As I’ve mentioned, I’m not taking big money donations and I’m not taking donations from Political Action Committees (PACs). While I’m not really taking any donations to speak of, when I talk of “big money,” I mean the $500 and $1,000 checks that a lot of the candidates for Knox County Commission receive from their donors. In a local race such as mine, the donation per election is $1,600 (the limit for statewide races is higher). Primary and general elections count separately for these purposes.
On the other hand, PACs can donate more per election than can individuals – up to $8,100 per election. When I started this campaign, I was surprised by the number of PACs which donate to candidates for the Commission. Most don’t come close to the limit (with one exception), but there are a fair amount of players. I looked back through the last couple of election cycles and found:
- Building Industry PAC
- Tennessee Realtors PAC
- Tennesseans for Bicycling
- Sevier County Good Government PAC
- FOP (which I think is Fraternal Order of Police, since they have a PAC)
- Rural Metro Employee PAC
- Knox County Education Association PAC
- Making A Reasonable Stand PAC (This is what was listed on the candidate financial disclosure forms). The address matches the Marsha Blackburn affiliated Making a Responsible Stand for Households in America (MARSHA) PAC. In addition, I was able to match a donation to one of the Knox County Commission candidates with an expenditure on the MARSHA federal PAC disclosure forms. So, I figure, even though the names don’t match exactly, this is PAC in question.
- McPAC (affiliated with Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally)
- Farris Mathews Bobango, PLC PAC (which appears to be Farris, Mathews, Branan, Bobango and Hellen PAC – the company appears to be a lobbying firm)
- BWSC PAC (Which appears to be Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon PAC – Barge Design Services, an engineering, architecture and construction management services company.)
The biggest players in the County Commission races from the above PACs (as best I can tell) are the Building Industry PAC and the Tennessee Realtors PAC. They have given to many of the Commission candidates’ campaigns in the last couple of cycles. The biggest donor in money looks to be the Making a Reasonable Stand PAC, which gave $5,000 each to two different candidates for Commission and to Mayor Jacobs. The Commission candidates won if you were interested. McPAC, Farris Mathews Bobango, PLC PAC and BWSC PAC gave to Mayor Jacobs’ campaign, but not to any of the Commission candidates as far as I can tell.
I’ve written about PACs before. You can read that post here. I’ve also done a couple of interviews with PAC affiliated organizations. I wrote about the interview with the Knoxville Area Association of Realtors here. This organization seems to help direct Tennessee Realtors PAC money to candidates in the Knoxville/Knox County area. I also sat down with the Knox County Education Association, which has given PAC donations in the past. I was looking back in the archive and don’t see where I wrote about that interview. It was a pretty good interview and I think I’m in line with their ideas, but, again, I’m not doing PAC money.
The reason I’m coming back to this is twofold. First, I found out some additional information about the PACs. I probably just didn’t dive deep enough before. And I know more of the players now. But, second, in the latest financial disclosures, I saw that my opponent – Kyle Ward – received his second $250 donation from the Building Industry PAC for the primary election. I previously talked about how the Republicans in my race have gotten a lot of their campaign donations from moneyed interests and people with an interest in the outcome of the development that the Commission often votes on. You can read that here.
Since the Building Industry PAC is back on my radar, I thought it might be worth a little deeper dive to see what they’re about. Based on the data available with a simple search at the Tennessee Online Campaign Finance website, this PAC seems to be an arm of the Home Builders Association of Greater Knoxville (HBAGK). They also seem to have some connection to the Housing Industry PAC in Nashville (based on how much money they send to them). The database has reports from this PAC back to 2004, so they’ve been around a while. They have given donations to plenty of Commissioners and other politicians, including $1,500 to Mayor Jacobs during his 2018 campaign.
As I’ve said before, this stuff is legal. I don’t like it. I’d like to see it change, but this is the system we’ve got. I’m not alleging anything nefarious on the part of Kyle Ward or any other recipients of big money or PAC money in their campaigns. But what this money means is access to the candidate and access to the representative. Or the Commissioner. Or the Mayor. Or the fill in the blank. I saw it in the fact of the interviews I went to with the KAAR and KCEA. I knew I wasn’t taking their money, but that’s not the case for everyone. And, after the election, do the representatives of these PACs get a direct line to you in order to talk about their pet issue? Do you feel like you have to take the call from the guy or gal who wrote you a $1,500 check during your campaign? I think money skews how it works. And the big money donors and the PACs have an agenda. Obviously. Maybe everyone has an agenda. But, if it’s the people with the money that get access to the candidate or the Commissioner, then it’s their agenda that gets heard. That’s not how it should work.
So, here’s MY pitch. I’m not taking big money and I’m not taking PAC money. There is a clear difference between me and my opponent in this regard. YOUR agenda is my agenda. I’m taking a stand against the influence of money in Knox County politics. I’m here for the people of Knox County who can’t afford to write $500 or $1,000 checks to a candidate’s campaign. Remember, the election is August 6. Please vote, even if you’re not voting for me. And stay safe out there!