Friday, February 5, 2016

Fletcher, Funk Deny Any Wrongdoing in Chase Case

Posted By on Fri, Feb 5, 2016 at 2:30 PM

As Pith reported yesterday, documents from an ongoing civil suit in Williamson County filed by David Chase — the prominent developer at the center of a domestic violence controversy in 2014 — contain allegations of extortion, blackmail and possible bribery. There were several developments in the story late Thursday afternoon, Here's a rundown.

Bill Fletcher:

On Thursday afternoon, Fletcher sent a statement to the Scene rejecting any claims of wrongdoing. For background: The Chase family had hired PR pro and longtime Democratic political operative Fletcher to do crisis communications work amid the controversy surrounding David Chase's 2014 criminal case, in which he was charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend twice in 24 hours. Those charges would later be dismissed, with the DA's office saying the alleged victim's statements weren't credible.

But in depositions taken in September 2015 — before the criminal case against Chase was dropped — Chase's parents, say they were approached with a request for $2 million. Dean Chase says someone requested $2 million from him that was not for legitimate work and, later in the deposition, says that in his opinion Fletcher tried to extort his family. In her deposition, Sandra Chase says the $2 million request came from Fletcher. And in a text message to his mother, David Chase says "my PR guy went beyond the extortion of me and told my dad he needs $2 million to, quote, 'make this go away.' 

According to the documents, the Chases rejected the request and fired Fletcher. At one point in her deposition, Sandra Chase says she believes her husband inferred that the purpose of the $2 million was for a bribe. For obvious reasons — primarily that he would be the one with the ability to make Chase's charges go away — Funk comes up in the deposition. But after questioning, Sandra Chase says, “I did not get that feeling at all, that Glenn Funk asked for a bribe, no.”

In his statement, Fletcher denies the allegations:
Allegations made in media reports about my business relationship with the Chase family with regard to criminal charges filed and then dropped against David Chase are completely false.

I have never proposed any payments of any kind to anyone regarding the criminal case.

I never had any contact at all with District Attorney Glenn Funk, anyone in the Office of the District Attorney, or anyone representing Mr. Funk or his office in my representation of Mr. David Chase, his family or the D.F. Chase Company.

I will explore all my options to see to it that these false and scurrilous allegations are corrected on the public record.
In an interview with News Channel 5 Thursday night, David Chase said he had talked to Fletcher — it's not clear when — and that Fletcher told him that "make it go away" was supposed to refer to the negative press attention surrounding the Chases. 

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Dem Debate Recap: Artful Smear Edition

Posted By on Fri, Feb 5, 2016 at 9:00 AM

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Going into last nights Dem tilt in New Hampshire the imperative for Bernie Sanders was maintaining his copious lead in the polls so that he doesn’t find himself falling short of  expectations in next Tuesday’s primary. For Hillary Clinton the goal was partly to erode his lead a bit, but mainly just getting this whole New Hampshire thing over with so she can move on to more promising territory south and west. Although the debate vibe is less exciting now that we’ve lost the policy stylings of Marty the Party O’Malley, things did get spirited at times. Let’s go to the play by play.

8:03 The very first words out of Sanders’ mouth: “Millions of Americans are giving up on the political process.” That’s an upbeat start! It’s also actually sort of wrong. Given the chronically horrendous levels of voter participation in the U.S. compared to other advanced countries, it feels like those millions gave up long ago.

8:04 Clinton in her opening declares that “special interests are doing too much to rig the game.” A fair point, but it’s a bit, shall we say, rich coming from someone who just one night earlier on CNN couldn’t cogently answer a question about why it’s been okay for her to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from Wall Street interests to give speeches.

8:06 Moderator Chuck Todd asks Clinton why she thinks Bernie’s ideas are untenable – why he won’t be able to make the things he’s running on actually happen. Her answer goes a bit wonky on several issues but doesn’t really answer the specific process question Todd posed. She concludes with a canned aphorism: “A progressive is someone who makes progress.” As a snappy way to synthesize her view on the (im)practicality of Sanders’ ideas, it’s mildly clever, but it’s also facile and wrong. It matters quite a bit what one makes progress on. Trump, for instance, plans lots of progress on his fabulous Mexican wall, but he ain’t no progressive.

