Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Democrats Pounce on A.J. McCall News

Posted By on Wed, Oct 20, 2010 at 1:28 PM

A.J. McCall
  • A.J. McCall
It didn't take the state Democratic Party long to jump on this story by Andy Sher, who finally revealed the open secret that the state Revenue Department was investigating whether A.J. McCall's family furniture and appliance store has been failing to pay sales taxes. In a press release, Democratic Party chairman Chip Forrester is demanding that all Republicans return McCall's campaign money.

Democrats have been peddling this story behind the scenes for months, hoping to embarrass McCall and all the Republicans to whom he has contributed campaign cash, but Revenue Department investigations are confidential and reporters couldn't confirm even that one was under way. McCall ran for a little while to succeed Mae Beavers in the state Senate, but dropped out abruptly. It was widely suspected at the time that he withdrew because of this investigation.

Now, it finally has come to light—helpfully for Democrats only days before the election—because the TBI and the FBI are themselves looking into Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr's handling of it.

Through his lawyer, McCall says his store pays its taxes and there's nothing to investigate. But some prosecutors apparently think Farr went easy on McCall and they asked the TBI and the FBI to intervene. Who knows what actually happened? As we've said, it's all confidential. Any civil settlement wouldn't be made public. Farr since has quit the Bredesen administration and endorsed Bill Haslam for governor.

Republican recipients of McCall's largesse include Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Beavers and Terri Lynn Weaver, a vulnerable state representative who works for one of the McCall furniture stores.

“I would urge any candidate who has received money from McCall PAC, or from any of the owners of the store in question, to give it back,” Forrester said. “This investigation now appears to involve the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Any candidate who keeps those campaign contributions cannot in good faith tell voters that he or she will not be obligated to special interests.”

Update: In a Tennessean interview, Farr denies wrongdoing. Chas Sisk reports investigators want "to see if Farr or revenue employees under his direction improperly ended criminal investigations in order to pursue confidential, civil settlements." More from Farr.

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