Reports Show Final PAC Contributions in Tennessee

By ERIK SCHELZIG | Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The final campaign finance reports before Tuesday's election show a last minute flurry of contributions from political action committees to legislative candidates and causes in Tennessee.

The political action committee run by the Tennessee Association of Justice, formerly known as the state Trial Lawyers Association, may have been the most active by giving $64,000 between Oct. 1 and Oct. 23.

State law blocks PACs from giving money in the final days before the election, so the most recent reports that were due by midnight Tuesday indicate the final amounts committees gave.

Other highly active PACs in October were one run by state real estate agents that gave $57,500; two related to the nursing home industry that gave $55,150 and the state Bankers' Association that contributed $35,000.

The committee run by Memphis-based FedEx Corp. has been the top contributor in the election cycle with $453,750, followed by the Tennessee Realtors Association with $428,522.

Among candidates, incumbent Sen. Rosalind Kurita, D-Clarksville, reported raising about $55,500 for her write-in campaign in District 22, including $6,000 from her own PAC.

Kurita was ousted as the Democratic nominee by party officials after her opponent, Clarksville attorney Tim Barnes, alleged election irregularities and heavy Republican crossover voting in his 19-vote loss. Barnes raised about $73,000 in the period. There is no Republican running for the seat that represents Montgomery, Cheatham and Houston counties.

The Senate District 22 race is being closely watched because Kurita has been an ally to Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, in the upper chamber where Democrats and Republicans each hold 16 seats.

Ramsey's political action committee RAAMPAC gave $169,000 in the brief period, including the maximum $15,000 it could give to Kurita's write-in campaign.

But the bulk of Ramsey's committee contributions – $148,000 – went to the state Republican Party, which has no limits on how much it can spend in support of key races. Committees run by politicians or parties don't have a cutoff date for contributions.

Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle's committee contributed $41,250 to candidates in tight Senate races since Oct. 1, including $15,000 toward independent Sen. Mike Williams of Maynardville.

Williams left the Republican Party in 2007 following a rift with Ramsey. He reported raising more than $110,000 in the brief reporting period and spending $154,000 in the Senate District 4 race.

Williams' Republican opponent, Church Hill attorney Mike Faulk, raised $103,000 – including $60,000 from the Republican Legislative Campaign Committee – and spent about $72,000.

Two other hotly contested Senate races are between Republican Ken Yager and Democrat Becky Ruppe in District 12 and between Democrat Randy Camp and Republican Rep. Dolores Gresham in District 26.

Yager out-raised Ruppe by about $86,000 to $48,475 in the period and also spent almost $236,000 to Ruppe's $122,000 in the race to represent the largely rural six-county district on the Cumberland Plateau.

Meanwhile, Camp raised about $151,000 and spent $253,500 to Gresham's $138,000 raised and $196,000 spent in the district that spans eight West Tennessee counties.

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