INFORMATION ON TENNESSEE WATCHDOG

Tennessee Watchdog is a non-profit investigative reporting and watchdog journalism web site dedicated to monitoring the activities of state, local and federal government officials and agencies in Tennessee.

Tennessee Watchdog is nonpartisan and is committed to being a resource for Tennessee residents looking for information and in-depth reporting on politicians, government agencies and the workings of government in the Volunteer State. It is a publication of the Franklin Center For Government and Public Integrity.

Of particular interest to our journalists are matters concerning:

  • Conflicts of interest involving public officials.
  • Government waste and abuse.
  • Government regulation of business.
  • Infringement of personal liberties by government.
  • Campaign finance.

Please contact us concerning this web site or any stories about government in Tennessee at (318) 243-3228 or chris@tennesseewatchdog.org.

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May 6: Steve Moore Event in Knoxville Tennessee

Stephen Moore (Credit: Willis Bretz)

Events — By on March 25, 2014 at 11:29 am

The Beacon Center of Tennessee invites you to attend a special event
featuring Heritage Foundation Senior Economics and former Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Member

Steve Moore

“What is in Store for the Economy in the Year Ahead?”

Tuesday, May 6, 2014
6:30 – 7:30 pm Eastern

Club LeConte, 800 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, Tennessee

Refreshments and light appetizers will be provided. While it is free to attend, space is limited, so please RSVP to Suzanne Michel at (615) 383-6431 or suzanne@beacontn.org.

Steve Moore is the senior economist at the Heritage Foundation. He is formerly a columnist and member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board. He is a contributing editor for National Review and frequent economics commentator on CNBC’s Kudlow & Company. He also appears on Fox News’ On the Record with Greta Van Susteren. Moore is the recent author of a new book titled “Who’s the Fairest of Them All? The Truth about Opportunity, Taxes, and Wealth in America.”

This article was found at BeaconTN.Org and all credit is theirs.

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Pro-Obama nonprofit with wealthy donors spreading through TN

By TNWatchdog Staff on January 31, 2014
By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Eager tea party protesters went toe-to-toe in Nashville Thursday against a progressive nonprofit, Organizing for Action, devoted solely to advancing President Barack Obama’s agenda — while both groups waited for Obama’s motorcade to pass them by.

This story, however, doesn’t quite play out the way you might expect.

Darlene Shelton told Tennessee Watchdog that Organizing for Action, designed to promote President Obama’s agenda, is spreading throughout Tennessee.

Darlene Shelton told Tennessee Watchdog that Organizing for Action, designed to promote President Obama’s agenda, is spreading throughout Tennessee.

Both groups held signs either for or against Obama, although the OFA clearly had an advantage with professionally made signs, while tea partiers’ signs were mostly homemade.

Both organizations say they are grassroots.

And while both groups are nonprofits,Time magazine recently documented that one of them has very wealthy financial backers.

And no, tea partiers are not the recipients of this largesse, and the Koch brothers are not the financial backers in question.

Actually, OFA received $21 million last year from 19 wealthy businessmen and women, all of whom donated or raised amounts ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 each, Time reported.

Obamacare supporter Edward Adam told Tennessee Watchdog that Obama’s intentions are good.

Obamacare supporter Edward Adam told Tennessee Watchdog that Obama’s intentions are good.

Newsweb Corp. CEO Fred Eychaner, for instance, donated $500,000.

One of the OFA protesters in Nashville, Darlene Shelton, told Tennessee Watchdog that the nonprofit has established itself at chapters all over Tennessee, including KnoxvilleMurfreesboroFranklin and, recently, Nashville.

“We recruit people. We have phone banking. We call different people to get them involved and volunteer,” Shelton said.

“We then call representatives and try to get them to push for the issues that the president has set forth. We are the ones who voted for him.”

Despite sharply differing political views, the pro-Obama supporters and the Tea Party protestors managed to have civil discourse with one another. In this photo a man who identified himself only as “Joe Citizen” speaks to an unidentified Obama supporter.

Despite sharply differing political views, the pro-Obama supporters and the Tea Party protestors managed to have civil discourse with one another. In this photo a man who identified himself only as “Joe Citizen” speaks to an unidentified Obama supporter.

According to its website, OFA operates as a social welfare organization, as a 501(c)(4). 

The Huffington Post reports that OFA operates Obama’s Twitter account. The organization’s Facebook page for Tennessee, which has more than 7,000 followers, seems to revolve around the personalities of Obama and his wife, Michelle, and their pet political platforms. 

‘Well-intentioned’

Obama came to Nashville Thursday to speak at that city’s McGavock High School about jobs.