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The Money in the District 7 School Board Race

Posted By and on Fri, Feb 5, 2016 at 7:00 AM

As you might've heard, there's a Metro school board race underway in South Nashville's District 7, one that promises to be a friendly, respectful contest between two gentlemen. After all, this is about the kids. 

The first set of financial disclosures in that race, between incumbent Will Pinkston and challenger Jackson Miller, was due this week. Miller announced on Monday that he had raised just more than $25,000 in support of his bid to unseat Pinkston, a man who's never encountered a political confrontation he didn't publicly relish.

Pith has both disclosures, which you can peruse for yourself after the jump:

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Funk Files $200M Defamation Suit Against News Channel 5, Phil Williams

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 5:34 PM

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Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk has filed a $200 million defamation lawsuit against Scripps Media, parent company of News Channel 5, and the station's investigative reporter Phil Williams.

The suit stems from a story Williams reported Wednesday night — one also independently reported by Pith Thursday — about allegations from an ongoing civil suit involving David Chase, the developer who was at the center of controversy less than two years ago after he was charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend twice in 24 hours. Those charges were eventually dropped. But documents from an ongoing suit, in which Chase has accused an array of individuals with conspiring against him, contain allegations of extortion, blackmail and possible bribery. 

Political consultant Bill Fletcher is accused of approaching the Chase family with a request for $2 million to make David Chase's criminal charges go away — a request they suggest they believed might have been for a bribe. In a statement to the Scene, Fletcher strongly denied the allegations. The documents also include an allegation by David Chase that Funk "blackmailed" him. Funk has denied any wrongdoing, but did acknowledge that he dismissed the criminal charges against Chase under the condition that Chase drop a federal lawsuit he had filed against the Metro Police Department. 

Funk's suit against News Channel 5 accuses the station of libel, defamation and false light.  

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Erin Coleman to Challenge Steve Dickerson for Nashville Senate Seat

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 1:35 PM

Erin Coleman, the political newcomer who made the runoff in last year's Metro Council at-large race and made a name for herself in doing so, has announced that she will run as a Democrat in Nashville's state Senate District 20, aiming to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Dickerson.

Coleman is a small business owner, civil engineer and U.S. Army veteran who says she's running to stand up for Nashville against the state, which is always finding ways to interfere with local affairs. 

"Nashville is the number one target of the Tennessee General Assembly,"she said in her announcement Thursday. "On a growing number of issues, they usurp our authority to govern our city. District 20 needs a senator that will fight for the people of Nashville."

She lists mass transit, local control of education, and non-discriminatory hiring as areas where she believes the state been overly intrusive. 

But although she'll be facing a Republican in what is still a largely blue city, unseating Dickerson won't be easy. The first-term senator and doctor is a popular moderate in a moderate district. He is backing a bill to legalize over-the-counter birth control and has previously supported medical marijuana. He has also voted against bills bringing back the electric chair as a backup to lethal injection and criminalizing drug-addicted pregnant women. 

Interestingly, Coleman's path — run, lose, run again — mirrors the successful one Dickerson took. In 2010, he won the Republican primary and went on to face Douglas Henry, then a nearly 40-year incumbent. He knew he had little chance of winning and he didn't. But four years later he ran again and won, albeit against a barely-present Democratic opponent and in a newly drawn district. 

In any case, this shapes up to be an interesting race. More from Coleman's announcement after the jump:

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Documents Show Allegations of Extortion and Possible Bribery in David Chase Case

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 12:27 PM

click to enlarge David Chase
  • David Chase
In late 2014 and well into 2015, talk in Nashville’s media circles was that Bill Fletcher, of the consulting firm Fletcher Rowley, was working reporters on behalf of David Chase, the developer who had been arrested and charged with assaulting his ex-girlfriend twice in 24 hours in June 2014. The veteran Democratic political consultant was trying to quell the public relations crisis facing Chase, the Chase family, and their prominent construction company D.F. Chase, Inc. after the incident and the array of public controversies that followed.

