Roy Exum: Lamar Alexander’s Joke

Friday, May 16, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Lamar Alexander, the terribly-misguided senator from Tennessee who is coming across like a comical curmudgeon in his defense of the seedy side of the Tennessee Walking Horse industry, must be proud. A fellow colleague, 80-year-old Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), has just endorsed Alexander’s alternate bill to the popular PAST Act and that gives Alexander a total of four co-sponsors of his bill.

Ain’t that swell? What you really need to know is that the PAST Act, which means “Prevent All Soring Tactics,” has already been endorsed by 51 Senators – a majority – and an accompanying bill in the House, HR1508, has 272 of 435 members of Congress now as co-sponsors, which makes Alexander’s efforts on behalf of the Shelbyville “Big Lick” almost as embarrassing as the fact the Volunteer State has now become the epicenter for horse abuse in the world.

For a half-century most trainers in the Walking Horse business – most particularly in this state -- have sadistically sored and tortured show horses by applying caustic substances to the animal’s legs so they will perform the sickening high-stepping gait that is both unnatural and is believed to cause premature death in the animals. This has been done in open defiance of the federal Horse Protection Act, written in 1970, and heretofore only punished with meaningless citations, or “tickets,” doled out by the critically short-staffed U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ironically, Alexander is a native of Maryville in Blount County where, next week, trainer Larry Joe Wheelon – who headed the Ethics Committee for the Trainer’s Association – will go to trial with four other men for animal abuse. Wheelon was indicted on 18 counts of horse abuse and eyewitnesses said some horses were in such pain they could barely walk.

Alexander’s awkward stance, which has enraged sound horse advocates across the nation, is believed to be because his state campaign chairman in this year’s re-election bid is Steven B. Smith, who is president of the breed registry for the Walking Horse group tightly controlled by the Big Lickers. Smith, who has personally violated the federal Horse Protection Act in the past, has obviously funneled many thousands into Alexander’s campaign.

Smith was also instrumental in an alleged $70,000 donation to Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Franklin) at the walking horse Celebration this August. Blackburn has sponsored a rival bill in Congress against the PAST Act legislation, which was immediately endorsed by Chuck Fleishmann (R-Chattanooga) and Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper) among others. Blackburn’s bill now has a total of 11 cosponsors.

The other three members of the Senate who have cosponsored Alexander’s bill are minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Rand Paul (R-KY). McConnell has been an ardent supporter of the Big Lick for years and once wrote a letter to the USDA, stating that if they did not quit harassing the horse industry he would see funds were withheld. The letter was signed by more than 10 other senators, which included former Tennessee Senator Bill Frist at the time, who is a physician.

The PAST Act has been enthusiastically endorsed by the top equine groups, veterinary organizations, and leading animal advocacy groups in the country. Each group knows that tight-fisted legislation will not harm the Walking Horse industry but, instead, will clean up the scandal-ridden industry centered in tiny Shelbyville, Tenn.

Alexander, who calls the PAST Act legislation “the Humane Society bill” in an effort to slander the HSUS after it has worked tirelessly against the Big Lick cheaters for years, claims he wants a “common sense approach” to stop the flagrant cheating and wants to “preserve the Tennessee Walking Horse industry.” Such a view lends to a far-fetched theory the former college president and state governor may be becoming delusional. He is nearly 73.

His pandering bill, which is as lukewarm as fresh spit, is viewed by sound horse enthusiasts as a joke since veterinarians and “clean” trainers alike agree the action devices make it easy to hide painful devices. And its little secret is that Alexander’s alliances with the Shelbyville crowd are shamefully in play. The fear is Alexander and McConnell could indeed block the PAST Act, using sad yet legal methods, but there is no hiding the fact the Big Lick is dying.

The sickening shenanigans spawned in Shelbyville, from Hall of Fame trainer Jackie McConnell becoming an internationally-known monster after his “world premier” was shown on Nightline to Wheelon’s impending trial, has caused an angry public to turn its back on shows and owners to avoid showing for fear they’ll be caught in a state where horse abuse in now a felony, and has greatly damaged the reputations of one of Tennessee’s greatest natural treasures.

Why Lamar Alexander would defy the wishes of thousands of Tennesseans who are fed up with horse abuse is something voters should remember in the fall elections. And, don’t worry, 80-year-old Orrin Hatch doesn’t have a vote.

royexum@aol.com




Appreciation Given And More Transparency Needed

On behalf of the some 900 retirees from the city of Chattanooga, I would like to publicly thank the members of the Chattanooga City Council for reversing their decision about the retirees insurance provider. We would also like to thank the staff that worked diligently to make sure that we could continue with our current coverage.  We would also like to plead with the council ... (click for more)

Alabama Worked Overtime To Right The Ship

What a majority of the good citizens of Alabama taught the rest of our country last night is that if one waits long enough and suffers long enough being ridiculed, stepped on, abused, ignored, and hurt, the day of reckoning will come.  How that happens has become akin to what today is known as the political process.  I am an experienced FDR Democrat but a staunch supporter ... (click for more)

County Issuing Up To $235 Million In Bonds - Mainly For School Projects

Hamilton County plans to issue up to $235 million in general obligation bonds with the funds mainly to go to county school projects. The County Commission earlier approved a property tax increase to support the bond issue. Finance Director Al Kiser said there will be a 20-day waiting period in which taxpayers can protest the issuance. He said the county will prepare an ... (click for more)

Chief Bowden Has Last Meeting At Lookout Mountain, Tn.; Cell Tower Firm Gets 6-Month Extension

Lookout Mountain’s December commission meeting was the last for Chief Randy Bowden, who is retiring at the end of the year. The first class police and fire departments are now unmatched in Hamilton County, said Commissioner of Fire and Police Jim Bentley. In the 32 years he has been with the town, the fire department has been elevated from class 4 to class 2 and has increased medical ... (click for more)

Hayes Surpasses 1,000 Points As Lady Canes Beat Walker Valley 54-43

East Hamilton sophomore Madison Hayes scored 17 points in a 54-43 victory at Walker County in Cleveland on Tuesday night and pushed her career scoring past the 1,000-point mark in the process. Hayes scored a team-high 19 points Friday in a 52-40 victory over Notre Dame in the East-West Classic, giving her 996 points in her career, including eighth-grade and freshman seasons ... (click for more)

Will Healy Selected as FCS Coach of the Year

For Will Healy, receiving Christmas presents early seems to be a habit with the 32-year-old Chattanooga native Now in only his second year as head football coach of the Austin Peay Governors, he has been selected as the FCS Coach of the Year as he guided APU to an 8-4 record this season. He was hired as APU had coach Dec. 19, 2015, was a member of the Richmond Spiders ... (click for more)