal issue. Both Phyllis Schalfly’s Eagle Forum and Public Citizen share the same concerns over sovereignty. Your readers can check out the Eagle Forum position here, www.eagleforum.org/alert/2005/06-16-05.html , and the Public Citizen position here, www.citizen.org/trade/cafta/articles.cfm?ID=11085. Americans for Fair Trade also has information here, //www.americansforfairtrade.com/media/sov.pdf.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the measure the last week of July. I encourage your readers to study the issue and share their views with their Members of Congress.

The Tennessee delegation is:

Rep. Bill Jenkins
Rep. John Duncan
Rep. Zack Wamp
Rep. Lincoln Davis
Rep. Jim Cooper
Rep. Bart Gordon
Rep.Rep Marsha Blackburn
Rep. John Tanner
Rep. Harold Ford, Jr.


http://www.house.gov/writerep/
Is a link his readers can use to write their Congressman.

Best wishes,
Mike

Mike Kernell
State Representative (D-Memphis)
mikekernell@mindspring.com

Sunday, July 17, 2005

FLIP FLOP FORD

According to the interview Ford is now against kelo and is working to stop it I tried to call in but was put on the forever hold till the end of the show .

Ford on radio

Ford Jr. Will be on a local radio call in show WNOX 100.3 in Knoxville today 12 -2 down load it if you can they seldom record he will be on about half the show talking about eminent domain.

Friday, July 15, 2005

WSMV Interview

Did an interview with Dennis Ferrier at WSMV TV channel 4 news today it is airing on their show talking about Jimmy Neifeh and his driver. I am sure it will be on the news tonight or you can see it at www.wsmv.com.

Heads Up

Greg Johnson had a good article in Thursdays opinion section of the Knoxville News sentinel worth a read.I was wondering if any one was going to do any thing on it.Greg stepped up.

Taxpayer Party Taxi !

WSMV in Nashville has a breaking story about how Speaker Naifeh's driver earns
$27,000 in overtime. According to the report by Dennis Ferrier: "Last year,
Gamblin made a total of $92,000 driving Tennessee Speaker of the House Jimmy
Naifeh. That overtime is more than the salary of the Director of the Department
of Safety."

In the story, Speaker Naifeh is quoted as saying "Well, I work long hours. I'm
here at the office before 6:30am when we're in session, and I go into the
evening meeting with members. I have 99 members of the house that I try to
communicate with on a regular basis."

Well, I can testify that he doesn't communicate with me on a regular basis so make that 98 members.

I don't think the taxpayers should be paying for his "evening meetings" either as
he calls them. Driving him to receptions, and more importantly home from
receptions, should not be something the taxpayers are responsible for.

We hear we don't have enough money in the state legislature, but here is another
example of where the money we have--money earned by Tennesseans-- is being
wasted. I can't wait to see Wilders account.I hope someone checks into their other staff as well.



To read or watch the full story, go to http://www.wsmv.com

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Campaign Expense?

What is a campaign expense? Travel, housing, food, flowers, alcohol, toys cars, gas, tires, TV, computers, giving money to your wife or husband, kids (to run your campaigns), tickets to events. Virtually anything you can think of can be called a campaign expense and I've seen them all used.

Any asset you can think of can be purchased for a campaign and resold after the campaign for a few pennies on the dollar. Following the end of a campaign, the conversation might go like this: "I'll take a big screen TV for $10.00---but what did I hear? You say the candidate's wife already bought it?"

Many theories are going around as to why so few Republicans were caught in the sting. I would like to think that many of us are more moral and less willing to take bribes, and this is the case with many of the members. However, if a person wants to pass legislation they are for the most part, going to approach Democrats because they control all committee chairmanships in the House as well as the majority in the Senate. They also control the majority on all the committees in the House.

If any vote is ever close, Speaker Naifeh and Lois Deberry can come into any committee and vote as if they were on that committee or subcommittee.

We Republicans should definitely take the lead on ethics reform-and many have been working on it already. To be fair, Rep. Frank Buck (D) has run up against his own party leadership for years in his attempts at reform.

Democrats in general however, have been the roadblocks to reform. I don't have the figures, but information I have seen indicates democrats out-raise republicans 3 or 4 to 1 when it comes to PAC money contributions in Tennessee.

Republicans are accused of being the party of the "the man" or "big business" or they're the "money grabbers". But PAC facts don't support it. That is why the democrats freaked out when the republicans were the beneficiaries of their first "big donor".

They did all they could to stop this one family from being able to donate-but of course, their own big donors are exempt.

Republicans have worked a long time on ethics reform, and if we become the majority, we've been working at so long I'm optimistic that it would be a front burner issue and swept through immediately.

Light enforcement combined with no laws at all, causes people to become susceptible to mischief. Many operate upon the theory that if something is not illegal when one is campaigning, then it must be ethical.

If you want change-here are some more ideas , although I want to hear your ideas and feedback too. Of course, these are just ideas, and maybe they are viable or maybe they aren't. You may raise issues about these ideas that I might not have thought of. That is why a forum like this one is good to get discussions going. Let me know what you think.

