Yes, TN Governor Can Pay For Political Advice Without Disclosing It

Governor Bill Haslam says he has paid Tom Ingram for political advice since he came into office in 2011. Credit: TN Photo Services via Flickr

Governor Bill Haslam says he has paid Tom Ingram for political advice since he came into office in 2011. Credit: TN Photo Services via Flickr

A campaign lawyer for Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s says the state’s top official has every right to pay a political advisor out of his own pocket without disclosing it. And on Wednesday, the state panel over campaign finance agreed.

Democrats filed a complaint after the governor admitted he paid high-profile lobbyist and campaign strategist Tom Ingram from his personal funds for two years. He has since put Ingram on his re-election campaign payroll.

Haslam’s attorney – Joseph Woodruff – argues that not everything that’s political can be characterized as campaigning.

“Even citizens who are elected to public office have a right to First Amendment protections, and that includes engaging in political activity, so long as it’s not campaign related.”

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance dismissed claims against Haslam in a 4-1 vote. The Tennessee Ethics Commission voted to reject a similar accusation last month.

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