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Beavers counters Rochelle ad campaign
Oct 06, 2006 12:00 am
A paid political advertisement accusing Sen. Mae Beavers of lying about her true residency and refusing to cooperate with state investigators is being called "a bold-faced lie" by the Beavers campaign.
The advertisement, paid for by Bob Rochelle for Senate, hit local television stations Tuesday morning. It accuses Beavers of lying on her voter registration and building records, then subsequently taking the "Fifth Amendment" in refusing to be interviewed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, referring to a 2002 investigation which centered around questions of whether Beavers truly resided in the 57th House district where she was a state representative at the time.
No charges were ever brought against Beavers in the investigation, which Beavers said was instigated by the state Democratic Caucus in an effort to knock her out of the 2002 race, when she claimed Rochelle's former seat in District 17 after Rochelle bowed out of the race.
"This is a real act of desperation," Beavers said at a press conference at her Mt. Juliet campaign headquarters. " … I know for a fact it was purely political."
But Rochelle said the report issued by special prosecutor Jerry Estes shows the decision not to prosecute the case "was based on the technical difference of burden of proof in the case. … If it were brought in a different type of circumstance, the outcome could be different.
"Unless she acts quickly to come clean on this issue and apologize to the public, that she's destroyed whatever moral authority she might have had to lead as an elected official," Rochelle said.
Estes concluded in his 11-page report dated Oct. 18, 2002 that "the weight of the evidence supports the conclusion" that Beavers' permanent residence was inside the 57th House district.
However, it does state that Estes found "innumerable potential criminal violations both in and outside the election code."
Estes' report also includes several statements that Beavers "declined" to be interviewed or provide statements to the TBI, but that her attorneys had "made certain documents available" to investigators.
Beavers reiterated that her attorneys had cooperated in the investigation and provided the requested documents.
"The TBI called me and I turned it over to my attorney and my attorney completely cooperated with them and gave them the information they asked for," Beavers said.
Beavers elaborated by saying she referred the TBI to her attorney the first time the TBI contacted her, but was never again asked for an interview. Based on this, she said she couldn't possibly have invoked her Fifth Amendment right, typically reserved for suspects who choose not to implicate themselves in a criminal matter.
She said Rochelle brought up the issue because "he can't run on his record.
"He's not talking about the campaign issues," Beavers said. "… We're going to talk about Bob Rochelle's record."
Beavers said it was an attempt to "throw me into that group … (of) colleagues being taken away in handcuffs."
But Rochelle noted that this investigation was years before the FBI's Tennessee Waltz investigation resulted in the arrest of several sitting legislators.
"All of this occurred before that happened," Rochelle said. "… It's now up to the people to decide. You can't expect the water to clear up until you get the hogs out of the creek. That's up to the people."
Beavers' consultant Darren Morris said he had contacted television stations in Nashville about running the advertisement, which a press release by the Beavers campaign called "slanderous."
"Their legal teams checked with the (Federal Communications Commission) and decided they were going to continue the ad," Morris said.
WSMV-Channel 4 General Manager Eldon Hale said the station was obliged to carry the advertisement under FCC regulations because it is "paid for by a particular political candidate.
"We are required to provide reasonable access to legally qualified candidates, and when an ad is a 'use by the candidate,' as evidenced by his picture, her picture, his voice or her voice, we cannot refuse the ad and we cannot edit the ad," Hale said.
Staff Writer Jason Cox may be reached at 444-4952 ext. 45 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.