Corruption in Tennessee

The photorealistic golden shape of Tennessee (series)

“There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than a government of incompetent, corrupt, or vile men.” ~Ludwig Von Mises

In a study published by a joint effort of Indiana University and the University of Hong Kong on April 25th, 2014, Tennessee was listed as the third most corrupt US State following a review of convictions of public officials in violation of federal corruption laws between 1976 through 2008. Only Louisiana and Mississippi ranked higher. The study further found that this corruption had an estimated cost of 5.2% of the states average expenditures or $1308 per citizen each year.

Tennessee has had no shortage of corruption scandals in the modern era, so lets recap some of the more infamous ones…

1977-1979

“Cash for Clemency” Scandal

  • Democrat Governor Ray Blanton is accused of offering paroles/pardons in exchange for cash. 52 inmates were pardoned, 24 of which were serving time for murder.
  • Nearly 900 officials were investigated
  • Parole/Pardon would cost a person $15,000
  • Blanton was never charged in the investigation, though three of his aides were
  • Blanton was later convicted on extortion and conspiracy to sell liquor licenses, and actually had the nerve to try to re-enter public office in a failed bid to run for Congress in 1988

1986

“Operation Rocky Top”

  • FBI Investigation into illegal activities in charity bingo and the illegal sale of bingo licenses
  • Investigation resulted in over 50 convictions and the arrest of several politicians, including Democratic State House Majority Leader, Tommy Burnett
  • Two politicians committed suicide over the affair before they had to testify, Tennessee Secretary of State Gentry Crowell and State Representative Ray Miller

2004-2007

“Operation Tennessee Waltz”

  • Investigation into Legislators accepting money to vote on certain pieces of legislation
  • 12 state and local officials brought to justice on bribery and extortion charges, including:
    • Democrat Senator John Ford
    • Democrat Senator Roscoe Dixon
    • Democrat Senator Kathryn Bowers
    • Democrat Senator Ward Crutchfield
    • Republican Representative Chris Newton

Recent Cases

  • Fentress County Sheriff Charles Cravens pled guilty to federal corruption and civil rights charges on April 20, 2017, in part for using his position to solicit sex from female inmates
  • Nashville Judge Casey Moreland was recently arrested by FBI agents on charges of bribery, witness tampering, and retaliation against a witness
  • Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold pled guilty to wire fraud, honest service fraud, and extortion in the “JailCigs” case and was sentenced to 50 months in prison
  • Republican Representative Jeremy Durham faced recent allegations of misappropriating campaign funds for personal use, coupled with the alleged sexual harassment of lobbyist, interns, and staff resulted in him being ousted from the Legislature

And there are many more, far too many to list here unfortunately…

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This was why Tennesseans Against Corruption was formed. In April of 2015, a small group of average citizens saw these abuses of power and said “Enough is Enough!” We weren’t satisfied with how local officials were handling corrupt practices, or rather how they were not handling them at all. So we started looking for ways that we could stand up against the decay in Government ourselves, and we discovered the Ouster Suit, a little known and seldom used tool etched into our State Constitution and codified in our State Laws. With an Ouster suit, 10 citizens can remove a corrupt Official from Office, restoring power to the People and Accountability to those who serve us. It is our desire and goal to teach other Tennesseans how to use this powerful tool for its intended purpose, to ensure Integrity in our public offices.

Corruption in politics will never be completely eliminated, but what we can do is lessen the degree and prevalence of it and its effects on us. Working together, we can make this a reality and ensure the best possible future for ourselves, our families, and all Tennesseans in the process.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

James Gann

Chairman, Tennesseans Against Corruption