Edward Adam, a 2003 graduate of the school who didn’t say if he belonged to OFA, held up a sign promoting Obamacare and said it has improved his life — even though he later said something that seemed to call that testimony into question.

“I’m getting better from a situation where I needed health care, and I didn’t have it before, but now I can take care of my medical issues. I don’t know why anybody would want to protest it,” Adam said, when asked about the new law.

Tea Party members awaiting President Obama’s motorcade in Nashville Thursday said they were very careful about making sure the mainstream media didn’t portray them in an unflattering light.

Tea Party members awaiting President Obama’s motorcade in Nashville Thursday said they were very careful about making sure the mainstream media didn’t portray them in an unflattering light.

But does he have health insurance only because of Obamacare?

“Well, I already had it through my work,” Adam said.

“Obama means well. He is well-intentioned and he is only trying to help people advance beyond where we were under Bush.”

Meanwhile, on the tea party side of the road, protesters, who were greater in number, said they had to exercise due diligence and warn others not to hold inflammatory signs. To do otherwise could invite trouble from the mainstream media, they said.

“It’s just a matter of not having signs that are crass and tasteless,” said Ben Cunningham, president of the Nashville-based Tennessee Tax Revolt.

“If somebody puts up something that’s over the top then that will be the media’s story. The message we want to get across is our opposition to the president’s agenda.”

Tea Party member Mel London (front) said the only offensive signs he saw while awaiting President Obama’s motorcade were the ones being held by the people behind him.

Tea Party member Mel London (front) said the only offensive signs he saw while awaiting President Obama’s motorcade were the ones being held by the people behind him.

Another tea partier, Scott Nicoll, of Manchester, told Tennessee Watchdog he has personally witnessed national mainstream media outlets distort the nature of tea party movement protests he participated in while visiting Washington, D.C.

“With every protest I’ve been to the news has been that we are violent or ignorant. They claimed that racism was prevalent,” Nicoll said. “As a matter of fact I was right next to a black man protesting with me. If we don’t show up then the media will just say that we don’t care anymore. Either way, it’s going to be negative.”

Another tea partier, Mel London, who is black, said he saw only a few hateful signs.

“You see those signs over there that say ‘Go Forward with Obama’?” he asked, while pointing. Those are the only destructive signs here that I see.”

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas onhis official Facebook page.

Please, feel free to “steal our stuff”! Just remember to credit Watchdog.org. Find out more

- See more at: http://tennessee.watchdog.org/2014/01/31/pro-obama-nonprofit-with-wealthy-donors-spreading-through-tn/#sthash.vySad3Yc.dpuf

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TN officials unaware of alleged scandal with red light camera contractor

By Chris Butler on April 15, 2014
Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Officials in 10 Tennessee towns and cities contract with a red light camera company, Redflex, which is receiving intense scrutiny nationwide after allegations it was involved in a large bribery scandal in Chicago.

Tennessee Watchdog was able to reach officials in four of those 10 government entities — and only one of them knew anything about the reports.

RED LIGHT: Is trouble brewing with a company that various towns and cities in Tennessee have hired to operate red light cameras?

RED LIGHT: Is trouble brewing with a company that various towns and cities in Tennessee have hired to operate red light cameras?

Ben Harkins, a program manager for Farragut’s Traffic Enforcement Program, didn’t comment on the reports he had read, other than to say no company officials have ever tried to bribe him.

“We don’t accept trips, dinners or anything like that. Everyone pays their own way,” Harkins said, adding the town, which has about 20,000 people, only has four intersections with these cameras.

“Redflex has tried to assure us that they don’t want this to happen again.”

Farragut Mayor Ralph McGill, who has to approve renewal contracts with Redflex, didn’t know about the company’s troubles in Illinois.

Farragut’s taxpayers pay nothing to the Arizona-based Redflex, Harkins said, although the company gets a hefty portion of every fine.

Farragut Mayor Ralph McGill

Farragut Mayor Ralph McGill

“Once Redflex got the contract, at their own expense they install new equipment and provide all maintenance. The company gets the lion’s share of a $50 fine the town gives to someone caught racing through a red light,” Harkins said, adding that amounts to about $37 for the company and $13 for the town.

The town’s contract with Redflex expires at the end of this year, Harkins said, adding the company originally competed against four other vendors to get the current contract.

According to the Chicago Tribune, a fired Redflex executive, Aaron Rosenberg, said in a lawsuit the company hands out bribes and gifts to dozens of municipalities in Chicago and 13 states.

The paper reported that Rosenberg is participating in an ongoing federal investigation on the matter.

“The explosive allegations, accompanied by few specifics, suggest investigators may be examining Redflex’s business practices around the country in the wake of the company’s admission last year that its flagship camera program in Chicago was likely built on a $2 million bribery scheme,” according to the Tribune.