1. Remove expenses for anything automobile related when not in session.(except gas three months before a contested race.) During those three months you might allow some reimbursement for mileage/wear and tear expenses that are part of driving a car.We get a milage/wear and tear expense when in session.
2. Remove allowable expenses for all sporting event/leisure ticket purchases. Limit sporting event tickets and leisure ticket "gifts" to maximum 2 per legislator. For instance, no 40 pack of tickets to or from a legislator so he in turn can hand them out as gifts or sell them.
3. Alcohol/Tobacco should not be a gift received or given by a legislator.
4. Limit travel expenses to within the state.
5. Tell Lt. Governor Wilder if he is going to fly everywhere, he gets the same 33 cents a mile just like everyone else gets. He should not receive the 55 cents per mile he receives to fly his private plane.
6. Let's stick to the continental U.S. No legislative trips to Hawaii for example.
7. Direct members of a candidate's family should not be paid to work on a campaign, or perhaps limit the amount they can receive.
8. All items sold after a campaign can only be deductions at 25% of value if sold to a family member and may only be fully deducted if it is a non-sellable item such as yard signs or advertising. This would stop campaigns from purchasing big screen TV's or computers to watch the results come in and then keeping it at home forever.
9. All toys or gifts for a constituent must go through a non-profit organization first. For instance, if you are going to give out gifts, the gifts should be given to a non-profit for them to distribute. For instance, some legislators might purchase 20 tickets to the Grizzlies game and then claim to take 20 kids, but how do we know he took kids instead of selling them or giveing them to big donors? friends or their family. It would be more appropriate to given them to say for example, the Boys Club.
10. Incumbents should not be able to deduct campaign headquarters expense, or at least be limited, since the state pays legislators $1,000 per month for an office or home office expense whether we use it or not. Claiming this as a campaign expense is like double dipping.
11. Employees of the state directly under the control of the person campaigning for office cannot openly campaign for that candidate. Sorry Speaker Naifeh! This will mean no more forcing all the secretaries in the State Legislature to go door to door for you because they fear for their jobs if they don't. I heard Speaker Naifeh had two busloads of state employees that only he can fire drive down to his district for door-to- door campaigning during his last race. What a shakedown!!
12. Address or place limits on the amount of anonymous campaign contributions and cash. These 2 can be abused in many ways.
13. Limit funding of fundraisers dependent on the number of guests invited. Takeing your wife out to dinner is not a campaign expense.

These are all just ideas off the top of my head. Feel free to offer your opinions, support them, point out the holes in them, or come up with your own.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

More Fun

I was on a new radio program in Knoxville (1180 AM) this Saturday morning called Tennessee Confidential-Terry Frank was the host today.

We had a great discussion about Governor Bredesen, John Ford and his many connections with the same partners (Ronald Dobbins and Osbie Howard) in several businesses-United American Healthcare, Managed Care Services Group, and Oseman Insurance.

We discussed how reports from NewsChannel5 had documents showing a trail of hundreds of thousands of dollars from TennCare giant Access MedPlus' parent company-Tennessee Coordinated Care Network to Oseman Insurance. According to NewsChannel5, Access MedPlus transferred $3.5 million to Oseman between May 2000 and Oct. 2001 for reinsurance and according to the Tennessean, Ford makes about $130,000 a year from this company.

Oseman Insurance is a Memphis Agency with which Ford has been long been associated-and curiously, now Oseman Insurance is the company which has hired former chief for Governor Bredesen, Anna Windrow.

We talked about lobbyists and the other legislators indicted in the E-Cycle scam. I guess you could say it was a Tennessee Waltz roundup. We gave credit to a lot of blogs (and online news magazines!) where the hosts are either uncovering new information or going the extra mile to research more information.

I raised the story appearing on www.Thaddeusmatthews.com and www.billhobbs.com regarding the printing of lottery tickets by a friend of a Memphis legislator. I think a lot of these stories are going to be picked up by the mainstream media-there's a lot of information out there to be sorted through.

As we discussed on the show, a lot of what goes on in Nashville may not be technically illegal-but appearances are important to the public's faith in government as well. We need to work harder to clean up the mess and pass some tougher restrictions, laws, and guidelines.

We also discussed the Tennessean's front-page story on Don Sundquist and U.S. District Judge Karl Forester's comments that Sundquist was the reason for the probe.

David Horowitz called me yesterday to thank me for my fight to help students in Tennessee. He also told me how another major education group, American Council on Education, has now endorsed the principles of the Student Bill of Rights.

About 10 minutes after David Horowitz called, a member of the University of Memphis Student Government Association called me to express that he and fellow student government leaders wanted to put the Student Bill of Rights forward next year in a bill for their own student government. It fires me up to see college students getting so involved!

Things seem to be moving forward on that front. We are supposed to be moving forward with negotiations with UT and the Board of Regents in the next few weeks regarding the Student Bill of Rights. I will keep you informed.

Friday, July 08, 2005

We will see....

Great posts appear on the Bill Hobbs online news magazine on July 7th and 8th. Please take a minute to read them (www.billhobbs.com). He discusses Governor Bredesen, lobbyist/cabinet members of the Lodge family, and the Governor's old company, Coventry Health Care.

This sounds more shady than anything Dick Cheney was accused of doing for Haliburton.

Will the main stream media pick up on it? I hope so--it deserves attention.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy 4Th

God bless America

I wonder?

I sit and wonder about possible bills and changes for next year and the possible outcomes.

What if?

What if the legislature passes a bill to stop the use of eminent domain for resale to private businesses? Will the Governor sign such a bill into law with his own history of eminent domain seizures lurking in the background? Will he use the football stadium as an excuse not to sign it? Will he have it killed before it ever gets to his desk? Will it get out of committee? Will he rally against such a bill?

What if?

What if one or all of these special committees set up to help ethics reform comes back with the suggestion that we prosecute all the people who have broken the current contribution election laws to date to the fullest extent of the law? Will Phil Bredesen support these suggestions since he was openly admitting to breaking the campaign laws in his own campaign when he ran for Governor?

Will he chastise himself? Will he be able to run again? Will he have someone change the law he broke or will he break the law again anyway? Will this idea go anywhere or will he kill it when it comes out?

Have the people chosen to serve on these committees already been told not to bring it up? What about his dealings with John Ford and giving more business to his Tenncare cronies will that be investigated ?

I wonder...