Saturday, January 5, 2013

More on Mark Winslow sues State GOP

Mark Winslow
Mark Winslow, the former Chief of Staff of the Tennessee Republican Party is suing the Tennessee Republican Party. He already had a law suit pending against U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann and Chip Saltsman, a former top aid to Fleishmann. He amended his suit to include the State GOP. He is seeking $500,000 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages from Saltsman.

This conflict stems from the 2010 primary campaign between Robin Smith and Chuck Fleishman. Winslow was working for Robin Smith in that campaign. Prior to that campaign, Smith was State Party Chair and Winslow was her Chief of Staff.  According to sources, shortly before Smith left office as Chair of the Party, she gave Winslow a contract, which is unusual.  When Devaney took over as Chair of the Party, naturally he wanted to select his own chief of staff, so to terminated Winslow and awarded him severance pay of $12,504.

During the Fleishman-Smith campaign, someone released Winslow's payroll records to Saltsman and the Fleishman campaign ran an add critical of Smith's management of the Republican Party. She had left the party with a substantial debt. The salary and bonuses paid Winslow, who by then was working on Smith's campaign, was used as an example of her poor management of the party.  I don't know how much Winslow was making and do not know how much is reasonable for that position so I don't know if he was paid lavishly or not. As far as leaving the party in debt, after a campaign it is not unusual for a State or local party to be broke or in debt, so again, I don't know if that was valid criticism or not.

The Fleishman-Smith campaign was hotly contested. There were twenty-one candidates vying for the seat left vacant by Zack Wamp who had chosen not to seek reelection so he could pursue a race for governor. In this crowed field, the two leading candidates were Fleishman and Smith.  Fleischmann put $544,000 of his own money into the campaign.  Former Arkansas Governor and Fox TV host Mike Huckabee endorsed Fleichman; the Club for Growth endorsed Smith. While the Fleishman campaign accused Smith of mismanagement of the Party, the Smith campaign ran ads calling Fleischmann a “slip-and-fall” attorney who had gotten rich by suing a local rifle club, Walmart and a church. Fleishman won the race by getting 30% of the vote to Smith's 28% , beating Smith by 1,300 votes out of 80,000 votes cast. After the primary, Smith refused to endorse Fleishman.

Winslow is suing, claiming he has been unable to get work as a political consultant due the damage the Fleishman campaign did to his reputation and charging that payroll records should not have been made public. Winslow is currently serving on the State Executive Committee of the State Party. In essence, he is suing himself. The party is already spending money on attorney's to represent itself in this matter. When the State Executive Committee meets in February, I would bet Winslow will get an icy reception.

Just to spread more light on who's who in this mess, Chip  Saltsman is also a  former chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party and in 2008 was national manager of Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign.

For other reports on this issue see here and here. If anyone has insight as to what is going on or an opinion, please leave a comment. If you have a copy of the law suit, I would like to see it. If you would be so kind as to email it to me, I would appreciate it.

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