- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Federal Sundquist probe spells GOP trouble
Mar 25, 2005 12:00 am
State government in Tennessee is presently consumed with the bounty of ethical questions concerning the business dealings of Democratic State Sen. John Ford.
By extension, political pundits from Nashville to Washington, D.C., are pondering the impact the lingering and at times awkward probe of Ford will impact the political future of his more famous nephew, Congressman Harold Ford Jr. who is eying a U.S. Senate bid in a year.
However, across the political aisle there is a much more dangerous game of law and order being played out that may hamper the Tennessee Republican Party with an image problem for years to come.
The ghost of the Don Sundquist gubernatorial administrations lives on in the continuing talk of an income tax in Tennessee. The specter of Sundquist and his associates is also haunting the criminal federal court system.
Presently, Sundquist friends John Stamps and Al Ganier are staring down the barrel of criminal indictments in federal court. Both men's problems stem from alleged means used to procure state contracts for their companies while Sundquist was in office.
Reports this week suggest Stamps may be close to cutting a deal with the U.S. Attorneys office.
That may be bad news for anyone further up the Sundquist administration's list of friends. It is also bad news for the Tennessee Republican Party.
Despite a federal grand jury in Memphis probing Uncle John Ford, the phrase "Sundquist Republican" may take on a whole new meaning by the time the U.S. Department of Justice is finished.
The Sundquist Republican phrase began in earnest in the state Senate races last year when Democrats used it against Republican challengers with some effect.
Presently, the phrase is used to suggest a vague association with a state income tax, Sundquist's failed effort to reform the tax structure in Tennessee that alienated his own party. The tag also conjures images of a terminal back bencher from Congress wanting to return to Tennessee for another government job.
The phrase is the most dangerous to the three male candidates in the U.S. Senate race for the GOP, including former Congressmen Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant – two graduates from the Republican Class of 1994 who could not make it to the next level after losing their own statewide races in 2002.
Now, Hilleary and Bryant are both vying for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2006. Both are presently working as registered lobbyists.
Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker is also trying to become Tennessee's next senator, and he has the added baggage of having worked in the Sundquist administration and more recently taking a campaign contribution from the former governor.
Will the Sundquist Republican dog hunt, as they say, come general election time? It is hard to say. But while the entirety of state government is focused on the toothless State Senate Ethics Committee gently flogging away at Ford, a much more weighty drama is playing out behind closed doors in federal courthouses and U.S. Attorneys offices in Chattanooga and Nashville.
Perhaps the federal court system is too complicated for many politicians to understand – even the lawyers. But it is far more serious than the Ford fiasco, and the results are likely to resonate for much longer.