By EMILY R. WEST
Sitting at his dining room table Tuesday afternoon, District 65 House Republican candidate Sam Whitson clicked the submit button on third quarter financials.
The state’s deadline for all candidates was Oct. 11. In total this political season, Whitson has raised a total $132,043. Of that figure, only $22,242 came from the third quarter, which ran from from August until the end of September. The majority of his money came before the Aug. 4 primary.
His predecessor, expelled legislator Jeremy Durham, has faced scrutiny this year over his campaign finances, a situation Whitson said he wanted to steer clear of.
Whitson said he kept everything in a manila folder filled with receipts. Candidates must keep their records for up to two years. To keep track of his spending, Whitson only spends money on his debit card or writes a check. Whitson said his campaign will never use cash.
He also assembled a team – himself, his bookkeeper and his treasurer. All three look at his financials to create a checks and balance system before anything goes to the state.
“I think most do it like this,” Whitson said. “But campaign financials – it is something you have to stay up on daily. You can’t let this slide and wait until the last minute.”
While he received more money from individuals in the first two quarters, the majority of his special interests money came in the third.
Of the 34 donors this quarter, 26 of his contributions came from political action committees, lobbyists or businesses. The most notable came from the Tennessee Education Association for Children and Public Education with a $2,000 check. The TEA has endorsed Whitson in the House District 65 race.
Other PACs – Committee Tennessee Bankers Association, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tennessee Highway Contractors, Tennessee Retail Association – also gave between $250 and $1,000.
As far as individuals this quarter, Whitson picked up a $1,500 contribution from Nashville’s Lee Beaman, who owns Beaman Automotive Group. In the past, Beaman has dipped into the state’s political scene, famously as an advocate for English Only in the Nashville 2009 election. The law would have made English the only language used for government business.
He also received a small donation from Franklin Tomorrow’s Ed Underwood and Franklin’s Charles Wilson.
Overall in his campaign, Whitson has received $48,264 in special interest money from 42 contributors. Those contributions range from $150 to $7,600. The average amount given was $1,148.
Here’s where the donors primarily came from:
In looking through all three disclosures, Community Health Systems gave the most with $7,600, followed by Stand PAC for Tennessee at $7,445.02. And between its donations directly to the candidate and the PAC’s independent expenditure committee Stand for Children, the group invested nearly $100,000 into the Williamson County District 65 race.
The group has come under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance following a complaint that they exceeded campaign contribution limits. Similar to what the group did for state house candidates – like Whitson – the group also invested both in candidates directly and through its independent expenditure committee in the Nashville-Metro Nashville School Board.
Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Executive Director Drew Rawlins said the case with Stand and the Metro-Nashville School Board candidates wouldn’t cover the group’s contributions to state house candidates.
“Someone would have to make the allegation that was money over the limit in a separate complaint,” Rawlins said.
As far as the rest of Whiton’s special interest money, the remainder of donations fell under $2,000. And despite receiving the money, Whitson said it wouldn’t affect anything he did legislatively if he were elected to the seat.
“It has no influence,” Whitson said. “There will never be a quid pro quo. No one has given money and asked me to do anything. If they did, I would send the money back immediately.”
Whitson said he would also like to evaluate and tighten campaign finance regulations if he were elected.
He will face Democratic challenger Holly McCall on the ballot.