Tennessee representative continues business with shadowy campaign vendor amid investigations

In spite of a federal probe into Tennessee House corruption, Republican state Rep. Todd Warner ongoing undertaking enterprise with an Alabama campaign seller joined to two other entities caught up in FBI and condition investigations.

Warner, a Chapel Hill Republican seeking re-election to a next phrase, ordered a lot more than $6,000 in marketing services this February from Dixieland Strategies, in accordance to his filing with the condition Registry of Election Finance.

Questioned Wednesday why he sought the solutions of Dixieland Approaches once again, Warner claimed, “They finished me a terrific job (sic).”

He reported he did practically nothing wrong in selecting Dixieland once again and developed a mailer showing off their function.

Williamson County Commissioner Jeff Ford of Spring Hill lately declared he is functioning for election as a Republican in Dwelling District 92. Recently-aligned Dwelling districts set Spring Hill into District 92, setting up the race pitting Warner from Ford.

Warner declined to establish whom he deals with or no matter whether Dixieland Approaches is operate by Cade Cothren, the ex-main of personnel for former Home Speaker Glen Casada, who is now trying to find election to the Williamson County clerk’s put up.

But Dixieland Strategies uses the same pre-sorted postal code out of Chattanooga, 383, as two other shadowy entities that popped up in late 2019, Phoenix Solutions and the Religion Spouse and children Independence Fund political motion committee. Religion Family Freedom Fund employed that postal code in Warner’s most up-to-date marketing campaign mailers.

Former condition Rep. Robin Smith pleaded responsible in March to a federal wire fraud cost that detailed how Cothren set up a phony New Mexico-based firm known as Phoenix Answers to retain lawmakers from acquiring out he was running the seller. Smith and Casada pressured Republicans to do a lot more than $200,000 really worth of enterprise with Phoenix Options, purportedly operate by “Matthew Phoenix,” in return for kickbacks. Casada and Cothren have not been indicted.

Phoenix Alternatives operated in the same way to the Faith Family Independence Fund political action committee and Dixieland Methods, established up by way of an out-of-condition PostNet box. Dixieland has a mailing address of 3331 Rainbow Travel Suite E, Rainbow Metropolis, Alabama, which is the locale for a PostNet business enterprise.

A former girlfriend of Cothren’s explained to the Tennessee Registry of Election that he persuaded her to set up the Faith Household Flexibility Fund PAC and serve as treasurer so he could operate it. Cothren also told her not to talk to Registry personnel who known as her inquiring about her participation in the PAC’s development. Her sister was the chairman of the group.

Religion Family members Freedom Fund applied a donation from a North Carolina cafe proprietor – unable to be found by the Registry – for its seed funds to spend for attack adverts against former Republican Rep. Rick Tillis, who misplaced to Warner in the 2020 election. Tillis utilized an nameless Twitter account to criticize Casada and Cothren in the run-up to Casada’s resignation amid a racist and sexist texting scandal involving Cothren.

Finally, Casada resigned in August 2019 immediately after the Household Republican Caucus gave him a vote of no assurance. Household Speaker Cameron Sexton then was elected to provide during a specific session.

The Registry of Election Finance audited Warner’s marketing campaign funds, which include his expenditures with Dixieland Approaches, in 2021 right after a Tillis campaign worker filed a criticism alleging unlawful coordination among Warner’s campaign and the Religion Spouse and children Liberty Fund.

The Registry dismissed the issue in November 2021 just after Warner was ready to present in which he paid the seller and obtained the services.

Warner, even so, was beneath investigation, along with Smith and Casada, after FBI brokers raided their homes and legislative places of work in January 2021. On the assistance of his attorney, Warner has declined to go over the raid and investigation.

(Study A lot more: Tennessee ethics bill developed to clamp down on legislative corruption even now in works)

The Registry board subpoenaed various legislators, which includes Warner and Casada, to testify about what they know of the Religion Relatives Independence Fund in March. Casada stated he realized practically nothing about the entity, and he previously informed the Tennessee Lookout he had no relationship to Phoenix Alternatives, although Smith’s responsible plea document reveals he realized about the firm’s set up and took kickbacks.

Cothren refused to testify prior to the Registry, invoking his Fifth Modification proper to not incriminate himself, and criticized the subpoena in a letter from his attorney.

The Registry not long ago turned the overall matter in excess of to the Williamson County District Attorney’s Place of work for an investigation into potential felony penalties.

In spite of Warner’s final decision to continue to keep undertaking company with Dixieland Techniques, little about the entity can be identified.

The Alabama secretary of state’s web page has no registration for the business, nor does Tennessee’s web site.

Phoenix Alternatives, in distinction, filed a certificate of corporation in November 2019 in New Mexico and a couple days later on in Tennessee, according to reviews.

Regardless of whether Dixieland Approaches is expected to file in Tennessee could count on how it was structured, as a sole proprietor or minimal liability firm.

(Browse Far more: Tennessee election registry would like attorney general to implement subpoena on previous House aide)

In accordance to the Attorney General’s Place of work, a “overseas” company, 1 that is not incorporated under the Tennessee For-Earnings Business Company Act, is required to get hold of a certification of authority from the secretary of condition right before “transacting small business” in the state. Some pursuits are excluded, these kinds of as dealing with legal get the job done, holding board conferences, protecting bank accounts, marketing items through independent contractors and soliciting orders by mail. None of the goods listed in condition legislation show up to contain campaign perform.

Greg Hazelwood, a Nashville resident who did volunteer work for Tillis in 2020, complained to the Registry board that Dixieland Techniques experienced no “company footprint” due to the fact he couldn’t discover a actual physical area, cellphone amount or other information displaying it existed.

His complaint also contended Warner, by way of Dixieland Techniques, and Faith Household Freedom Fund violated campaign finance legislation when they despatched out political flyers with the exact same postal code on the identical working day.

Go through a lot more at TennesseeLookout.com.