VOL. 131 | NO. 147 | Monday, July 25, 2016
Dark Money Ads Surface in 8th District Primary
By Bill Dries
As Republicans were either at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland or watching it on TV last week, “dark money” entered the crowded Republican primary for Tennessee’s 8th Congressional district.
(Daily News File/Bill Dries)
A group called Power of Liberty paid for radio and mail attack ads targeting Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, state Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown and Jackson businessman Brad Greer.
They are part of a 13-candidate field and the ads did not indicate any of the other contenders as favored over those three.
“Dark money” is a term for political third parties not running in a race who don’t back any candidate – but instead are critical of a candidate or candidates. The appeals often end by urging viewers or listeners to call the targeted political figure.
The registered agent for Power of Liberty is Nashville conservative Steve Gill. The group is not required to disclose its donors.
The Tennessean in Nashville reported that similar Power of Liberty attack ads also surfaced in the Republican primary for the 6th Congressional district targeting incumbent Diane Black.
Black faces a primary challenge from state Rep. Joe Carr.
Luttrell reacted first among the 8th district contenders calling it “heavy-handed outside influence.”
“We need a clean and positive campaign for Congress and it behooves all of us in this race to condemn this anonymous group and demand that they either get out of this race or disclose their donors,” he said.
Kelsey referred to Power of Liberty as “shady groups with secret donors.”
“Democrats and establishment Republicans have been attacking me for years, so I know how to fight back,” he wrote in a letter to supporters that urged them to be vocal in their support and to contribute to his campaign.
He also touted his endorsement by the American Conservative Union.
Meanwhile, Republican contender David Kustoff campaigns in Memphis and elsewhere in West Tennessee Wednesday with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 Republican Presidential contender.
Huckabee carried Shelby County and took the state in the 2008 Tennessee Presidential primary, although he lost the nomination that year to John McCain.
Kustoff's most recent television ads tout the conviction of former state Senator John Ford on corruption charges during Kustoff's tenure as U.S. Attorney with Kustoff mentioning Ford by name.
The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia begins Monday and Democratic state Rep. Raumesh Akbari of Memphis will be among those speaking at the gathering.
Akbari introduced presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during campaign appearances in the city during the Presidential primary season.
Despite the conventions occupying two prime weeks of the campaign season for those running in the Congressional and state legislative primaries, early voting in advance of the Aug. 4 election day continues through Saturday, July 30.
Through Thursday, 10,981 citizens had cast early ballots in Shelby County. That compares to 19,032 early votes cast in the first six days of early voting in the same election cycle four years ago. In the 2012 election cycle, the ballot featured statewide primaries for the U.S. Senate.
The August elections this year have no statewide primaries for Governor or U.S. Senate, something that only happens once every 12 years.