Dean camp financially backed 'grassroots' pro-tax hike coalition

Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 11:31pm

The pro-property tax increase group that called itself a “grassroots coalition” supporting key investments for Nashville’s future received $26,000 from Mayor Karl Dean’s campaign coffers, his mid-year financial disclosure reveals.

Moving Nashville Forward — which rallied support for the mayor’s 53-cent property tax hike in advance of the council’s final approval on June 19 — collected donations from others as well, former Metro Councilman Erik Cole, who led the organization’s efforts, told The City Paper. But the mayor’s contribution was the largest.

“It was the majority of it,” Cole said of Moving Nashville Forward’s financing. “There’s no doubt it was substantial.”

For some, the mayor’s campaign committee contribution has raised questions whether the group was more an offshoot of the mayor’s political apparatus than an organic, citizen-led organization.

“It was an extension of the mayor’s office,” Metro Councilman Robert Duvall said of Moving Nashville Forward, an organization that announced its creation two weeks after Dean proposed the city’s first tax increase in seven years. “It was nothing but a front organization to promote the mayor’s tax-and-spend bill.”

Still, others have no issue with the mayor’s investment. “The mayor has a campaign fund that he has the right to spend however he wishes,” At-Large Councilman Ronnie Steine said. “Generating public education about an issue seems to me a perfectly appropriate use of that money.”

Moving Nashville Forward did not organize as a political organization and is therefore not required to submit its list of contributors to the Davidson County Election Commission. None of its membership registered as Metro lobbyists either.

Rather, Cole said the group is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit and would be filing a financial report with the Internal Revenue Service at the appropriate time. He was unable to provide The City Paper with a full list of Moving Nashville Forward donors but said it represents the various stakeholders who publicly supported Dean’s tax increase. (Efforts by The City Paper to locate the group’s nonprofit certification online were unsuccessful.)

Moving Nashville Forward originated on May 14 with a press conference hosted by three of its members, including Cole, who issued an “invitation to any and all who want to join the effort.”

Leading up to the council’s definitive tax hike vote, the group’s activities included encouraging citizens to email council members to vote for the mayor’s property tax increase. The coalition also rallied supporters to pack the council chambers for the budget’s public hearing.

“I think the mayor has the right to spend his campaign contributions however he wants,” said Councilman Josh Stites. “If that includes lobbying for a tax hike, he’s obviously free to do so.”

Duvall, the mayor’s most outspoken tax increase opponent and a Republican candidate for state House, said, “I’ll defend his right to do it even though I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.

“It misleads the general public, who think there’s a lot more people out there supporting the organization than there really is,” he said. “Then they find out it’s supported by one man.”

Dean’s financial disclosure lists Moving Nashville Forward’s address as 150 Third Avenue South, Suite 2800, which is the address of the law firm Bass, Berry & Sims. Dean’s treasurer Leigh Walton is an attorney there.

Cole said Bass, Berry & Sims provided pro bono legal work for Moving Nashville Forward. 

Cole said his group used money primarily on mail, phone calls and staff time — all aimed to “gin up support.” He said he “couldn’t speculate” how much money Moving Nashville Forward collected in total without the appropriate documentation in front of him.

Despite the mayor’s substantial financial support, Cole said he believes Moving Nashville Forward constituted a genuine “grassroots” effort. “None of it was paid turnout,” he said of the Metro employees, teachers, business leaders and others who showed up at the council chamber to support the tax increase.

“I think the turnout, and the people that were involved and did the day-to-day work of calling the council and working through the events we held, were community folks from all across the city,” Cole said. “That was the goal, to really bring them together on this issue.”

In the end, whether or not Moving Nashville Forward tipped the scale, the mayor enjoyed overwhelming support for the tax increase, collecting 32 out of 40 votes, even while other cities have struggled to increase tax revenue during a struggling economy.

As for Dean’s campaign finance report, along with Moving Nashville Forward expenditure, the mayor also delivered $27,000 to Peter D. Hart Research Associates, the Washington-D.C. based Democratic polling group that surveyed Nashvillians on the looming tax hike last winter.

