Campaign Finance Board Issues Show-Cause on Ford Wedding - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Capitol Hill Corruption

Campaign Finance Board Issues Show-Cause on Ford Wedding

(Story created: 3/17/05)

Thursday, a complaint about state Sen. John Ford went before the folks who are supposed to look out for misuse of campaign money. Instead, some were looking for a way out of the whole controversy.

Video obtained by NewsChannel 5 show a wedding for state Sen. John Ford's daughter --. a wedding paid for out of his campaign funds. 

It also shows the entertainment for the reception, again financed with the same money.

The state Registry of Election Finance is the board that's supposed to punish lawmakers for using campaign funds for personal reasons.

"It's a misuse of campaign funds," NewsChannel 5 viewer Barry Schmittou told the board. Schmittou filed a complaint against Ford after seeing the report.

But members of the Registry initially voted not to consider it, with Republican appointee Will Long arguing Schmittou had no proof.

"We have never issued a show cause based upon a press report," he argued.

But Democratic appointee George Harding responded, "If we see something we think is wrong, we can handle it."

Harding finally persuaded the board to at least ask Ford for an explanation.

But they never asked their own staff to pick up the phone and ask the people who provided the wedding services.

"If somebody wants to do that and bring it before the board in a proper fashion, that's fine," Long said.

"What about the board?" asked NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams.

"I don't anticipate their doing that."

Harding also pressed the board to take action about Ford's failure to disclose $237,000 in consulting income from a company with ties to TennCare.

"Maybe he wasn't a consultant," Long argued.

"He didn't put it down here," Harding said.

"But how do you know he was," asked board member Marian Ott.

That came a day after Ford admitted to the Senate's ethics committee that he accepted consulting income.

Board members argued they did not have access to Ford's tax returns, even though they are publicly on file with the Shelby County courts.

Schmittou was dismayed about what he saw.

"I really feel like there are some board members who don't understand or feel like they have duties."

Typically, the Registry lets individuals appear in person to respond to a "show-cause" notice, or they can just submit a sworn statement.

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