Roy Exum: Some Political Ruminations

Thursday, June 19, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
I don’t have a keen nose for politics but when the Nashville Tennessean disclosed the financial information on two Republican members of Congress in its Wednesday editions, I was curious and soon learned that Diane Black (R-Gallatin) is regarded as the 8th wealthiest member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Meanwhile, Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper) is the 257th wealthiest, this according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Diane and her husband David have assets valued between $32 million and $146.9 million. The two have done real well with wealth based around a medical drug-testing business called Aegis Sciences Corp. DesJarlais, a physician in South Pittsburg, has assets worth between $421,000 and $990,000. And don’t forget both are being paid a congressional salary that is currently $174,000 a year.

What is interesting is that DesJarlais is running against state Senator Jim Tracy in August and Tracy, an insurance broker in Shelbyville, has assets with a combined value of $134,000 to $410,000. According to the Tennessean, Senator Bob Corker, Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwoood) and Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Frog Jump) asked for and received extensions to file their 2013 financial disclosures.

Apparently Chuck Fleischmann (R-Ooltewah) and some others did, too. Fleischmann’s 2012 report revealed his net worth is between $1,996,004 to $3,059,996, which ranked him as the 124th wealthiest member of Congress at the time.

Believe it or not, this is the first time in United States history that the median net worth of the 534 members of Congress has exceeded $1 million – the average of $1,008,767 to be exact. At least 268 members of Congress had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012. That’s pretty impressive but, then again, these are some pretty sharp people.

A crowd favorite is Rep. Fincher, a farmer from west Tennessee. He’s the one who made a spectacle of himself this time last year when the Tea Party dandy went on a tirade over “food stamps,” or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. During a Memphis hoot-and-holler, he said, “The role of citizens, of Christians, of humanity, is to take care of each other, but not for Washington to steal from those in the country and give to others in the country!”

Fincher even quoted from the Bible’s book of Thessalonians: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

Well, it wasn’t even a week before the sharks uncovered Farmer Fincher was the second-largest recipient of farm subsidies in Congress. The USDA reported that Rep. Fincher collected $3.48 million between 1999 and 2012. He was even given a direct payment of $70,000. Then Farmer Fincher voted to cut SNAP by more than $20 million while fervently supporting a proposal – if you can believe this – to expand crop subsidies by $9 billion over the next 10 years.

Fincher lists his worth as between minus $1,149,999 to $204,995, which ranks 438th in the House but he’s also been a member of the “most corrupt” list, which is where you’ll find DesJarlais on the 2013 list.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, DesJarlais’ fundraising has taken a bashing. In the District 4 primary, challenger Tracy has outdistanced Scott Eugene about 3-to-1 with DesJarlais about $800,000 behind where he was in 2012. Tracy, who lists a bevy of political friends on his “leadership team,” is heavily endorsed by the Shelbyville walking horse crowd after it gave DesJarlais a fundraiser in 2012.

Fleischmann, according to OpenSecrets.org, has raised $897,877 for his 2014 campaign, down from $1.4 million two years ago. Obviously all of the 2014 candidates are still accepting donations before the Aug. 7 state primary. Early voting begins July 18. The general election will be on Nov. 4 with early voting beginning Oct. 15.

royexum@aol.com


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