This just in: Reports from Nashville and Knoxville appear to confirm that just when we thought the TNDP's status couldn't get much worse, we were wrong. If my sources are correct, two things happened last night that make it so. First, Forrester decided to schedule a conference call of the State Democratic Party's Executive Committee. A fine move indeed, especially with all of the problems facing the state party (see original posts below). But wait, Forrester scheduled the call - supposedly to include prominent Democrats from Mountain City to Memphis - at the same time in which the Governor was giving his important budget address to the General Assembly. How's that for deference to the titular head of the Tennessee Democratic Party who is also the top-elected Democrat in the state?

Second, apparently fearing that Doug Horne will decide to kick them out of their nice Nashville digs or actually ask them to pay rent for a change (due to his refusal to be part of their glaring ineptidude), Forrester-Freeman and their equally inept minions on the Executive Committee have decided . . . drumroll please . . . to move the TNDP's offices and headquarters to the Steamfitters Unions' digs in, of all places, Antioch, TN. So, in a span of 30 minutes, Forrester was able to insult the Governor and move the TNDP offices where (if it wants to broaden it's base) it should never be: at a union headquarters. Is this the progress Forrester et al have been talking about? So, "we're broke, so we're going to let the big ole union take care of us." Folks, I love unions. My grandfather was a coal miner and was in the UMW when John L. Lewis was running the show in the 30's. Unions saved American workers and their familes in the 30's, 40's, and 50's, but if the Democratic Party is determined to "broaden its base," a terrific and necessary idea, we can't do it by tying ourselves more closely than ever to big labor. Even moderate Republicans and Independent-minded voters have one thing in common - a dislike of big labor's influence on the Democratic Party. This is not the way to go.

Original Post

According to an Associated Press report, Federal Election Commission disclosures show that the Tennessee Democratic Party is struggling to raise money. The TNDP’s first financial disclosure of the Chip Forrester era shows the party only managed to raise about $31,000 in February under Forrester and new Treasurer Bill Freeman, compared to about $211,000 raised in the same month of predecessor Gray Sasser’s stint in charge of the party. That’s just 14% of what Sasser raised in February ‘07. Sasser raised 7 times more than Forrester-Freeman during the same period. The 2006 elections were a wash, the economy was bad in 2007, and Sasser was a new chairman. So, why did he raise so much more money than Forrester-Freeman?


Is the economic crisis to blame? Unfortunately for Forrester-Freeman, the reality is that political contributing this far out from an election has nothing to do with economic circumstances. It never has. The idea is to hit up your loyal and wealthy supporters. The FEC disclosure is the first hardcore evidence that these folks have abandoned the TNDP, at least as long as Forrester’s in charge. In a nutshell, the big dollar donors have emphatically decided to sit this one out. This doesn’t mean that a good Democratic hopeful won’t get their support next year, but Forrester being at the helm won’t help.

Over the last two months, when confronted by the innumerable numbskull decisions Forrester made, a number of posters urged a “wait and see” approach to see if Forrester and new Treasurer Bill Freeman could get the job done. I suppose many of those same folks will now say, “no, let’s wait just a while longer.” But folks, the numbers are even worse for than they appear to be. For instance, $5,000 of the $31,000 was a check from Bill Freeman himself. Another $5,000 was from Freeman-Webb’s law firm. The blogger “Chip-In” raised about $4,000. That’s $14,000. That means almost half of the money wasn’t “raised” by Forrester-Freeman at all. Forrester-Freeman were so persuasive from January 24 to the end of February – knowing that they had to make a good showing to quell dissenters – that they convinced Tennessee Dems to cough up just $17,000.

As I recall, Forrester and others reported that Freeman had “raised $15,000 in one day.” No one told us that $5.000 came from Freeman and $5,000 came from Freeman’s law firm.