In all, the mayor spent $64,000 between Jan. 16 and June 30. With no more mayoral elections ahead of him, term-limited Dean reported $50,000 on hand. 

26 Comments on this post:

By: Shadow63 on 7/26/12 at 12:16

Councilmen who voted for the tax increase need to go.

By: whitetrash on 7/26/12 at 4:34

This article is much to do about nothing. Robert Duvall wouldn't have said anything if the Mayor used his campaign money to attempt to defeat the property tax increase which was the side Duvall was on.

Why didn't Dominy and Duvall use their campaign contribution to defeat the property tax increase?

By: Ask01 on 7/26/12 at 4:39

Whatever is required, I suppose.

At least during Mayor Dean's first term, there was always the possibility, however remote, he could be voted out.

Safely elected to a second, and thankfully, last term, Mayor Dean will feel free to inflict whatever he wishes upon Nashville's citizens.

The 'justifications' for Mayor Dean's property tax increase included the usual tripe about supporting education and public safety, subjects ignored and seemingly unimportant until needed to shake down citizens suffering through the worst recession in decades, while offering tax breaks to businesses having done nothing to alleviate the economic situation.

I can't wait to see the improvements at my daughters school. I will be watching to see if the follow through matches the whine factor, loudly berating the mayor and council if neglected. Again.

Likewise, I expect some sidewalks where I live, something also long neglected. The time has arrived to spend some money away from downtown, supporting those who have given so much to build politicians dream monuments.

Whatever does happen, which we all really know will be to support downtown businesses, sports, and other interests not benefitting the general populace, watch and be ashamed Nashville voters. The electorate had the opportunity to throw our spendthrift mayor from office and failed. Now we have to live with him and a mostly sock puppet city council.

You get what you voted for.

I am just thankful I can say I voted against Karl Dean both times and will vote against him when he runs for any other political office.

By: OHSMAN74 on 7/26/12 at 5:29

I find it admirable that Karl Dean would spend money that could have been spent advancing his political career on a cause that he genuinely believes was necessary in the best interests of the city. Kind of like teachers buying supplies for students out of their salaries.
Ask01, maybe you don't know when we're lucky enough to have a good mayor. Maybe you can draft Bill Boner to run again? We have been so fortunate to have had good mayors for several years that it's easy to fail to appreciate them. Take a look at other cities' problems with their mayors. Then look at our "problem"; the mayor is unselfishly spending campaign money to advance the city's best interests. Even his opponents are not challenging his right to make this contribution to this organization; which included other public spirited contributors.
It's amazing the things that people can find to criticize. No wonder it's hard to get good people to run for office.

By: treehugger7 on 7/26/12 at 6:09

I second OHSMAN74. With the exception of Boner, we have had incredible mayors. I moved here when Fulton was mayor, and I was amazed at how well the city functioned. What a contrast to the statehouse at the time, with the Blanton escapades. Dean has little to gain by this, unless he is aiming for a legislative office. Grow up , people! We need a tax increase to continue our progressive growth. It is a small increase with great rewards.

By: producer2 on 7/26/12 at 6:45


By: Jughead on 7/26/12 at 6:53

Dean is as corrupt as they come---and, an Obama-lovin' liberal socialist. Hope you 'tards in Davidson enjoy the tax-n-spend PC culture. It's doing great in Greece, Spain, and Portugal.

By: govskeptic on 7/26/12 at 7:31

Mayors Dean and Bloomberg want to help you out that's all. Throw down
that soda, get out there walking, pay your taxes, and stop complaining.
If that's not possible at least "Pay your taxes".

By: JohnGalt on 7/26/12 at 7:39

Herr Dean's group didn't immediately fully disclose its cash contributions and monetary support for the tax increase "grassroots" support group. I'm shocked! Absolutely shocked!

By: sharko20 on 7/26/12 at 8:55

He is now working on his legacy the BRT, bus rapid transit, coming to a neighborhood near you. The first route will cost $200 mil with the Feds paying $75 mil of the tab. The question is where will he get the rest of the funding? The first route is part of a $5 billion plan.

