Friday, April 20, 2007

Ethics and leadership in Nashville

Finally, a glimer of fairness from the editorial board of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, who have not always been fair to State Rep. Stacey Campfield. Today the KNS ran an editorial rightly saying that our legislators in Nashville do not take ethics seriously. They used the treatment of Rep. Brian Kelsey and Rep. Campfield earlier this week as prime examples.

As I pointed out, I really don't have a problem with the receptions themselves, since-as I pointed out-these events are open to most anyone hanging around the Plaza, not just legislators. They are a chance for legislators to become more informed about an issue-and someone who already has good morals and ethics (read: The kind of people who informed voters should be electing) is not going to let a free sandwich and Coke (or similar fare) sway their vote.

Alcohol, however, is quite another matter. If one legislator wants to take another one out for drinks and they happen to discuss a bill or two before a committee they both sit on, there is really nothing in Campfield's amendment that would have stopped that. Clearly, however, easing somebody up with their favorite adult beverage-free of charge-is a way to get them to say things and make deals or commitments they may not otherwise make. For lobbyists to have the ability to use strong drink to sway a legislator is a great concern.

Up to now I have refrained from overly harsh criticism of Jason Mumpower since our interview and since Bloggers' Day On the Hill. I thought that Mumpower treated us all with great kindness and civility, and I hope he'll renew the event next year. My desire to continue blogging events, however, must not interfere with what I see as a duty to state the obvious: Mumpower is not standing up for his members. He went out of his way to try and convince me (and since me, a lot of other folks) of his conservative credentials and his willingness to take on Jimmy Naifeh. Bill Dunn's loss was a hard pill for me to swallow, but after talking to Jason Mumpower, I became convinced that the ability to fight the establishment would not go to Hell under Mumpower's leadership.

In these waning weeks of the legislative session, it is not Mumpower's actions that have caused me to again question his willingness to fight for the majority that he claims to seek above all else, but his inaction. He has failed to defend the Caucus against the rudeness and parliamentary shenanigans that Speaker Naifeh has pulled and continues to utilize. A strong defense against these tactics will not stop them by itself, but will expose for the State and the world just what kind of Speaker Naifeh happens to be. Naifeh's rediculous tactics and the way that he has managed to kill legislation can be used as an issue in the 2008 legislative elections in a way that has never been done before, if Mumpower plays his cards right. That process could have begun with a strong Point of Order denunciation of Naifeh Monday night.

This unwillingness to fight Jimmy Naifeh does make one wonder: According to the House Journal for the First Organizational Day, Jimmy Naifeh received 59 votes for Speaker on the floor. Jason Mumpower received only 36. That means that six Republicans voted for Jimmy Naifeh over their own Leader. Bill Dunn would have experienced a similar phenomenon, since Naifeh has gotten many Republican votes before. These traitors to the Caucus did have the right to vote in the Leadership election (though I am of the belief that you ought not vote for Leader if you will not support them for Speaker in a minority situation)-I wonder who they voted for?

(Note: As has happened before, I am always willing to hear Jason Mumpower's side.)



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