Also, previous reports indicate that Forrester’s annual salary is $90,000. So, a little less than a quarter of everything the TNDP raises is going to pay his salary. Twenty-five cents of every dollar raised so far goes to Forrester. And if Doug Horne – who opposed Forrester in his race for Chair – decides that he wants to collect rent from the TNDP for their digs in Nashville (a decision which appears to be just around the corner once Horne opts out of the governor’s race) there will be an enormous problem. Will Freeman begin investing his personal wealth? Will Forrester-Freeman bud and gubernatorial hopeful Ward Cammack bail out the TNDP?

Worse still, on the very day this awful news hits, Forrester and Freeman are on a DC junket, meeting with Gov. Tim Kaine and DNC leadership. I imagine he’s begging for a TNDP bailout. Other than spending precious dollars, what does he hope to accomplish and how will he explain to Gov. Kaine his estrangement from all of the elected officials in Tennessee? Does Forrester assume that when he goes begging for dollars Kaine won’t ask Bredesen about him? Does he think Kaine won’t hear from the dean of the Tennessee Congressional delegation, Bart Gordon? Does he really think Kaine will not listen to John Tanner, one of the founders and stars of the Blue Dog Democrats. Does he really think Kaine won’t seek advice from Al Gore or Harold Ford Jr. or Tennessee’s biggest donors to the Democratic Party over the past 10 years?

As it turns out, Forrester sold the TNDP’s soul to a Republican treasurer for 20 G’s? That’s all Forrester could get from Freeman (and his developer buddies) to throw the TNDP’s support behind supporting the FONCE loophole? How long will the pathetically infatuated Executive Committee tolerate this ineptness and flushing of dollars?

Forrester ran for chairman claiming there was no connection between Obama’s slaughter in Tennessee and Democrats losing the legislature. He blamed the losses on elected Democrats and did everything he could to run them out of the Party. Never fear, he assured his supporters. He knew a better way to run things.... How’s that working out?

I've heard the same thing in Knox County. Folks, we get what we deserve. Democrats who are disgusted by this pathetic turn of events should start putting more heat on the people who got us here.

Nevertheless, I assume that Forrester and his apologists will continue to feign ignorance about why his entire 2-month tenure has been one debacle after another. Or . . . they’ll prefer to just blame Bart Gordon, Lincoln Davis, John Tanner, Jim Cooper, and Phil Bredesen – you know, the guys who actually win races.

R. Neal's picture

Related: DNC raises only

knoxrebel's picture

Interesting, but not significant to TNDP's problems

Randy, I know the DNC had a rough month, but the difference is that unlike the TNDP, the DNC is nowhere near "broke." Fact is, the DNC had nothing to prove during this first disclosure period. The TNDP, on the other hand, had a great deal to prove in view of it being Forrester's first report. It was enormously important that Forrester demonstrate to critics that his choice of GOP-giver Bill Freeman would immediately pay off. After all, Forrester's basic retort was, even if true, who cares if Freeman's a Republican if he can raise millions for Democrats? Obviously, he can't.

Also, I'm sure one of the reasons the DNC hit a bump in the road in fundraising is the fact that after getting the nomination last August, Obama consolidated fundraising in his run, instructing donors to only donate to him. His campaign took over DNC funds.

R. Neal's picture

Wasn't excusing the TNDP,

Wasn't excusing the TNDP, just pointing out that it's tough all over and some of the same factors may be at play. But clearly the TNDP is in trouble, and the GOP is way out ahead of us for 2010.

knoxrebel's picture

Well said and understood.

Well said and understood. The GOP has a locked field for Gov in '10 (Haslam, Wamp, Ramsey, Gibbons) while we have Ward Cammack, who'll have to spend a couple mil just to get his name recognition in double digits, and Kim McMillan, who I adore, but no one is taking her seriously at this point. The money will be driven by this high-profile race and unless a credible bona fide Democrat gets in, we're in real trouble dialing for dollars.

And hey, good point on the Obama late night appearance. If I'm an American victim of a job-cut, retirement hit, bank failure, or my son or daughter is in Iraq, I do not want to see my President talking about b-ball with a comic on late night tv. These are serious times. We did not elect him to do late night tv.

jbr's picture

Regardless of Freeman's

Regardless of Freeman's donations to republican candidates he seems in general like someone the average citizen would not want anywhere near their political structure.

