Big Money Is The Problem In Politics – My Race Edition

I have decided that I’m taking a stand against the influence of money in Knox County politics. I have written previously about how the current District 4 Commissioner raised about $78,000 in his race for the seat 4 years ago. I saw the amount of money he raised and from whom he raised it and I decided that I need to highlight this problem in my race.

Well, now I have data from the candidates running in the March 3 primary election for the Republican nomination for the County Commission, District 4 seat. All candidates have had to submit Financial Disclosure forms in January (Year End Supplemental) and in February (Pre Primary). They’re available for the public to view at the Election Commission website. Mine are there too, but I’ve also written about my finances here and here. So, it’s not just a theoretical exercise any more. Let me give you some numbers.

Between the two them (and not counting the loans they’ve given themselves), the two Republican candidates have raised almost $53,000. One of the candidates has a total of about 49 donors, with an average donation of $515 and the other has a total about about 56 donors with an average donation of $491. Between the two of them and their total 105 or so donors, they’ve had 41 donations of $500 and 18 donations of $1,000 or more.

That means, over half of their donations are the “big money” type of donations which I have sworn off. I won’t take big money donations. Heck, I’ve only taken one $5 donation to this point. I’m not not taking donations, but I just see too much downside to being a candidate who goes out seeking money from the rich and powerful in Knox County. I’m just not going to do it.

You know, all three of the candidates for the District 4 Commission seat have campaign websites. I have to admit that their websites are pretty polished and mine is a little more…not. But there’s another big difference between our sites. They have prominently placed on their sites “donate” buttons. You’ve not going to find anything like that on mine. It’s a little thing, but I think it’s important.

Aside from the amounts of money being raised by the Republicans in this race, there’s also a question of from whom that money is coming. I’ve been attending Commission meetings, so I’ve been able to see what kind of business is conducted there. And then I look at the people who donate to County Commission campaigns and I can do the math.

When you get a donation of more than $100, you have to include information about the person, including their occupation and employer’s name, if you can get it. I looked among the Republicans’ donors just for people who looked like they have a connection with development, real estate, or building. Between the two of them, about 39 of the 105 or so donors have this connection. And one of the candidates accounts for 29 of these 39, from his 56 total donors. 51%!!!

I’ve said previously that I believe the Republicans in my race are in it for non-cynical reasons. I’m not alleging anything shady or illegal on the part of the candidates. What I am saying is that they’re continuing in the fine tradition of politics in Knox County. Got get big checks to fund your campaign from the people who can afford $500 or $1,000 and who are inclined to give those amounts to Commission candidates. Considering the business of the Commission, it should not be a surprise that that particular Venn diagram includes a lot of developers and builders and real estate interests in Knox County.

There are certainly downsides to the path I’ve chosen, but you know for sure that campaign money is not going to influence me in any way. I’m not taking big money or Political Action Committee money. My career of public service has been focused on helping people who don’t have money. Who need help against moneyed interests. That’s what I want to do on the Knox County Commission. The Commission sorely needs some new voices. Someone who will pursue reasonable and responsible development, not development for the sake of developers. The Commission needs someone who will vote his conscience and not be influenced by anything other than what he thinks is the right decision. I believe I am that candidate. I am all about transparency and showing my work. Read any of the posts I’m putting on this website and you’ll see. I’m here for you.

Published by Todd Frommeyer for Knox County Commission

Retired Air Force JAG, former Navy Russian linguist, former consumer financial regulator, political junkie

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