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Ford Backfire: Senate campaign bungles scandal
Jan 11, 2006 12:00 am
January 11, 2006
POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr.'s campaign for the U.S. Senate may have unwittingly given away the moral high ground on the biggest scandal to rock the GOP nationally in years.
The Ford campaign continued to see attacks Tuesday from GOP Senate candidate Bob Corker and later the National Republican Senatorial Committee over Ford campaign contributions Republicans insist are tied to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff's former law firm.
The firm — Greenberg Traurig — was prominently in the news again Tuesday in connection with the Abramoff scandal involving former GOP House Majority Leader Tom Delay and an attempt to pressure an Indian tribe to close a casino.
The Associated Press reported late Tuesday Delay attempted to pressure the Bush administration to close the Alabama-Coushatta tribe's casino shortly after a competing tribe and client of Abramoff's made a contribution to a Delay-run political action committee.
The Greenberg Traurig law firm — Abramoff's former employer — has been hit with a demand letter to return $50,000 to the Alabama-Coushatta tribe taken by an Abramoff run charity ostensibly to finance a golf trip for Congressmen who were going to help the tribe keep the casino.
Ford's campaign committees have accepted almost $4,000 from Greenberg Traurig attorneys over the years. The contributions would not matter so much if Ford had not challenged the GOP field to return campaign money from Abramoff and his associates before Ford's own donations became public.
'The records show a Ford donor is a documented member of 'Team Abramoff,'" an NRSC release screamed Tuesday.
'Congressman Ford should finally do what he asked others to do last week — fully disclose what Jack Abramoff and his associates gave him over the years and donate that money to charity immediately," Corker campaign manager Ben Mitchell said.
Ford spokesperson Carol Andrews continued the campaign's stance of refusing to accept the premise of the attack — that the contributions from Greenberg Traurig were tied somehow to Abramoff.
'Congressman Ford has not taken any of the corrupt Abramoff money," Andrews said in a written statement. 'For anyone to insinuate otherwise is dishonest."
Despite the denials, Ford's campaign because of the candidate's 'challenge" to the GOP field on the Abramoff funds is going to have a hard time using the election year GOP scandal to its advantage without bringing up its own Abramoff baggage. Ford supporters should be particularly dismayed as GOP primary candidate in the Senate race Van Hilleary has to account for thousands in much more direct Abramoff contributions.
An Alleged Affair to Remember
Ninth District State Sen. Jeff Miller ended one of the more painful — and personal — sideshows to the state's ethics scandals Tuesday by announcing he would not seek re-election and would step aside as Senate Republican Caucus chair.
Miller was in the middle of a divorce in his native Bradley County during most of the last legislative session where his wife alleged marital infidelity. The accusation and divorce were initially made the subject of press reports after Miller championed a sanctity of marriage bill last year.
The divorce papers and later a report in a Bradley County weekly newspaper accused Miller of having an affair with a woman on his staff — a state employee.
'The actions I am taking are in the best interest of our Caucus because the Caucus is bigger than any single individual," Miller said in a lengthy written statement issued Tuesday.
Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, commended Miller for his decision Tuesday in comments to reporters.
'I think that was an honorable thing for him to do given the circumstances in which he finds himself and the criticism he's received, and I commend him for it," Bredesen said. 'I think it was the right thing to do."
'I Would Like to Thank All the Little People"
Lebanon Mayor Don Fox recently received one of Nashville's less distinguished awards from alternative news weekly publication The Nashville Scene.
Fox was awarded a 'Boner Award" in a recent edition of the newspaper. The award is named in honor of former Nashville Mayor Bill Boner, a master of the political and public gaffe.
Of course, Fox won his Boner Award for his now legendary soliloquy on local radio where he branded members of the Tennessee General Assembly a 'maggot ball."
The comment came after legislators refused to pass a private act that would have seen the city's elections realigned with gubernatorial and presidential election cycles. The bill also would have extended the mayor's term by 13 months.