StaceyDiamond's picture


With all the money TNDP had last year they failed badly, so I don't know how much difference this makes, although its unfortunate.

Harrison's picture

Recall Harold and Sylvia

This notion that TNDP somehow was responsible for the disasterous outcome in November is sheer sophistry promoted by Chip and the Chipinista. Reality is, prolific fundraising by the Sasser-led TNDP was the only redeeming element in last year's election cycle. If not for Gray and his efforts, we would have lost by much wider margins and possibly lost even more seats. At a time when Tennessee's Team Obama (led by Nashville's Jennifer Buck Wallace and her band of merry Music City idiots) was getting stomped by mid-double digits, Gray and the experienced hands at TNDP miraculously managed to hold individual legislative losses to low single digits and, in some cases, just a couple of hundred votes. You win some, you lose some. But there are degrees of both, and they did yeoman's labor battling what Bredesen accurately described as a gale-force headwind pounding from the opposite direction. If anyone is to blame for problems in the state House of Representatives, it's Nashville-based Democratic "leader" Rep. Gary Odom, who admitted to the Memphis Flyer newspaper that he was so busy running against Naifeh for speaker that he took his eye off the ball in these legislative races. For Chip and his treasurer/GOP donor Bill Freeman (who not coincidentally serves as Odom's campain treasurer) to step up and blame Bredesen and our members of Congress for these losses is despicable.

The others who are really at fault in all this are Harold and Sylvia Woods, Knoxville's political equivalent of Sid and Nancy. Not only did these Executive Committtee members embarass our entire state by refusing to cast their delegate votes for Obama at the Democratic National Convention, by they turned around and helped install incompetent leadership at the TNDP. It's an insult to all East Tennessee Democrats that "Sid and Nancy" Woods supported a longtime Nashville hack as party chair, who then appointed as treasurer a Nashville GOP donor who also serves as campaign treasurer of the Nashville legislative "leader" who got us into this mess. Harold and Sylvia Woods should be recalled from office. Or at the very least, someone should run against them in the next EC election. I'll personally pledge contributions of $500 each to the people willing to take them on. Who's with me?

knoxrebel's picture

Harrison, Sylvia Woods

Harrison, Sylvia Woods announced the other night that she and others on the Ex Com are "looking into" the actions, e.g., the money spent by Sasser et al, in legislative races last fall, claiming that the ads had not been approved by candidates or the Ex Com and wound up costing some candidates their races. Of course, if Kim and Gray had not been so aggressive with their efforts at trying to win some of these seats, the results would have been embarassing for those candidates who are now bent on blaming someone else for their own losses. It's pathetic. I would have hated to see the landscape after the November elections if Forrester had been in charge then . . . .

From Knoxville to Memphis, we are thus in the hands of rank amateurs who know absolutely nothing about running political campaigns or raising money. We've gotten to this point in four short months. Where will we be in two years?

And hey, I'll take your check for $500 once I appoint my treasurer to take on HW in the 6th district.

angela danovi's picture

While Im not defending

While Im not defending everything that Sylvia Woods has done as chair, I'll say this: Harold Woods was a pledged Clinton Delegate representing our Congressional District. Since we lost two of our original delegates representing the majority of voters for the second congressional district in the democratic primary, then Harold was the only one left who was directly elected by district delegates to carry the second congressional district clinton votes (the majority by the way) to the convention. Sylvia Woods was an open Clinton supporter from the beginning who was appointed as an at large delegate. Now I know it might be difficult for you to understand that these people pledged their votes to Clinton and I know you probably want to throw around racism as the reason why Clinton won Tennessee but Clinton won Tennessee and won big in Tennessee and they did their job in representing the voters of the second congressional district and the state at the convention. The arm twisting and manipulation of that convention from the highest levels was absolutely disgusting.

The person who was elected state chair was HEAVILY supported by the Obama "wing" of this party. The standard bearers of this party did not support Chip Forrester. I believe Sylvia supported Chip because of the heavy influence of Obama supporters who have elevated themselves throughout the state. I believe this was an effort to forge a long-term alliance with them.

