VOL. 133 | NO. 122 | Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Complaint Targets Tennessee Governor Hopeful's Business Help
By JONATHAN MATTISE, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – A campaign finance complaint is questioning how a Republican hopeful for governor is getting political help from his businesses, among other concerns about how he's raising money.
The complaint filed Thursday with Tennessee's Registry of Election Finance claims Bill Lee is using his businesses to supplement his campaign without disclosure and beyond limits, including through Lee Company TV ads that feature him. Lee heads Lee Company, which provides services ranging from construction to plumbing.
There have been several campaign finance complaints filed so far in a testy GOP primary for governor, and the registry already decided against pursuing ones that targeted U.S. Rep. Diane Black and state House Speaker Beth Harwell. Businessman Randy Boyd rounds out the field of Republican front-runners.
The Lee campaign took the complaint as a positive sign.
"This is nonsense, clearly the other campaigns are seeing what we're seeing, and they're scared," said Lee campaign spokesman Chris Walker.
The complaint against Lee, filed by Dover resident Joe Darke, points out that Lee Company commercials have included Lee, while campaign ads have also touted Lee's company experience.
It speculates Lee is running company ads for a business expense deduction to avoid more taxes, and notes that Lee is the only candidate not to make public income tax return information. It suggests turning over the information to state and federal officials to investigate.
"The only explanation is that he wants to avoid paying income taxes on the money he's spending on his campaign," the complaint states.
Lee Company Chief Financial Officer Rob Ivy responded that the company's sole determinant for marketing activities is "is the need to promote our products and services in the market in furtherance of the company's business objectives."
The complaint also laments that Lee Company sponsored a shopping mall Santa Claus, then the Lee campaign retweeted the company's tweet about it, and the campaign did not report it as an in-kind contribution.
The complaint asserts in several other instances that Lee exceeded campaign donation limits, including through trusts, among other concerns.
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