Fletcher, in fact, was angry when Pith noted his work for the Chases at the time. But it turns out working pliable reporters is the least of what Fletcher is accused of doing.

An incident less than two years ago that sparked controversy for, among other things, appearing to expose a good-old-boy network that led to Chase’s early release — leaving a woman at risk after she had allegedly already been assaulted — has now led to a tangled web of legal maneuvers and allegations that include extortion, blackmail and possible bribery.

In documents obtained by the Scene — including transcripts of sworn testimony and text messages between David Chase and his mother, Sandra Chase —  Fletcher is accused of coming to the Chases with a request for $2 million to make it all go away. The allegations arise from an ongoing civil lawsuit filed by David Chase against an assortment of people he claims conspired against him.

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Tennessee Legislature Joins Wacky Call for Constitutional Convention

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 10:55 AM

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Tennessee today became the fifth state to join the Tea Party in calling for a constitutional convention to fix the federal government once and for all.

The resolution, which passed the state Senate last year, cleared the House this morning by a vote of 59-31 with one lawmaker calling it “the atomic bomb of politics” aimed at that evil Washington, D.C. It’s fair to say Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, is a little wound up over this.

“The federal government has usurped its constitutional authority,” he said. “The state is the fulcrum of power in this country. In this day and age the federal government allows all of us to exist. This is the atomic bomb of politics. The constitutional founders knew this was necessary if nothing else worked. The federal government must know the states have mobilized and we have put an atomic bomb on a plane and it is flying over the District of Columbia and, if they don’t listen, then we’re going to get done what needs to get done.”

We guess "getting done what needs to get done" means dropping the Big One on D.C. We bet Matheny would like to ride that bomb all the way to its target, whoopin' it up like Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove.

Calling a constitutional convention—the first since 1787—needs the consent of 34 of the 50 states, or a two-thirds majority. Conservatives think it’s a great idea to amend the Constitution to require a balanced budget, impose term limits and who knows what else to reign in the federal government and give power to the states. And that’s the problem, as even some Republicans pointed out today in the House. The convention might open the way for any issue to be raised and could result in changes to, say, the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.

“It’s all on the table,” Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro, warned.

He pointed out it’s not known how states would pick delegates to the convention or who could qualify to serve. And you know you’ve got problems when Womick, who’s not known for common sense, thinks something’s impractical.

“As far as I know, Colorado is going to be sending people who are high,” he said.


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Beavers-Lynn Feud Flares Anew

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 9:06 AM

click to enlarge Sen. Mae Beavers
  • Sen. Mae Beavers
In an epic battle rivaling Freddy vs. Jason, state Sen. Mae Beavers and Rep. Susan Lynn have been clawing tooth and nail for years for political preeminence in their little slice of the universe. There’s not enough room in Wilson County for both of them.

Beavers struck the latest blow yesterday when she had the honor of choosing the Senate’s “minister of the day” to pray and lead the Pledge of Allegiance. It was—ta da!—none other than Lynn’s opponent in this summer’s GOP primary: Pastor Ben Graham of the Music City Baptist Church of Mt. Juliet.

In introducing Pastor Ben, Beavers batted her eyes innocently and pretended her invitation had absolutely nothing to do with her relentlessly vindictive feud with Lynn.

"Our pastor for the day is Ben Graham,” Beavers told senators in her sweetest voice. “He is a constituent of mine. Pastor Graham was saved at the age of 14 and surrendered to preach less than a year later.”

In addition, Pastor Ben is a member of the legendary Billy Graham family of ministers in some unspecified way, she said, and he’s actually set foot in all 50 states!

“We welcome Pastor Ben to pray for us today,” Beavers said.

Pastor Ben prayed, “May 2016 be a year of great blessings.” Lynn hopes one of those blessings isn’t Beavers shanking her in the next election.