I have two suggestions for Obama supporters in this state who are so appalled by people who cast their vote as they were obligated. First, stop throwing the convention up as evidence of whatever you wish to argue about. The "get over it" argument goes both ways.

Second, It is time to stop calling people racist. Im sick of it and I've had it with the perpetual drumbeat namecalling. The perpetual accusations of racism are only going to continue to fracture this party.

knoxrebel's picture

I think Clinton won

I think Clinton won Tennessee because Tennessee's more conservative than alot of other states where Obama won primaries and Bill Clinton was still respected by Democrats here. I don't have a problem with loyalty at all insofar as the Woods' goes, but I do have a problem with the way they expressed it. In other words, rather than say, "we're going to vote for Hillary because we're loyal to her," that's a principled position, they said, "we're going to vote for Hillary because we were elected to do so and we feel obligated to do it . . . under our party's bylaws."

That's nonsense and a weasely way to go about expressing loyalty. And their desire to adhere to the party bylaws back in August '08 must have been short-lived, given Sylvia's recent trampling on the party bylaws leading up to the local re-organization convention.

bill young's picture


I think thats why Clinton won Tn in '92 & '96.

In '92 Clinton won Tn 47%-42%..Perot-11%

In '96 Clinton won Tn 48%-46%..Perot-6%

Andy Axel's picture

I call "scoreboard"

Point being, he won with the hand he was dealt. Any re-imagining of what might have happened is just that - conjecture.


Dirty deeds done dirt cheap! Special holidays, Sundays and rates!

knoxrebel's picture

Actually, there's plenty of

Actually, there's plenty of hard data available to demonstrate why Hillary Clinton made such a strong showing last year in the primary. And there's even more data that shows why Bill Clinton won Tennessee's Primary and General Elections in '92 and '96. It's not conjecture at all. Just take some time to look at those results, the varied analyses by election demographics and trending experts, and it's really not that difficult. But I suppose it's a lot easier for some die-hard Obama folks to say that he was raced-out in Tennessee. Now, that doesn't even rise to the level of "conjecture."

Bill's point about Perot cuts both ways, since more Tennesseans identified themselves as Democrats in '92 (but not '96) than now. Perot siphoned both GOP and Democratic votes.

bill young's picture


Agreed Clinton won Tn's 11 electorial votes both times.

That's the ballgame in presidential politics.

But I contend that Perot's vote was the deciding factor.

Elrod's picture


I admit I supported the idea of Chip Forrester. Hey, the old guard wasn't performing and maybe we needed a grassroots effort to reinvigorate the party. I saw Chip as the Howard Dean of the TNDP - willing to piss off the big donors but able to build a grassroots machine that wouldn't sell out on a moment's notice.

I was wrong. Forrester is not the Howard Dean of the TNDP. He's done nothing to build up the party beyond the "Chip In" campaign. Worse than money, his operation has been woefully absent in the face of outrageous and bigoted attacks from the TNGOP. The Tennessee Republican Party is little more than the "legit" wing of the Ku Klux Klan. It's own extremism even destroyed its chances to take full control of the TN House. That the TNDP can't take advantage of the TNGOP cesspool is a disgrace.

R. Neal's picture

He's done nothing to build

He's done nothing to build up the party beyond the "Chip In" campaign.

Just for the record, the TNDP had nothing to do with that. It was a completely independent operation.

knoxrebel's picture

Randy's dead-on. My gripe

Randy's dead-on. My gripe with Forrester about the "Chip-In" campaign was that the blogs had a pretty dang good idea - and it should have served as a "kick-off" of sorts for Forrester-Freeman to kick in high gear a fundraising campaign. But the most positive highlight of a fundraising nature from Forrester's term turns out to be the "Chip-In" gig which Forrester-Freeman were not even involved.

Mello's picture

I read the FEC report. The

I read the FEC report. The chip-in money was not included so I would guess that payment did not go to the TNDP until after March 1. Yes, the reporting period we are talking about is the month of Feb which was reported on March 20th.

