NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Capitol Hill Corruption
Democrats Call for Republican Senator to Come Clean
(Story created: 8/9/05)
The Capitol Hill Corruption scandal has the head of the state Democratic Party calling for a Republican senator to come clean.
He says Jeff Miller needs to answer one simple question first posed by NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams.
That question: where's the proof?
Miller, who has not been charged in the Tennessee Waltz investigation, has admitted taking cash from the same undercover operatives seen in the FBI's video shelling out money to lawmakers.
Appearing before the committee that's studying how to clean up Capitol Hill, representatives of the state's Democratic Party and Republican Party each claimed the same high ground.
Both called for making it illegal for politicians to take campaign contributions in cash.
But standing together afterwards, they differed not on words, but on actions.
Two weeks ago, House Speaker Pro Tempore Lois Deberry heeded Republican calls for her to resign from the ethics reform panel... that after admitting she pocketed $200 dollars in gambling money from the FBI's undercover operatives.
Yet, Republican Senator Jeff Miller continues to serve on the same committee, even though he's admitted accepting one thousand dollars cash from the same people.
"He has told, I think, you and many members of Mr. Tuke's party that he accepted a lawful campaign contribution," Republican Party representative Paul Ney told Phil Williams.
In fact, Miller, R-Cleveland, has refused to produce proof that the thousand bucks went into his campaign account, instead of his pocket.
"I put it with all my other campaign contributions," Miller told Phil Williams recently.
"Would you provide proof that you did that?" Williams asked.
"My word should be enough for you, Phil."
State Democratic Party chairman Bob Tuke told Phil Williams, "The simplest thing would simply be to present the deposit tickets. I can present my deposit tickets."
Ney responded, "He's been adamant, and I have no reason to believe that he has not been honest in his dealings."
But Tuke added, "He should simply provide the evidence."
Republican Paul Ney noted that his party asked one of its own, Rep. Chris Newton, to resign after he was indicted -- something that the Democrats haven't done.
In fact, indicted Sen. Kathryn Bowers sat in the committee room, listening to much of the ethics debate.
"Are you willing to do the same thing for your party?" Phil Williams asked the Democratic chairman.
"No," Tuke answer, "I don't think that's my role."
Turning to Ney, Williams asked, "Are you happy with that answer?"
"That is the Democratic Party's answer."
Now, Deberry -- the second most powerful Democrat in the House -- finds herself facing a potential ethics hearing as result of a complaint filed by Republican representatives.
As for Jeff Miller, the Democratic chairman says anyone who took money from agents should come clean.
"That person should examine his or her heart and conduct and determine if he or she is fit to continue in the legislature. Zero tolerance."
In fact, there had been talk that Miller's role could erupt in the committee meeting.
Still, Miller skipped the session anyway.
Prosecutors have made clear in one court document that others are still under investigation.
That means other indictments could be coming a few months down the road.