The state’s former Democratic Party chairman is filing complaints against Gov. Bill Haslam today for refusing to disclose how much money he paid political advisor Tom Ingram.
“He is asking us to trust him on this secret relationship with a high powered special interest lobbyist. Nobody is above the law and that is why I’m filing this ethics charge,” said Chip Forrester, who stepped down as party chairman early this year and is now a Nashville political organizer.
Forrester (pictured) is filing the complaints today, dropping one off at the Tennessee Ethics Commission and mailing the other to the Registry of Election Finance. The Ethics Commission deals with complaints behind closed doors, although complaints to the Registry of Election Finance are heard publicly.
Haslam has paid Ingram privately for his consulting services and has refused to divulge the amount until switching him to the governor’s reelection campaign account this summer. The governor’s spokesman has said the campaign pays Ingram $5,000 a month now, but would not comment on whether that amount mirrored previous payments.
“It’s important that people understand what the governor is doing, and the issue of accountability for an elected official is a higher standard than someone in private life,” Forrester said to reporters Thursday.
“All through his administration, there have been efforts to reduce transparency and make it difficult for people to understand,” he added. “It’s not just this particular incident that concerns me, but it’s this pattern of secrecy and unwillingness to be transparent about what’s going on.”
Forrester rejected suggestions that his complaints are politically motivated, saying, “I have read this story like every other Tennessean, and it bothers me that our governor is not willing to be transparent about a very powerful relationship where there seems to be large sums of money.”
The governor's office declined to comment beyond saying, "The governor is aware of the filing." Haslam talked about it to reporters in June.