When I made a contribution to the chip-in fundraiser, I did not do it because of CF. I did so because roughly 1 year and 35 weeks ago I formed the opinion that the then TNDP Chair did not take the value of the blogs seriously.

I'm glad to know Janet Meeks was listening.

As far as all this infighting crap goes- why not put the question to the floor at all the many reorg meetings? The bulk of the Dems I have talked to who will be going to the reorg meetings and don't read the blogs have no idea the controversy is even going on. It is limited to the blogs and those who read the blogs and the small number of Dems who consider themselves to be insiders.

Anne933's picture

Just to add ...

I made a decision to respond to the "Chip In" campaign to show support. The other day my phone rang with a Louisville KY area code. After a spiel about how wonderful the national election was, came a request to contribute to the TN Dem Party. I responded I'd already contributed to TDP and did not have any extra disposable income. Then came the yes but we need money to elect Dems in TN. I agreed, but said I do not have extra funds. The caller kept at it. I asked "did you not hear me?" Yes, but .. I said this conversation is over.

Needless to say, I was NOT impressed. A sad state of affairs, imo. [Thanks for letting me vent.]

knoxrebel's picture

The left hand and the other left hand

The left hand doesn't know what the other left hand is doing. It is easy and inexpensive to keep track of donors and insure that a donor is not hit up twice as you were in such a short time. This did not happen when Button was in, when Tuke was in, or when Sasser was in, but I think this is the type of incompetence we can expect for the next 22 months. That's unfortunate for our candidates in '10. Worse yet, at least Sasser had the money to produce and run the ads on behalf of the now ungrateful legislative candidates, a luxury that will no doubt escape Forrester in '10.

TennRod's picture

Smelling Coffee from a Deep Hole

An excellent review of the real issues here. It is past time for the Executive Committee of the Tennessee Democratic Party to wake up and smell the coffee. Another truism: When you're in a hole, quit digging. There is still time for a new chair to take office and for the TNDP to be salvaged for this election cycle.

As it stands now, the TNDP will be a non-factor in 2010. But that won't necessarily mean that Democrats won't be winning elections in this state. The Democratic donors, the people who have funded our campaigns and our party machinery for the past generation and more, will still give. They will give to the individual campaigns, to DCCC and DSCC and DGA and DNC, to selected PACs, to an independently chartered coordinated campaign organization with no ties or obligation to TNDP, perhaps even to county parties in the largest counties (provided they declare their independence from Forrester). But until some major corrective action is taken (i.e., ridding the TNDP of Forrester and Freeman and reconciling with our elected Democratic officials), the wreckage of the state party "organization" will continue to smolder at the crash site.

There is still value in replacing Forrester. Ron Ramsey, Robin Smith, and Bill Hobbs (Satan, the Antichrist and the False Prophet) continue to run circles around Forrester and his inept, incompetent and incapable "volunteers" every single day. Our elected Democratic officials are estranged from their own party. This has been mentioned many times, but I ask every Democrat to pause and really ponder the implications of that circumstance. It simply is mind-boggling.) There is no money. And our chairman has virtually no credibility with the political leadership, the financial leadership, the opinion-makers or the media. In a nutsell, no one really takes Forrester seriously, and that is a serious problem.

Enough! Frank Clement would ask us, "How long, O Lord, how long?" Now is the time for all good Democrats to come to the aid of their part and do their part to rid us of Forrester and Freeman.

Harrison's picture

Run, Rebel, Run

Rebel: I will watch this blog and wait on your campaign announcement and mailing address. I'm from Clarksville, but I'm happy to give to effective Democratic leadership, wherever they might be.

TennRod's picture

Sylvia's Silliness

Says KnoxRebel: "Sylvia Woods announced the other night that she and others on the Ex Com are "looking into" the actions, e.g., the money spent by Sasser et al, in legislative races last fall, claiming that the ads had not been approved by candidates or the Ex Com and wound up costing some candidates their races."

And, Sylvia, just who was it that signed every single check for the Tennessee Democratic Party last year? Wasn't that Chip Forrester, the treasurer? Are you saying he was incompetent? Lacking in leadership? Employing the Nuremberg defense? What do you hope to accomplish? Sylvia you and Harold need to look in the mirror if you are looking for scapegoats for either last year or the current disaster.