By: budlight on 7/26/12 at 9:14

Shadow63 on 7/26/12 at 1:16
Councilmen who voted for the tax increase need to go.

And council women

Ask01 wrote: "Likewise, I expect some sidewalks where I live, something also long neglected. The time has arrived to spend some money away from downtown, supporting those who have given so much to build politicians dream monuments."

Yeah, we're gonna get 50' here and 50' there or 20' here and 20' feet there. The sidewalks to no-where. They will be handicapped accessible, but they will not connect to anything - anywhere.

Oh please Lord, let my husband get a job in ANOTHER STATE! SOON! I'm so tired of the money talking in Nashville. Usually the saying goes "money talks, and nobody walks" - and in this case it's true. No sidewalks. Just stupid, unused bike paths where the occasional left wing nut cake rides their bike, disobeys all the vehicle laws and dares a care to hit them. Please, a job someplace else --- soon.

Music City used to be Music City. Now it's Dean-ville. Go away Karl. OK, you people, get ready. He's going to run for Governor next. Remember, I warned you all. then it will be Pressssidente'!

By: Left-of-Local on 7/26/12 at 9:19

Duvall and Dominy are the latest toolbag right-wing jerk-offs to make names for themselves on the council. They can sit and spin. So can all the children in this city like to whine about reality.

I am so SICK or these whiney posts for the ignorant masses. Facts to get over or go move to a deserted island:

- TAXES HAPPEN. Suck it up.
- Government runs off taxes. And is run BY politicians. Sorry. Get over it.
- People who promise not to raise taxes are making a foolish statement.
- Dean did that. He was wrong. You can't keep growing a city just with the cuts he made. Sucks to be him.
- Sucks to be a homeowner.

... except your dumb ass should have bought a small enough home that you could shoulder a tax increase. Maybe next time your greed for a big house will be more cautious.

By: FCappas on 7/26/12 at 9:25

Thank you Robert Duvall and Duane Domini for truly representing us, the majority (your constituents) in your respective districts. I don’t think that we needed the property tax hike. Eliminating the unnecessary spending, the fraud and abuse of government programs and projects, increasing employee’s productivity, and getting rid of non-productive workers would have given you the money needed without having to reduce the police force or teachers. Robert Duvall, you have our votes on your run for the TN House of Representatives August 2012. Thank you.

By: Jughead on 7/26/12 at 9:56

@Left-of-local: I hope fire ants devour your disgusting communist balls during the revolution. Ignorant, uneducated sluts like you are the reason democracies and freedom fail.

By: FaceBook:Emmett... on 7/26/12 at 10:26

Dean is a crook. It's all a shell game to cover his gang's thefts from the citizens.

By: seeworthy on 7/26/12 at 1:29

I agree with OHSMAN74, treehugger7, and producer2. Dean spending some of his campaign funds to help educate Nashvillians about the services this (still relatively low) tax increase would provide was a good-hearted move. But some folks will translate almost anything -- even a generous, good-hearted move -- into corruption. Maybe they just can't relate to anything else. I like the comparison OHSMAN74 made to teachers who buy supplies for their students... both are generous acts, but educating grown-ups always somehow gets labeled "politics". I became part of that pro-tax hike movement myself, by defending it, and nobody had to pay me. I just thought it made sense. That's grassroots.

