A business-centric PAC with ties to the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce pumped more than $200,000 into Metro Council races in the second quarter, an escalation over 2019 when the PAC gave $60,200 in the same period.
But at least 11 candidates failed to disclose a total of $50,000 in contributions on their disclosures last week: Erin Evans, Alexa Little, Brandon Taylor, Sheri Weiner, Thom Druffel, Brenda Gadd, Courtney Johnston, Robert Nash, Jennifer Gamble, Antoinette Lee and Daniel McDonnell.
(Update 4:15 p.m.: For at least some candidates, the lack of disclosure appears to be due to a gap between when checks were issued and when candidates received checks. A Better Nashville held an event where many recipients received their donations in June, the end of the reporting period. Evans told the Banner that because she didn’t attend due to illness and still hasn’t received her donation and therefore did not disclose it. Evans is unopposed.)
The PAC’s major funding, as it was during the 2019 cycle, is a pair of $100,000 donations by John Ingram and the developers behind Nashville Yards. Former Gov. Bill Haslam gave $50,000 while H.G. Hill Realty Corp. gave $20,000.
A Better Nashville PAC Board Chair Gus Puryear, chief counsel at Asurion, said the PAC was not formed around a particular issue.
“The PAC was formed by a group of local business leaders who want to see Nashville and Middle Tennessee continue to grow and prosper,” he said in a statement. “The PAC will support local candidates committed to good governance, a collaborative spirit, a pro-business mindset, and visionary planning.”
A growing progressive caucus within the Council — and the willingness of some progressive groups to band together to pursue a so-called “intersectional slate of issues” — has alarmed some business leaders in recent years. In response, A Better Nashville has paid Jigsaw, a Nashville-based consulting and lobbying firm, more than $40,000 to guide the group’s efforts this cycle.
In a slide presentation to the PAC obtained by the Banner, the committee laid out five criteria for the types of candidates they say they want to support:
- “Big picture thinkers”
- “Electable and representative of their district”
- “No ideological test, but key votes matter”
- “Open to conversation, responsive, reasonable, rational”
- “No bomb throwers”
The presentation did not identify what key votes were crucial for the PACs support. For example, A Better Nashville gave to at least two opponents of the Titans’ stadium deal. The group also gave to Zach Young, a strong supporter of a Fairgrounds Speedway deal that John Ingram, a key PAC funder, opposes.
The group gave maximum contributions of $9,400 to four at-large candidates: Burkley Allen, Russ Pulley, Jeff Syracuse and Zulfat Suara. All four are currently on the Metro Council.
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The disclosure was made yesterday on the state’s Registry of Election Finance site. Due to a change in law, PACs making contributions in local races no longer have to report at the county level. The next disclosure for PACs is 10 days before the Aug. 3 election, according to Lance Frizzell, assistant director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance. Disclosures are required if a PAC breaks a $1,000 threshold during the period.