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Vote in Tenn. Leaves Lingering Hard Feelings

NASHVILLE (CN) - Months after Tennessee voters overwhelmingly approved a new judicial selection process for the state, controversy continues to rage over the campaign leading up to that decision.

The last salvo comes from the spokesman for a group that opposed the amendment, who claims that the rival pro-amendment group didn't fully disclose where it got most of its campaign funds.

John Avery Emison, who worked on the Vote No on Amendment 2 campaign, filed an election finance complaint against Vote Yes on 2, alleging the group didn't fully disclose donations.

The judicial selection amendment was passed by voters in November, by a margin of 20 percent. It allows the governor to appoint state appellate court judges pending confirmation of the legislature. Appellate judges then face retention elections at the end of their terms.

Emison alleges the Tennessee Business Partnership Corporation gave the pro-amendment group almost three-fourths of its total funds and the two groups shared the same office. He says TBPC donated $1.2 million in cash and another $14,000 in in-kind donations.

"Due to these associations between TBPC and the Vote Yes on 2 LLC committee, no meaningful disclosure of the source of the $1,225,000 has ever been made," Emison says in his complaint. "Point of fact, these two entities appear to be synonymous. Evading disclosure and shielding the actual source of the funds from public scrutiny defeats the purpose of disclosure law."

TBPC and Vote Yes on 2 had the same address and same registered agent, according to the complaint.

"It appears to the complainant that the arraignment of the entities is an attempt to disguise where the money came from and to avoid disclosing who was actually behind the effort to pass Amendment 2," Emison wrote. "I therefore request the [Tennessee Registry of Election Finance] to audit both the Vote Yes on 2 LLC committee and TBPC in order to disclose to the public in the fullest and most complete way, the actual source of these campaign contributions."

TREF will conduct a preliminary review of Emison's complaint at the board's March 11 meeting, according to executive director Drew Rawlins.


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