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Ford Fails Truth Test on Ethics Probe

Former Sen. John Ford and his lawyer say the latest influence-peddling charges against him aren't anything new.

In fact, the former senator claims he had already been cleared.

NewsChannel 5 investigates those claims -- and puts them to the truth test.

Ford made those statements, just after he turned himself in to face the newest federal corruption charges.

But the story, it turns out, isn't quite like he tells it.

NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams says Ford is correct when he says many of these influence-peddling allegations had previously been investigated.

As to the rest of what he says, well, it doesn't quite pass the truth test.

Outside the federal courthouse, it was classic John Ford delivering a classic defense about his lucrative consulting deals.

"I have done nothing wrong -- period," Ford told reporters.

It was a defense not unlike the one he gave the Senate's Ethics Committee almost two years ago.

"For me to sit here and to be accused of violating the ethics rules is beyond me," he said at the time, his voice cracking.

It was an ethics investigation that Ford now claims cleared him of the same allegations contained in the newest indictment against him -- allegations that the Memphis Democrat put his influence up for sale.

"This is nothing but a rehashment of the ethics investigation," he told reporters this week.

"They found nothing."

Ford's lawyer Michael Scholl added, "This was something that was looked into years ago, and everything that was alleged in here was completely legal."

Senate ethics chairman Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, has acknowledged that the ethics committee's initial investigation did come up short.

But a follow-up report produced by the committee's special counsel uncovered what Ramsey calls damning evidence of a secret plan by TennCare provider Doral Dental to buy Ford's help in winning a multimillion-dollar state contract.

"E-mails that say things like Senator Ford is chairman of the committee ... he's assured us that all is well. We need to keep this quiet," Ramsey recalled.

Upon seeing those e-mails, the ethics chairman says, "We realized that we definitely had the votes to remove him."

Then, came the FBI's Tennessee Waltz sting.

Ford resigned, avoiding an expected vote by the ethics committee to remove him from office.

Now, federal prosecutors say they want politicians like Ford to know that they cannot use their positions to make a little extra -- or, in Ford's case, an extra $800,000 -- on the side.

"The people of Tennessee have a right to expect honest services from their public officials," U.S. Attorney Craig Morford told reporters.

It's a position that seems lost on the former senator.

"Why they have brought these charges, I don't know."

Part of the indictment does claim that Ford had a legal obligation to disclose his consulting deals on state disclosures.

The truth is, there were a lot of questions about whether the laws at the time really required any details to be discovered.

So that could be part of Ford's defense.

But the crux of the prosecution's case is, what Morford called, a duty to provide honest services.

It's an argument that the feds have used to nail a lot of politicians around the country.

Back to NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Capitol Hill Corruption
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