PAC Men: State incumbents get healthy dollars from political lobbies

By Thomas Wilson

   Doing public service takes private support.
   A lot of it.
   State incumbents representing Carter County in the Senate and House have gobbled up substantial support by way of campaign contributions from several individuals and political action committees (PAC) based in Nashville and outside Tennessee.
   Incumbent state Rep. Ralph Cole reported receiving $47,750 for the Jan. 1 to July 22 reporting period in his financial disclosure statement submitted to the Carter County Election Commission.
   His financial disclosure statement stated that the 2002 campaign contributions were added to the $44,085 existing balance in Cole's campaign account. He reported spending $15,630 of total contributions with over $75,000 remaining unspent.
   Ralph Cole's 84 itemized campaign contributions exceeding $100 included $25,000 donated from 43 political action committees. The largest PAC contributors were $2,000 total from the T-PAC for Education, Tennessee Bankers and Tennessee State Employees.
   Incumbent Sen. Rusty Crowe reported bringing in $51,529 between Jan. 1 and July 22 while spending $36,720 during the reporting period, according to his campaign financial disclosure statement submitted to the Washington County Election Committee.
   That amount added to $30,000 remaining in his campaign war chest held over from the 1998 election.
   Crowe's 61 itemized contributions totaled $46,924 with just over $28,000 coming from 28 PACs ranging from the Concerned Auto Retailers to Tennessee Nurses, according to his financial disclosure statement.
   The three-term senator also picked up a $5,000 donation from Tennessee Doctors PAC, $3,000 from the Tennessee Teacher's Association, $3,500 from Lawyers Involved for Tenn., and $2,500 from the Tennessee Bankers and Tennessee Health Care Association, according to his statement.
   State financial disclosure law requires donations of over $100 for local and state candidates to be itemized, identifying individuals and PACs by name, address, amount of the donation and date of the contribution.
   Both incumbents also received PAC donations from Tennessee chiropractors, Realtors, pharmacists, psychiatrists, radiologists and Sprint telephone employees.
   All contributions made by political action committees, excluding political party PACS, cannot exceed $75,000 per election for any candidate for the Senate, House and local public officials, according to state election law.
   Those amounts of contributions from political party PACs cannot exceed $40,000 for a Senate candidate and $20,000 for a House or local candidate.
   The largest private contributors to Ralph Cole's re-election campaign included R.T. "Rab" Summers of Summers-Taylor, fellow area construction businessman Gerald Thomas of Johnson City, Billy Chandler of Elizabethton, B.K. Mount of Mountain City, and Justin P. Wilson of Nashville who donated $1,000 each.
   His remaining private contributors included 10 Johnson City residents and seven from Elizabethton.
   Crowe's private donations also included $1,000 from Lt. Gov. John Wilder and fellow Republican Sen. Bill Clabough of Maryville.
   Locally, Crowe picked up individual donations of $1,000 from Grant Trivett of Johnson City, $500 from Joe LaPorte of Citizens Bank in Elizabethton, and $200 from North American Corp. President Charles K. Green.
   The Senate Republican Caucus PAC threw $7,000 in support behind Crowe while Ralph Cole reported receiving $3,750 from the House Republican Caucus.
   Kevin Cole, who is challenging Crowe in the Republican primary on Aug. 1, reported $25,623 of total campaign contributions amassed between April 18 and July 22 with $18,224 spent in his disclosure statement filed with the Washington County Election Commission.
   He also reported one loan of $3,000 and $5,197 in itemized campaign obligations remaining as the primary campaign entered its final week.
   Ralph Cole's Republican primary opponent attorney Jerome Cochran reported $11,440 in contributions with a shade over $6,000 spent in his disclosure statement.
   Cochran picked up a $5,000 donation from the Equal Opportunity Education Project PAC in Nashville, as well as private contributions of $800 from Stuart Anderson of Franklin and $250 from Barry Brown of Gallatin, according to his disclosure statement.
   Kevin Cole received $2,000 from Insurpac Tennessee based in Nashville, but the majority of his itemized $100-plus contributions were donated by Carter and Washington County residents, according to his statement.
   The Johnson City businessman picked up support from two Tri-Cities area construction magnates, receiving $1,000 contributions from Summers and James J. Powell of Powell Construction in Johnson City, according to his disclosure report.
   Kevin Cole's contributor list also had several names familiar to Carter Countians.
   County Attorney George F. Dugger of Elizabethton gave the Cole campaign $500. A.D. Fletcher of Stoney Creek contributed $300 as did Christine McKeehan and Clyde Broyles, both of Elizabethton. Elizabethton Attorney Bill Hampton also dropped $250 on the Cole campaign.
   Political Action Committees donating to both Ralph Cole and Crowe occasionally crossed paths.
   Lawyers Involved for Tennessee, Tennessee Bankers, the Sprint telephone company's PAC in Raleigh, N.C., and Tennessee Radiologists were a few lobby groups that donated to both Crowe and Ralph Cole.
   State law specifies that a House or local election candidate may only use $20,000 of his or her personal money to fund his or her campaign. For a Senate candidate, the personal money limit is $40,000, under state law.
   A candidate may keep all unspent campaign contributions when he or she retires or loses an election, according to state campaign finance law.