“Strong and Free Tennessee” Mailers

Suspected illegal mailers hit Tennessee: An unregistered Political Action Committee is spending big bucks to influence who is elected to the Republican State Executive Committee or SEC.

There is a very interesting story developing regarding those mailers from”strong and free Tennessee”– a PAC that no one can find a record for. See below.

Editor’s Note: Maybe, I should also tell you there is a PAC called Strong and Free America created by Darrell Crate and under the window of Red Curve Solutions based in Maryland that specializes in comprehensive treasury, budgeting, and FEC compliance services for political campaigns, party organizations, and PACs. 98% of the contributions Strong and Free America has received  over a half a million dollars collected from Republicans and distributed to Republicans. Bill Haslam received $5000.00 for his 2010 campaign for governor.

But as yet we have no reason to suspect Strong and Free America is behind all of this it just seem a little odd that they might have the same name.

Back to the story

Last week, a PAC called “Strong and Free Tennessee” sent mailers to Republican voters, endorsing candidates for the SEC in the upcoming primary.  In some cases, these mailers endorsed newcomers over seated members who are running for re-election.

Sending mailers to six or more state senate districts requires thousands of dollars, leaving many folks to ask just who is behind the Strong and Free Tennessee PAC.

Regular PACs can contribute limited amounts to candidates or issues, and  super PACs can collect and spend unlimited amounts of money as long as they operate independently from a candidate or campaign.

Other campaign laws apply to PACs as well. According to the Tennessee  Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, the State Executive Committee is a local race, and:

1- A PAC participating in an SEC race is required to file an Appointment of Treasurer statement with the County Election Commission and then file periodic campaign financial disclosure reports with the County election Commission.

2-A PAC participating in an SEC race is also required to register and file disclosure reports in each county the SEC candidate is on the ballot.

3-The statute does not address the sharing of the information between County Election Commissions.  While this may happen there should be no expectation of this happening.

However, no one can find a registry for “Free and Strong Tennessee “on the state PAC registry or in the counties where these mailers were sent. Several county election commissions have been contacted and do not have anything on file regarding this PAC.

Why would a PAC endorse candidates for the SEC’s unpaid committee seats and yet attempt to hide itself? Did the PAC hide its origins on purpose or out of ignorance of the law?

The Republican SEC determines the direction of party.  And while most of the voting public pays no attention to that committee, Republicans, just like the Democrats, understand the importance of it.

So who stands to gain?

Updated info

We were sent an update on Strong and Free Tennessee PAC gate from Mr. Drew Rawlins. The inquirer was impressed at how quickly he replied to the email.

Strong and Free Tennessee had filed with the TN Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance on July 15 but did not pay the $100 fee (they just forgot, right?) They are “in the process” of filing with county election commissions and an unnamed  “gentleman” is helping them??? LOL what a tangled web we weave…. This PAC was willing to pay fines to avoid being open. Can’t wait to see their financial report.

See all details below.

You are correct, as of right now Strong & Free has not paid the $100 registration fee.  My understanding is that the fee has been mailed.

I have spoken with a gentleman who is assisting Strong & Free Tennessee (he is not the Treasurer).  He is assisting them in registering in every county they are required to register.  I know they registered in several counties yesterday.  They also will file a disclosure report (Pre-Primary/Pre-General) detailing the groups contributions and expenditures.  Our office will continue to work with the County Election Commissions to ensure that Strong & Free Tennessee is in compliance with the campaign finance statutes.

If you have any additional questions, please let me know.

Drew

Drew Rawlins

Executive Director

Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance

drew.rawlins@tn.gov

(615) 741-7959

www.tn.gov/tref

www.tn.gov/sos/tec

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