Friday, May 27, 2016

Why I am totally disgusted with the Tennessee Republican Party.

I am pretty much disgusted with the Tennessee Republican Party.  I became disgusted several years ago when Mark Winslow worked as a paid campaign manager to elect to office Mellissa Blackburn who was running for Davidson County Judge Division II has a Democrat. She had four Democrat opponents and a Republican opponent named Marian Fodyce. Winslow served on the State Executive Committee of the Republican Party.  By virtue of his position on the State Party, he served on the Executive Committee of the County Party.  As such, he was in a position to know Republican strategy, have access to polling data, and a vote in determining how much funding to provide the Republican candidate. (For more on the Winslow story see  here, and hear.)

I would think anyone could see that, that situation is an obvious conflict. It also clearly violates Party bylaws. The Party could have removed him; but it did not.  The Party could have kept him from seeking reelection to the SEC; it did not. In disgust, for a couple years, I did not contribute to the Party or attend the Statement's Dinner.  As time passed however, despite my  disgust for the Party's failure to act to remove Winslow, I was ready to swallow hard and just accept it and reason that helping advance the Party and elect Republicans was more important than my resentment at this one failing. Then, however, the situation with Taylor Ferrell emerged. My disgust is renewed and stronger than before. While I am going to continue to support candidates and causes I believe in, I am withholding my support for the TRP until I feel there is some integrity returned to the Party.

Taylor Ferrell is a paid contractor with the TRP who is working to coordinate travel and other logistics for those delegates attending the Republican National Convention.  She is also married to Walker Ferrell who is the TRP Political Director.  Taylor Ferrell is also sole proprietor of Southland Advantage and Southland Advantage has clients who are running in the primary against incumbent Republican office holders. Twenty-seven Republican office holders signed a letter calling for Walter Ferrell's resignation due to this conflict. To see who signed the letter and for more on this follow this link.

I support those calling for Walker Ferrell's resignation and the termination of the contract with Taylor Ferrell.  Those defending Taylor Ferrell say she is not an employee of the Party but is a contractor doing work for the Party and is not violating Party bylaws by having clients seeking to defeat incumbent Republicans. That to me appears to be a distinction without a difference.  She is a "paid staff member" weather she gets a W-2 or a 1099 at the end of the year. Those defending Walker Ferrell claim it is his wife with clients, not he. That may also be true but husbands and wives share information and income.  That is an obvious violation of the spirit of the bylaws if not the letter of the bylaws. (For more on this see this link and this link.)

One of those leading the effort to get Taylor and Walker Ferrell fired and who escalated the conflict by calling for the immediate termination of Ryan Haynes as Chairman and  Brent Leatherwood as Executive Director is Jeff Hartline.  Jeff Harline has been a long time conservative activist and run in the Republican primary in 2010 for the Fifth Congressional District seat.  He is a a current member of the County Executive Committee of Wilson County.  Hartline also heads a consulting firm working to elect  conservative candidates in contested primaries. Is that not a violation of Party Rules? To read more about Jeff Harline's roll in this, follow this link

So, here we have two factions, both with conflicts of interest and both violating Party bylaws.  Winslow is part of the effort to get rid of Ferrell also.  This is a case of 'the pot calling the kettle black.'  No one has clean hands.  I am totally disgusted.  Those rallying around Ferrell are often considered "establishment" Republicans, whatever that means, and those like Harline and Winslow are considered "conservative," "hard line," or "tea party Republicans," whatever those terms mean. When Donald Trump who has very liberal views on various issues is favored by people who consider themselves more conservative than the establishment and "the establishment" ended up supporting Ted Cruz, I am not sure these labels tell us much. Anyway, I really don't care which faction one is aligned with, if one is using their Party position to earn money as a campaign consultant or is violating the rules or the intent of the rules, they should resign in shame or be removed. I say, a pox on both your houses. If any one I have mentioned, or anyone else feels I got the facts wrong please feel free to leave a comment or sent me a more lengthy essay and I will publish it. I want to be fair to everyone. If I should not be disgusted, tell me why.

From reading the bylaws, it appears to me that members of the State Executive Committee and staff of the Party and County Executive Committee members are not permitted to support a Democrat against a Republican or to support one Republican over another in a primary.  Now if this only means you can't use your title while doing so, then that needs to be clarified. I do not think that is what it means.  Below are excepts from the TRP bylaws with relevant portions highlighted. For a complete copy of the bylaws follow this link.  

For more on this conflict, here are some copies of Facebook exchanges:

Update:  Since posted the above, I have heard from Jeff Hartline who told me he has not violating any bylaws by engaging in his political activity, that County Executive Committee members are not included in the prohibition on endorsing in a primary. I have also spoken to a member of the SEC who said that what Taylor Ferrell is doing is not prohibited, saying "staff" included employees and not people who were self-employed that the Party contracted with to provide services. This SEC member also said Jeff Harline was not guilty of violating any bylaws.

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