VOL. 36 | NO. 33 | Friday, August 17, 2012
Donor, PAC accused of topping contribution limits
NASHVILLE (AP) - The state board that regulates campaign finance in Tennessee has launched an investigation to determine whether a Middle Tennessee health care investor used a political action committee he funded to skirt the law limiting campaign contributions.
The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance sent letters this week to Andrew Miller of Nashville and the Truth Matters PAC. The letters say the board is looking into whether Miller used the PAC as a conduit to exceed the $1,400 per election limit on individual donations to a single campaign.
Registry records show that Miller was the only contributor to the PAC, donating $71,000 to it in July. The PAC contributed to 10 legislative campaigns. Eight of the candidates, including three lawmakers, also reported receiving contributions totaling $11,300 this year from Miller.
If the investigation finds that the PAC was a conduit, the registry can levy fines that exceed the amount of th e donations against Miller, the PAC and its treasurer, Tracy Miller, who is Andrew Miller's brother. The campaigns also would be forced to return the donations.
The number of contributors to a PAC is a key factor in determining if it is a conduit.
Andrew Miller said Thursday that he had received the letter and would be responding to it. He said the PAC had only been open two weeks when it filed its first report to the election registry and it now has contributions from dozens of others that total more than $25,000.
"There were a lot of folks who had pledged to give, and it was a timing issue," Miller said.
The registry letter said the donations in question went to these winners in the Aug. 2 primary:
- Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby, who got $7,100 from the PAC and $1,400 from Miller.
- Rep. Jim Gotto of Nashville who got $5,000 from the PAC and $2,800 from Miller.
- Rep Tony Shipley of Kingsport, who got $7,100 from the PAC and $1,500 f rom Miller. Shipley won his race by only 11 votes.
- Courtney Rogers, who defeated Rep. Debra Maggart of Hendersonville in a high-profile race. Rogers got $5,800 from the PAC and $1,400 from Miller.
- Micah Van Huss, who beat Rep. Dale Ford of Jonesborough. Van Huss got $7,100 from the PAC and $1,400 from Miller.
The registry is also looking into donations of $7,100 from the PAC and $1,400 from Miller to three losing candidates. They are Rob Hathaway, who lost to Rep. Charles Sargent of Franklin, Scott Hughes, who was defeated by Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville and Rob Mortenson, who was running for an open Senate seat in Nashville.
The letter notes that the campaign reports sometimes identified Miller at one of two addresses and with slightly different first names and occupations.
Registry Executive Director Drew Rawlins said the investigation arose as part of his office's routine regulation of campaign finance. He said there had been no complain ts filed.
Miller has been an active Tennessee political donor this year. He acknowledged contributing more than $180,000 to Citizens 4 Ethics in Government and $80,000 into the Congressional Elections PAC, which then spent heavily against Republican U.S. Rep. Diane Black. Miller was the former campaign finance chairman for Black's opponent, Lou Ann Zelenik. Miller and Zelenik were both affiliated with the anti-Islam Tennessee Freedom Coalition.
State records show Miller this year also donated $40,000 to the Leaders of Tennessee PAC, $50,000 to the Tennesseans 4 Ethics in Government and $5,000 to the JUDDPAC.