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In the student rezoning case in federal court, Metro's lawyers pop out of their seats with objections at the mere mention of the possibility the Chamber of Commerce might have tried to influence the school board. It's as if they actually think the judge will believe that the Chamber didn't push for the new student assignment plan. Please.
The Chamber gave great wads of campaign cash to supporters of the rezoning plan. It even endorsed and funded an obscure candidate named Cordenus Eddings to run against Ed Kindall, one of the plan's more vigorous opponents. It was the first time he faced a challenger in more than two decades on the board.
The reclusive Eddings, who wouldn't talk to reporters and named a convicted felon as her campaign treasurer, lost but made a race out of it with Chamber cash.
The Chamber really loves Antioch's Karen Johnson. She was the only black board member to vote for the plan, which passed 5-4.
For her 2006 campaign, she took $10,500 from business PACs--almost two-thirds of what she raised altogether. Johnson took $2,500 from the Chamber of Commerce's Success PAC, $5,000 from the Excellence for Public Education PAC and $3,000 from the Fund for Nashville Families PAC. David Fox, another key vote on the school board for the rezoning plan, took $10,000 from two of these PACs.
These PACs, despite their inspiring names, are actually merely fronts for extremely wealthy business people and convenient ways to circumvent contribution limits.
The rich guys can dump enormous, unlimited sums of cash into the PACs, which in turn give to the candidates. The law limits PAC contributions to $5,000 for each candidate, so the PACs give big donations to each other in a kind of shell game, and then they all give to the same candidates. That way, Johnson could take $10,500 from essentially the same rich guys. Health care executive Thomas Cigarran and Orrin Ingram of Ingram Industries are probably the biggest donors to these three PACs.
We bet Johnson would like more of that campaign cash. Yesterday, Won Choi, a political activist, testified about his conversation with Don Majors, a member of the task force that recommended the rezoning plan. According to Choi, Majors said Johnson voted for the rezoning plan because she wanted the Chamber's support for her run for juvenile court clerk. She's running for clerk now.
And why does the Chamber think it's so important to stop busing north Nashville's children into Hillwood's schools?
Metro Council member Jerry Maynard may have provided insight into that question with his testimony about his private conversation with Chamber president Ralph Schulz. It took place at an airport on a Chamber-sponsored trip to a Miami conference. Maynard testified Schulz said the rezoning plan aimed to remove children living in north Nashville's housing projects from Hillwood's schools because they "do not share the same values" of parents in the white suburbs.