TennRod's picture

More importantly, Sylvia,

More importantly, Sylvia, independent expenditures in political campaigns BY LAW cannot coordinate with a candidate. Try to at least understand what you are talking about, you ding dong.

Knoxrebel1fan's picture

making me sick

Enough already Rebel. I have been on your side on many issues, but you are making me sick. So sick I will have to remain a nobody.
Please stop with the Doug Horne might kick the TNDP out. I wish he would but it isn't going to make a damn. Dont you think Bill Freeman has enough properties in the state that he might be able to relocate the TNDP?
You have become so critical since your illness. I only wished you would have been this strong as the local chair. Just think you could have made the difference in all of the local races and we would not be in the mess we are in with Sylvia being the chair for the last few months. And what is up with the OBAMA VS. CLINTON bullshit tactics. Are you that lonely? Or do you feel that powerless? Come on now I wish for just once you would try to unite the Democratic Party and do some good. Your a smart man but you have not been acting like it lately. If I did not know better I would think you are a Republican. We need to collectively sound off and remove Freeman and maybe even Forrester, but this blog is not the way to do it. You need to move your operation to the newspaper and take out an ad under politic happenings. Inviting everyone that gives a damn to a location of your choice and see how many show up. Democrats in general do not know what is going on and you repeating the same ol love story over and over here is not doing it.

knoxrebel's picture

Pushing my buttons

Fan, now you've hurt my feelings. I appreciate all of your pscho-baloney, but it sounds as if you're actually one (or two) of the problems that I've been harping about. Repetition, man, it's all about repitition.

Unite the Party? Are you kidding? We need to take a flamethrower to the Party and start from scratch. Since last August, the party has been reduced to a flock of folks who do not know anything about running political campaigns and marketing. Running veteran Democrats and regular donors out of the party, yeah, that's the way to "build the party" alright. These guys are the "building blocks" and knuckleheads like you are throwing them away because you fear them. You call them "Paleo-Dems"? That's an insult. Anyway, we'll see how that works for you next year. Forrester has already had a taste of it and, unless he makes some serious changes, '10 will be worse. And hey, you guys will soon have an opportunity to make a difference locally. Let's see how you do with it.

Oh yeah, Horne doesn't have to kick them out - they're going now. Freeman doesn't own the Steamfitters Union Hall. And BTW, no one person could have salvaged our showing in '08. Look at the numbers - Ken Irvine, Kathy Bryant, Robert Bratton, etc. all lost by about 20 points. If either ran in another year, they'd do much better than that (as Ken did in '06, when he nearly beat a 24 year incumbent). But it's good to know I have someone of your stature calling me out. You should take the opportunity to do it in person, say this Saturday morning at the Saturday Morning Club, Shoney's on Western, at 8:00 a.m. C'mon, you are cordially invited.

Bbeanster's picture

God. the only thing worse

the only thing worse than a Democrat is a Republican.

bill young's picture

Amen Sister

It took the '94 Republican Revolution to seal THAT deal with me.

StaceyDiamond's picture

"Big Labor"

I have always felt it was very unfortunate that with Tn. being Democratically controlled for 200 or so years, that we have some of the waekest labor laws in the country, which as metulj shows what kind of Dems we've had. We would be better off with stronger unions here and if folks had a different attitude towards unions, maybe Chip will move closer to labor.

Suz's picture

Forrester Insults Bredesen and Moves the TNDP Closer to Big Labo

Since Forrester considers himself the "head" of the Tennessee Democratic Party, it seems obvious that he didn't think anyone would prefer listening to the Governor's Budget Address over listening to his ego driven ideas. And, if my understanding is correct, Forrester has the next Ex Cmtte conference call set for April 6 - at the same time Ms. Anna Belle Clement O'Brien is being honored in Nashville with the 2009 Humanitarian Leadership Award. Insult again for an "old guard" party leader?? As for the move, full Exec Cmttee did not have a vote in the decision and the members who did express objections were ignored.

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