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The Tennessee Democratic Party today invited the Tennessee Center for Policy Research (TCPR) to chime in on the ethics controversy involving state Rep. Dolores Gresham, who took nearly $36,000 in taxpayer-funded farm grants after using her position on the House Agriculture Committee to promote them.
Democratic Party Chairman Gray Sasser, in a lighthearted note to TCPR spokesman Drew Johnson, pointed out the self-styled “free-market think tank” bills itself as an authority on ethics in government while at the same time attacking taxpayer-funded farm grants, including the boll weevil eradication program that helps West Tennessee.
“Dolores Gresham’s situation seems like the kind of thing TCPR likes to rail against,” Sasser wrote. “For some reason, you’re M.I.A. on this one.”
In fact, TCPR — which is organized as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt group — appears to be backing Gresham despite a federal ban on political activity by such organizations. In rural talk radio interviews in September and October, TCPR’s Johnson endorsed Gresham in the District 26 state Senate race while failing to note that she promoted taxpayer-funded farm grants in the legislature before she accepted them.
According to news reports, Gresham’s farm is the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program’s top recipient in Fayette County. Six grants totaling $26,850 paid for a hay storage barn, commodity storage shed, and cattle squeeze chute and scale on Gresham’s farm. Another $9,040 in funds have been approved but not yet been released.
Sasser’s note to Johnson closes: “I’m assuming your silence means you either support Gresham’s ethical lapse or that your organization is, as we all figured, basically a partisan shill group. But if you’re really serious about ethics, we invite you to point your normally prolific pen toward Dolores Gresham’s ripe misuse of public office.”
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