By: struggler on 7/26/12 at 1:45

Karl Dean is nothing special as suggested above... he's a typical deceptive, under the table, manipuliative politician. He wouldn't take his tax increase that "is best for the progress of our city" to the people of that city because he knew it would not pass. Not because of the typical lib argument that "people are too dumb to know what's good for them'... no... because people do not see wise fiscal choices made by metro - and people are tired of the same tripe about "underfunded schools and public safety". He doesn't trust the same citizen's he claims to want the best for. He is typical, he is an elitist liar, and sadly every family in Davidson county suffers his brand of greed and manipulation. To the dude who said "Taxes happen", what a lazy point of view. You are willing to give up your and other's finances so that you don't have to think and act for yourself... lazy... and that is why people like Dean appeal to people like you. "Schools and Safety will get better because Karl Marx Dean said so - and I am paying more taxes - so it has to be true".... until the next time they want more money, and those very issues still need even MORE money... Lazy, unthinking people = a mayor like Karl Dean. My family is definitely looking to move, and I will take my productive, law abiding family and my kids who raise the atheltic and academic status of each of the school they attend to a more family friendly community, Davidson Co. has sold out to the progressive agenda that feeds on the productive for money and on the lazy for support. Karl is a bad bad guy, surrounding himself with young progessives who have sold their souls.

By: jimmie on 7/26/12 at 2:45

The cole family takes home more metro taxpayer dollars than deans does.

By: jimmie on 7/26/12 at 2:45

By: Ask01 on 7/26/12 at 5:33

I suspect, always have in fact, those so infatuated with Mayor Dean's questionable leadership must stand to gain directly from his initiatives, otherwise they would be siding with the average citizen just trying to survive.

You know who I mean. The working person who most likely will derive zero benefit from any of Mayor Dean's "accomplishments."

I am glad to see there are still some responsible citizens who recognize the smoke and mirrors employed to manipulate the public. The same ones who were angry the Mayor and Metro Council refused to allow a referendum on the MCC. The same citizens who saw the cowardly manner in which our 'leader' proposed a tax increase just under the threshhold to trigger a vote.

I am still very proud of the fact I voted against Mr. Dean both times and will continue to vote against him any opportunity I encounter.

By: JayBee56 on 7/26/12 at 9:47

Great posts Ask01, struggler and budlight. "Grassroots" yet bought with the mayor's money. A conflict of interest. They take the people's money, yet don't want the people to have a say in taxes or how their city is run. We can do better as a city, but we have to quit electing people who are elitist - who think they know better than their "subjects". They'd rather we just pay the taxes and shut up. That's not going to happen. We will fight against it until this city government has some accountability and rids itself of the corruption.

By: 4gold on 7/27/12 at 7:12

Well Duh! Who didnt know the tax supporters were not paid performers? The metro employees that showed up to support their own 4% raises in the pretence that ihigher taxes were in Nashvilles best interest. Dean is a 1%'r He has no idea what is going on in the real world. He sits among those in Washington that think $250,000. a year is middle class. I have lived in my Davidson Co. home for 22 yrs. My property tax has multiplied times 6. My salary has not. Name one convention center in the US that is not in the red. Council thinks it will move Nashville forward? It may make Mariot some money but it just keeps costing me.

Go Dores, Preds, Titans! Go Nashville!

By: Left-of-Local on 7/27/12 at 8:17

Aw, I got a shout-out from Jughead! I feel special now. Enlightened. Wonder which of the councilmen he's related to? Such personal offense taken. Oh well. On to progress.

By: East37206 on 7/27/12 at 11:34

Deputy Mayor Greg Hinote with his puppet hands at work again. Not only Dean "campaign" cash, but he also uses various Metro budget funds to do the same kind of work.

Would be nice if I could just sell whatever I wanted to the public via "grassroots" shell fronts and PR campaigns too.

Pure politician at work.

By: Shadow63 on 7/28/12 at 1:09

OHSMAN74 - "I find it admirable that Karl Dean would spend money that could have been spent advancing his political career"
Siwwy wabbit - This IS a career advancing gambit. How many teachers wouldn't vote for a guy who gave them a ten grand raise. How many cops and firemen would object to their union donating to Dean's campaign? Dean's final term was wholly devoted to "Build a career" endeavors.
Someone offered that tax protestors should have bought lesser homes and quit bitching about taxes. My mortgage has been paid off for over twenty years, however it costs me more now than when it was originally purchased. So, to that person, shutup because you don't know what you are talking about.

By: MetalMan on 7/29/12 at 8:01

Left-of-Local, the only "progress" you're on to is the ultra-liberal agenda to run this coutry into a third world Socialist state run by idiots like Dean and Yobammy.