NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The go-to-guy for campaign finance and ethics questions on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill literally drew a full house on Thursday.
Widespread scandals on Tennessee’s Capitol Hill, ending with the FBI’s “Operation Tennessee Waltz” more than a decade ago, have had a lasting effect on lawmakers and lobbyists.
Each year they undergo campaign and ethics “refresher courses,” and Thursday was the day for it.
Most representatives and senators sat side-by-side in the House chambers, listening for a half an hour to Drew Rawlins, the Executive Director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.
He outlined new and old laws written by lawmakers themselves that they must follow.
Lobbyists listened from the gallery as well since they must follow certain regulations from the bureau.
The lawmakers all learned something new about what they should put in what’s called their “statement of interest.”
“If you have travel expenses paid for by someone who has an interest in public policy, you must disclose the source of those funds and the amount,” said Rawlins about the new provision.
Lawmakers also were reminded they passed a bill doubling the number of colleagues from two to four percent whose campaign funding would be audited.
“I think it’s something that will be helpful,” said East Tennessee Senator Mike Bell afterwards. “I am sure that if I am chosen it will be a learning process as well.”
There was agreement from Nashville lawmaker Rep. Harold Love.
“If there is ever any confusion about what the rules are, reach out to somebody and get some clarity on it,” said Love to News 2.
That somebody would be Rawlins, who echoed those words as he closed the session,
“So please always feel free to call,” said the bureau’s executive director. “I think most of you know that I would be glad to speak with you and work with just about anything you have.”
Perhaps the biggest reminder from Rawllin was that lawmakers can’t do any campaign fundraising while in session or before May 15.
With this being a campaign year where all of the House and half the Senate is up for election, no one expects the legislative session to make it until May.