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Cooper

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There is one other potential Democratic candidate for Governor: Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper. But he's probably not all the eager to jump in, given what happened the last (and only) time he ran statewide in 1994, when he was crushed by the Republican Revolution and Fred Thompson in the race to fill Al Gore's Senate seat. Besides Cooper really likes his position in Congress and has never shown much interest (that I know of) in state government, even though his father, Prentice Cooper is a former governor from many years ago.

And then there's this rather bizarre situation that's developed between Cooper and the leadership of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. During a recent congressional hearing, Cooper was accused of breeching NRECA's security by logging onto the group's internal Web site. NRECA officials say they have asked the FBI to investigate. In response, Congressman Cooper has denied any wrongdoing saying he had "the full permission of a top co-op insider" to access the web site. Cooper says he was "attacked by a desperate Washington lobbyist who found it easier to make false charges against me than to defend the scandals in his industry." 

 As for the FBI, it acknowledges being contacted by the NRCA, but, as is FBI policy in all matters like, it never comments about whether it is or is not conducting an investigation.

Some may find it odd that Cooper would get involved in this fight since he has no electric co-ops in his district. But this is a matter that Cooper says he has been interested in since 2004 when he brought suit against electric co-ops in Tennessee saying they are keeping too much money in equity rather than returning it to their members. The lawsuit failed because of contract language TVA has with these co-ops although Cooper says he is still working to get that changed. In the meantime he is also heading up this Congressional inquiry about the practices of electric co-ops.

It's hard to say just where this controversy is going. Cooper has a squeaky clean record of public service and I think deserves the benefit of the doubt, especially until more definitive proof is presented that he has done something wrong.. Meantime, key House members are lining up strongly behind Cooper. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman issued a statement comparing the actions of the NRCA to the tactics he says he once experienced from Big Tobacco: "In my view, attempting to intimidate the Committee when we are investigating serious issues is a mistake. We won't be intimidated and we will continue to try and protect the interests of co-op customers by looking into any credible allegations of misconduct by the coop boards."

In attempting to lash back at Congressman Cooper, it may be the NRCA has stirred a hornet's nest in the rest of Congress instead.


NewsChannel 5 thanks Pat Nolan for providing this column every week. Mr. Nolan's commentary reflects his own opinions, not those of the NewsChannel 5 Network.  Comments about Capitol View should be sent to Pat Nolan directly via email at pat.nolan@dvl.com .

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