Tennessee representative continues business with shadowy campaign vendor amid investigations

Irene L. Joffman

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Despite a federal probe into Tennessee House corruption, Republican state Rep. Todd Warner continued undertaking small business with an Alabama marketing campaign seller joined to two other entities caught up in FBI and condition investigations.

Warner, a Chapel Hill Republican searching for re-election to a next expression, procured a lot more than $6,000 in advertising and marketing services this February from Dixieland Strategies, in accordance to his submitting with the point out Registry of Election Finance.

Requested Wednesday why he sought the providers of Dixieland Approaches yet again, Warner stated, “They accomplished me a wonderful career (sic).”

He claimed he did almost nothing completely wrong in selecting Dixieland all over again and produced a mailer exhibiting off their get the job done.

Williamson County Commissioner Jeff Ford of Spring Hill lately announced he is running for election as a Republican in Home District 92. Recently-aligned Residence districts put Spring Hill into District 92, environment up the race pitting Warner in opposition to Ford.

Warner declined to discover whom he deals with or irrespective of whether Dixieland Approaches is operate by Cade Cothren, the ex-main of team for former Dwelling Speaker Glen Casada, who is now trying to find election to the Williamson County clerk’s article.

But Dixieland Approaches makes use of the very same pre-sorted postal code out of Chattanooga, 383, as two other shadowy entities that popped up in late 2019, Phoenix Solutions and the Faith Family Independence Fund political action committee. Faith Spouse and children Liberty Fund used that postal code in Warner’s most recent marketing campaign mailers.

Former point out Rep. Robin Smith pleaded responsible in March to a federal wire fraud cost that in depth how Cothren established up a phony New Mexico-based mostly company termed Phoenix Alternatives to preserve lawmakers from discovering out he was working the seller. Smith and Casada pressured Republicans to do a lot more than $200,000 worthy of of organization with Phoenix Methods, purportedly operate by “Matthew Phoenix,” in return for kickbacks. Casada and Cothren have not been indicted.

Phoenix Methods operated equally to the Faith Family members Independence Fund political motion committee and Dixieland Procedures, established up through an out-of-condition PostNet box. Dixieland has a mailing address of 3331 Rainbow Generate Suite E, Rainbow Metropolis, Alabama, which is the spot for a PostNet business enterprise.

A former girlfriend of Cothren’s informed the Tennessee Registry of Election that he persuaded her to set up the Religion Relatives Independence Fund PAC and provide as treasurer so he could run it. Cothren also instructed her not to chat to Registry staff who called her inquiring about her participation in the PAC’s formation. Her sister was the chairman of the group.

Faith Family members Flexibility Fund utilised a donation from a North Carolina cafe owner – unable to be discovered by the Registry – for its seed revenue to pay out for assault ads against former Republican Rep. Rick Tillis, who missing to Warner in the 2020 election. Tillis employed an nameless Twitter account to criticize Casada and Cothren in the operate-up to Casada’s resignation amid a racist and sexist texting scandal involving Cothren.

Ultimately, Casada resigned in August 2019 after the Residence Republican Caucus gave him a vote of no assurance. Household Speaker Cameron Sexton then was elected to serve all through a specific session.

The Registry of Election Finance audited Warner’s campaign funds, which includes his expenditures with Dixieland Procedures, in 2021 soon after a Tillis campaign worker submitted a criticism alleging unlawful coordination in between Warner’s marketing campaign and the Faith Relatives Freedom Fund.

The Registry dismissed the issue in November 2021 soon after Warner was equipped to show where by he paid out the seller and been given the providers.

Warner, nonetheless, was less than investigation, along with Smith and Casada, immediately after FBI agents raided their homes and legislative places of work in January 2021. On the guidance of his lawyer, Warner has declined to explore the raid and investigation.

(Study Extra: Tennessee ethics monthly bill made to clamp down on legislative corruption however in will work)

The Registry board subpoenaed several legislators, which include Warner and Casada, to testify about what they know of the Faith Spouse and children Independence Fund in March. Casada mentioned he realized nothing about the entity, and he earlier explained to the Tennessee Lookout he experienced no relationship to Phoenix Solutions, nevertheless Smith’s guilty plea document exhibits he knew about the firm’s setup and took kickbacks.

Cothren refused to testify ahead of the Registry, invoking his Fifth Modification proper to not incriminate himself, and criticized the subpoena in a letter from his legal professional.

The Registry just lately turned the overall subject more than to the Williamson County District Attorney’s Business for an investigation into prospective legal penalties.

Irrespective of Warner’s determination to preserve performing small business with Dixieland Strategies, tiny about the entity can be discovered.

The Alabama secretary of state’s site has no registration for the firm, nor does Tennessee’s website.

Phoenix Answers, in contrast, filed a certificate of business in November 2019 in New Mexico and a number of days later in Tennessee, according to experiences.

Whether or not Dixieland Techniques is expected to file in Tennessee could count on how it was structured, as a sole proprietor or minimal liability organization.

(Examine Additional: Tennessee election registry wants lawyer normal to implement subpoena on former Household aide)

In accordance to the Lawyer General’s Office environment, a “international” corporation, just one that is not integrated under the Tennessee For-Gain Organization Company Act, is expected to receive a certificate of authority from the secretary of state prior to “transacting enterprise” in the point out. Some things to do are excluded, such as dealing with authorized function, holding board meetings, preserving bank accounts, offering merchandise by means of independent contractors and soliciting orders by mail. None of the items shown in condition regulation look to involve marketing campaign get the job done.

Greg Hazelwood, a Nashville resident who did volunteer function for Tillis in 2020, complained to the Registry board that Dixieland Procedures experienced no “company footprint” simply because he could not discover a bodily site, cell phone number or other facts showing it existed.

His complaint also contended Warner, through Dixieland Tactics, and Religion Spouse and children Flexibility Fund violated marketing campaign finance legal guidelines when they sent out political flyers with the very same postal code on the same working day.

Examine more at TennesseeLookout.com.

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