Lobbyist Tom Lee's clumsy dust-up
with Will Pinkston, a top aide to Gov. Phil Bredesen, reminded me of another time Lee's firm found itself on the wrong end of an inane political firestorm.
In 2005, three of Lee's colleagues at Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis emailed city council members in support of a controversial new Wal-Mart in southern Davidson County. Conveniently, they forgot to mention that their firm represented the big-box retailer. The Scene's
John Spragens wrote
how these three brilliant legal minds, Rose Drupiewski, Justin Wilson and John Faldetta, contacted the entire Metro Council (from Yahoo! accounts) to let them know how great the proposed Super Wal-Mart would be—even though they lived nowhere near the planned store. Their intentions were clear: to convince the Metro Council that they were merely concerned citizens who desperately wanted a Wal-Mart in their neighborhood, not hired guns surreptitiously shilling for their big-time client.
Unfortunately, they weren't as as surreptitious as they should have been...which is why you're reading about it now. It didn't help that two of them actually sent identical emails, which somewhat spoiled the appearance of a faux grassroots campaign. Incredibly, one of the attorneys explained to Spragens that she wasn't doing the bidding of her law firm—she just really, really would "like more Wal-Marts in the area.”
So why am I rehashing this now? I'm a little worried about the fine, upstanding lawyers at Waller. They're supposed to be the most politically savvy firm in town, lobbying for powerful, well-heeled interests, but they are developing a bit of a reputation for small-town lawyering. It was less than a year ago, during the mayor's race, that Waller attorney and lobbyist James Weaver tried to send Bob Clement and Karl Dean a confidential memo suggesting that they keep a possible new deal for the Nashville Predators under the radar. Instead, Weaver's memo ended up on the front page of The Tennessean
Now I'd like to talk directly to the partners at Waller, after the jump. Just me and them. Everyone else stop reading. You're on the honor system. So go outside and enjoy our beautiful spring weather and log off now, k?
All right, Waller, we have a little privacy. Now then. Listen, many law firms are good at keeping things quiet. Not you guys. In fact, you're lousy at doing anything on the sly. You don't seem to have so much as a conversation or an email dispatch without your words ending up in the pages of the Scene
and The Tennessean
. The Watergate plumbers were better at covert ops.
The problem is, we have to rely on sources to leak what you're doing. That means it can take a little time for your deeds to get back to us. It's usually just an hour or two, but even that can slow down a busy news day.
So from now on, could you do us a favor? Can you just leak to us directly? It will make the process a lot more efficient for everyone involved. We can make our deadlines—and in turn, you'll have more time to make up a spirited, eloquent denial.
Anyway, just think about it. Maybe it's not a good idea. I'm just talking out loud here. But if you have any thoughts on how we can form a partnership that benefits both of us, I'm all ears. Call me?
Have a nice weekend.