For the longest time, if you wanted to know how much your state representative was getting in political contributions, you had basically two choices. You could call your legislator and ask (good luck with that one), or you could head down to the state election office and look at their financial disclosures. That part was simple enough, if inconvenient, but the hitch was that you also had to declare who you were and submit either a driver's license number or some other form of ID. The lawmaker then received a postcard with this information, as though it was really any of their business just who had the audacity to snoop through public financial disclosure records.
That's all about to change, as the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance is set to unveil its online financial disclosure database at www.tennesseeanytime.org/tncamp. The Web site will let anyone access the financial disclosures of all state candidates and those of the numerous political action committees (PACs) that donate to state races. It's a lot of dough: PACs gave over $2.3 million to state officials already in office last year, and the Knoxville News-Sentinel is reporting that Federal Express led the way with $147,000 in political donations.
The site is already in preliminary working order, with first quarter 2004 disclosures from PACs available for viewing, but it will be serviceable in earnest as the second quarter reports flood in by July 12 and the initial disclosures of individual candidates are filed July 29, a week before the August primary election.
Also new, at www.tbi.state.tn.us, are individual criminal records from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. For $29 a pop, anyone can access the criminal backgrounds of those arrested for felonies or misdemeanors whose fingerprints were given to the TBI.
There is no known database cross-referencing names appearing in the election finance Web site with those appearing in the TBI's site, but we're sure that some enterprising opposition researcher somewhere is working on it. Just make the political punishment fit the crime, OK fellas?
He's got a little list
Lynn Greer, one of two Republican members of the Davidson County Election Commission, made a stink last week about the shoddy state of the commission's address verification program. Greer claimed to have discovered a number of problems with it, and, as Exhibit A, proffered a list of 52 voters registered to a parking lot on Seventh Avenue, only 10 of whom have even voted since 1992.
Greer caught some flak for raising the issue at a commission meeting without previous warning, and the heat came especially from Chairwoman Betty Nixon, who called Greer's actions "divisive," as though a group of people divided by design along partisan lines is going to be a pretty affair. Divisive or not, Greer may have spurred some movement in the right direction, helped along by a detailed story on other problems with the voter rolls in Monday's Tennessean that was pretty clearly spawned by Greer's efforts.
Come to think of it, we hate the sinner, too
Nashville's own Richard Land, in his capacity as president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has started something called the iVote Values Initiative "to help Christians examine critical issues" for this year's election. One way Christians can "examine" these issues, according to the official Web site (www.iVoteValues.com), is to visit the site of something called the Center for Reclaiming America, which, if you check out the "Homosexuality" link, seems to endorse castration and/or the death penalty for homosexuals. This is apparently the organization's position because of the statements and actions of the nation's "founders," including Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson, it should be said, also endorsed lotteries, of which, presumably, Land and his allies would vehemently disapprove. Guess it all depends upon whose ox is getting gored, or, in this case, whose testicles are getting lopped off.
In light of a recent Political Notes item criticizing the effort by Tennessee Department of Human Services inspectors to crack down on day care workers who leave children in vans, the department would like you to know that so far this year their folks have made 141 visits to centers around the state and discovered 38 violations resulting in at least five voluntary suspensions. One of these violations was indeed yet another child left alone in a van. This occurred in East Tennessee's Rhea County, which seems to be having a spectacularly bad public relations year.
@Tony Clifton: It only took a week and a half to ring my bell. Funny…
@P. (u) Wilson: I offer information and interesting news, you call me names. Name calling…
You can do it Pete. Feeding the trolls is pointless.
No pics of the thong wedgie? Damn!
Whatever, Gast. I could post stuff that reflects my attitudes all day and you'd never…