When I became infuriated with the low-lifes who would torture and sadistically harm Tennessee Walking Horses about 18 months ago, I’ll admit it soon began to bother me and cause me to wonder why our state’s two senators – who I thought were good guys – as well as all but one member of our state’s nine members of Congress, remained so very quiet and reserved about the seedy abuse that has slandered the entire state of Tennessee and enraged good horsemen all around the world.
Earlier this week, when I found that a whopping 216 members of Congress from literally every other state and 25 percent of the entire Senate have stepped up to co-sponsor the PAST (Prevent All Soring Tactics) Act (HB1518/SB1406), I openly wondered – I mean, really -- why each of the Republicans who represent us in Washington are so obviously stiffing the measures at the very same time so many other members of Congress and the Senate are not.
My goodness, it’s tough to find 10 politicians these days who agree on anything but we are talking about horse abuse, where vile people slather a defenseless animal’s front legs with caustic chemicals and then wrap the forelegs in tight Saran Wrap in a way that “cooks” for days, leaving oozing sores and a beautiful Walker barely able to stand. We have pictures – proof – of twisted men using electric cattle prods on a horse’s lips and X-rays of nails that have been driven into the front pasterns of hooves in order to achieve a grotesque and unnatural gait called the “Big Lick.”
Now, at long last, I think I know why Tennessee’s Republicans are so unified. The root of all evil has finally come to light and you might not want to read any further because this could make you cry. Right now a talented horse in Tennessee doesn’t stand a cut dog’s chance because a simple game of connect-the-dots indicates a brazen filth has permeated our state’s Republican party. The stench is indescribable, akin to a smelly wrap of mustard oil and rotting skin on a Walker’s leg.
The Big Lickers, or Dirty Likers as the cancerous crowd in Shelbyville is now more commonly called, have fought for well-documented decades to keep the illegal soring and malicious cruelty alive in the Walking Horse industry, this despite the fact our legislature has now made it a felony. They do it for a cheap blue ribbon that is awarded by a perverse crowd centered in tiny Shelbyville.
And whether you want to believe it or not, the Dirty Lickers appear to have financial control of our state’s governor, Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, and all seven Republican Congressmen, including Chuck Fleischmann of Chattanooga. The dead give-away is that they are solidly of one mind. Oh, wait … our silent Governor, two mute Senators and a gang of party-loyal but terribly misguided Congress representatives agree on one other thing, too. Money is the real King.
Here's how connect-the-dots works: Senator Lamar Alexander is already running for re-election next year and his website reveals his State Finance Chairman is a slick named Steven B. Smith. It just so happens that the same Steven B. Smith is a key Big Lick insider and holds office as “an international director” of the ill-reputed Breeders and Exhibitors Association.
As a matter of fact, it is widely-known Smith is in up to his eyeballs with the so-called Celebration crowd, the group that sponsors the now-repugnant freak-show held every August in Shelbyville. The Big Lick, more so today than ever before, fights at every turn with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Humane Society of the United States, and any other entity that believes soring practices, stacked hoof pads, and painful “action devices” are wrong. You better believe the Big Lickers have lobbyists now in place in Washington who are fighting the PAST Act tooth-and-hoof, so to speak.
It is said throughout the Walking Horse industry that the father of Senator Alexander’s State Finance Chairman – Reese Smith – was a noted “Dirty Licker” and, during the 1990s when young Steve was the president of the Breed’s Registry once before, Steven B. was indeed a bold and out-spoken proponent of the very men who have been caught soring Tennessee Walkers and made enforcement a mockery. Now he has strengthened his political grip immensely.
You see, Smith is also said to be the State Finance Chairman for Bob Corker – imagine that -- and actively raises money for the seven Republican rubes now seated in Congress and running for re-election in 2014. Is it any wonder such an operative could weld great influence over Tennessee politicians? Oh my goodness! Do you believe for a second any Tennessee Republican would buck Steven B. and dare vote with his heart on horse abuse?
Let’s connect more dots: Three months ago, in August, the Big Lickers held a fundraising social for Marsha Blackburn (R-Gallatin) and ever since she got her check for a reported $70,000, she has been flitting all over Washington in fierce and open opposition to the PAST Act. I am told her “hissy fits” are now somewhat legendary.
Want more? In August of 2012 at the “Sore-abration,” as it is called by the huge majority who own and ride sound (healthy) Tennessee Walkers, the Lickers gave the same party for Scott DesJarlais (R-Jasper) who awarded such grandiosity by hounding Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Valsic unmercifully over inspections at horse shows. Really. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) was also given a party by the Celebration – and a cool $100K -- and has such a colorful history of being a friend and a vociferous Big Lick supporter he once threatened to block Department of Agriculture funding if its horse-show inspectors didn’t back off (!)
It is hardly a stretch to reason that Steven B. Smith’s deep ties with the Big Lick may indeed be the real story behind Governor Bill Haslam’s unexplainable stall for days before succumbing to thousands of signatures and ruefully vetoing the Ag-Gag bill last summer. I can think of no other explanation – so help me I cannot.
You see, Smith and his Lickers were adamantly in favor of the bill, especially after the heinous Jackie McConnell, a Hall of Fame trainer, had been ousted by a shocking undercover tape exactly like the bill had hoped to outlaw and criminalize. The tape was seen all over the world and made Jackie a monster, as well as a felon. It also ignited a worldwide firestorm of rage directed right at Tennessee and its loathsome Lickers.
Do you see how this works? There are many who believe Haslam would have done darn near anything not to have vetoed the dreadful Ag-Gag bill but overwhelming nationwide pressure finally became bigger than even the Big Lick. Remember, too, that a politician’s promises are wont to change when in survival mode so the new tact by the Big Lick was to simply wait a while.
The wait is almost over. It has been whispered that Steven B. Smith – that’s right, the same State Finance Chairman -- intends to run for President of the Big Lick’s Breeders and Exhibitors Association at the annual meeting next month. If he wins – bingo! – Steven B. can really begin to dance cheek-to-cheek with the elected Republicans in Washington. They’ll dance close, too, what with TV ads, re-election campaigns ramping up, and other stuff that costs money (see Steven B.)
A recent poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research reveals statewide voters, by a more than 5-to-1 margin in Tennessee and a more than 3-to-1 margin in Kentucky, overwhelmingly support stronger legislation to prevent the cruel practice of horse soring. Elected officials in Tennessee could care less.
The poll found that 75 percent of Tennessee voters and 69 percent of Kentucky voters support the federal legislation to strengthen the Horse Protection Act, with only 14 percent in Tennessee and 19 percent in Kentucky opposing the bill. The legislation has the support of The Humane Society of the United States, other national animal protection and horse industry organizations, as well as the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Well, whoopee. Money trumps all of that and Steven B. Smith controls the money. In politics where cash has become king, I believe it is most improbable that any Tennessee Republican will vote in favor of the PAST Act. I also believe when hearings are held this Wednesday over the bill, it would be prudent to expect the same reaction from our elected Republicans that was displayed in Chattanooga on that memorable day this summer when President Obama came to town and not a one showed up.
I am just thankful that 2014 is an election year. But tell the Big Lick and the Republican Party that my votes ain’t for sale.