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Everyone Loves Monorail in Theory

Posted By on Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 6:30 AM

Ugh, Bill Ketron is touting the wonderfulness of a monorail between here and Murfreesboro over in Andrea Zelinski's Nashville Post story and excuse me while I roll my eyes.

“Of course, I’ll try to impart my vision, which is monorail. You have land ports between Murfreesboro and Nashville,” said a smiling Ketron who adds his dream is to see it run down the middle of I-24, which would take approval from the federal government.

While it's no secret he likes the idea of a monorail, making it happen is a different story. There’s currently nothing in state law that allows government to partner with a private sector group or consortium of financial investors who want to work on transportation here, the Republican said, an aspect key to getting a project like this off the ground.

Public officials of all political stripes say it’s obvious Middle Tennessee needs to think about mass transit, citing long drive times into Nashville while the area is expected to grow by 1 million people by 2035. Three options now in discussion to reduce congestion include freeing up emergency shoulders on the interstate to carry passengers on a bus, light rail or a monorail, said Ketron.

Good lord. We can't have real bus rapid transit here in town because people whine and complain about riders getting on and off in the middle of the road but we're all supposed to be cool with riders getting on and off in the middle of the interstate? When one breaks down, how are people supposed to be rescued from it? And could you image the traffic nightmare—and for how long it would go on—as they built the monorail? I assume Republicans like the idea because it's so stupid it can't actually come to pass, but, Lord, it just screams boondoggle.

We've neglected our transportation needs for so long that suggesting a solution that will take another ten to twenty years to complete, at which point we'll have even more massive traffic problems, is dumb and a joke. Ketron knows that.

Freeing up emergency shoulders for buses seems like an okay temporary solution, but then where are people with car problems supposed go? Into the ditch? And once asshole drivers see the buses driving on the shoulders, what mechanism is going to keep them off?

The only real choice, and it's a choice with its own drawbacks, is trains. The track is already in place. It goes where we need it to go. All we need are some stations and the cooperation of the railroads. And that should be fun for Republicans to get. They hate Federal crap so, go forth, Republicans and disrupt interstate commerce until the railroads work with us on passenger rail.


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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mancini Rips Harwell as Heartless Opportunist

Posted By on Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 1:39 PM

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Sex scandals don't come along every day, let's face it, so state Democratic Party chair Mary Mancini held yet another press conference today to keep this one alive and throw new accusations at House leaders for failing to slap down Rep. Jeremy Durham in a timely manner.

Responding to this Pith post and this one, Mancini denounced House Speaker Beth Harwell as a ruthless political opportunist willing to ignore the safety of women at Legislative Plaza to advance her own ambitions. While Mancini was at it, she slammed Gov. Bill Haslam for insensitivity and for caring more about protecting the reputations of Republicans than stopping sexual harassment. Here are some of Mancini's remarks:
Why didn’t the Speaker follow the existing sexual harassment policy and launch an investigation into the allegations when she first heard about them. The press has confirmed that Speaker Harwell specifically knew about the allegations of harassment by at least one woman – did she invite that woman to come to her office and report it? If not, why?

Obviously, her priorities are out of order. What about the women who work at the Capitol? A​s more information has come to light, it’s clear that she has repeatedly taken the smallest steps or corrections necessary to cover up the story and protect her political future and the reputation of the Republican Party. S​he’s concerned only with her future run for governor and not the women who work in the toxic work environment that Rep. Durham’s behavior created.

Worse yet, instead of immediately holding her own members accountable for their bad behavior, she thinks it’s good “public policy” to punish the very interns who a certain Republican House member has placed at risk.

And, the governor isn’t any better. Governor Haslam claimed that the primary “collateral damage” of the Durham scandal was the damage it caused to the reputation of the Republican Party and Rep. Durham’s colleagues. The real collateral damage is all the women who were forced to work in this toxic work environment and had to remain silent for fear of losing their jobs.

At every turn, Speaker Harwell and Governor Haslam have done everything in their power to protect their own interests and the Republican Party at the cost of the victims of sexual harassment.

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