“Redflex fired Rosenberg and sued him for damages in an Arizona court in February, largely blaming him for the company’s wrongdoing in Chicago.”

Jody Ryan

Jody Ryan

The company lost a $100 million contract with Chicago after the Tribune reported a sketchy relationship between Redflex and a city official, although it continues to operate the city’s red light camera program, the paper reported.

In addition to Tennessee, Rosenberg said the company bribed officials in California, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Colorado, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Virginia and Georgia, the Tribune reported.

Redflex spokeswoman Jody Ryan told Tennessee Watchdog in an e-mail the company has made several changes within to correct any problems, including introducing a new whistleblower program.

“Since we announced the findings of our internal investigation, we have signed, renewed or executed over 90 contracts,” Ryan said.

The towns and cities in Tennessee that contract with Redflex, in addition to Farragut, according to Ryan are:

  •  Oak Ridge
  • Johnson City
  • Kingsport
  • Mount Carmel
  • Selmer
  • Union City
  • Morristown
  • Clarksville
  • Jackson

Officials in Selmer, Union City and Jackson told Tennessee Watchdog they also didn’t know of the reports about Redflex’s alleged bribery in Chicago.

Watchdog.org reported in January that Rosenberg had a business partnership with the city of Tacoma, Wash., in his official capacity with the company.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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Government Internet in TN konks out again, leaving some customers irate

CDE: CDE's customers are apparently active on the utility's official Facebook page, as requested.

By Chris Butler on April 2, 2014
By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

NASHVILLE — Officials with Clarksville’s city-owned Internet announced Monday, April Fool’s Day, that all of their 15,000 customers, many of whom are business owners, had been kicked offline — again.

Clarksville Department of Electricity officials, despite the timing, weren’t pulling any gags about problems with their Lightband service.

Lightband customers, already furious about a massive and lengthy outage only one week earlier, likely wouldn’t have laughed even if the announcement were a hoax.

As before, many irate customers whipped out their smart phones and took CDE to task on the public utility’s Facebook page.

But one poster, Jonathan Harrison, had a constructive suggestion.

IMP ABOUT LIBRARY

Indeed, Clarksville-Montgomery Public Library Director Martha Hendricks confirmed to Tennessee Watchdog her library uses Charter, a private competitor, and anyone who needed Internet service was free to come there.

“CDE Lightband does not have a stellar reputation at this point, in my opinion, and is a relatively new service,” Hendricks wrote in an e-mail to Tennessee Watchdog, adding she didn’t want anyone to view this as an endorsement for Charter.

The library, Hendricks said, is not entirely county funded — therefore, library officials have the option to use whichever Internet service they wish.
CDE: CDE’s customers are apparently active on the utility’s official Facebook page, as requested.

“Perhaps in the future, we will look at them again if and when things improve — this is the second major outage for CDE lately that has affected the county’s ability to do work.”

But other county and city agencies, including the police and sheriff’s department, use Lightband, according to Jamie Dexter, Natalie Hall, Elizabeth Black and Jennifer Rawls, who serve as spokesmen and women for those agencies.

They all said that Monday’s Internet outage didn’t impair their duties as they still had access to phone services.

CDE spokeswoman Christy Batts told Tennessee Watchdog the public utility wasn’t to blame.

“This is the first time since that time frame that we have had back-to-back outages of this significance,” Batts said.

“It took out everyone on our system. In both instances, it was from connections to the Internet with third party providers that we had no control over.”

Lightband customer Kate Matties, who said the outage caused problems at her business, seemingly isn’t so ready to accept that explanation.

“The fiber connection is fast — when it works,” Matties said. “It’s like owning a Ferrari that’s broken down two days a week. If it doesn’t get you where you need to go, when you need to go there, what’s the use?”

Christy Batts

Christy Batts

As Tennessee Watchdog reported last week, several Clarksville business owners lost a lot of money last week when their government-owned Internet went down.

Things got so heated that CDE Lightband officials warned their own Internet customers to stop posting abusive language on its official Facebook page.

The business owners are generally smaller in scale when compared to the multi-million dollar businesses CDE hoped to serve in an industrial park outside city lines.

Currently, CDE officials can’t legally expand their government-owned Internet outside the city.

Rep. Joe Pitts, D-Clarksville, told Tennessee Watchdog last week he had postponed a bill that would have allowed such an expansion, at least until next year’s Tennessee General Assembly session.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org. or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.
Please, feel free to “steal our stuff”! Just remember to credit Watchdog.org. Find out more

 - See more at: http://tennessee.watchdog.org/2014/04/02/government-internet-in-tn-konks-out-again-leaving-some-customers-irate/#sthash.blXHvrA5.dpuf
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