NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Regulators voted Wednesday to seek enforcement of subpoenas against a Republican operative linked to a shadowy group involved in the 2020 campaign for a state House seat.
Cade Cothren, a former aide to then-House Speaker Glen Casada, refused to appear before the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, with his attorney sending letters invoking his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.
Casada was also subpoenaed. He appeared before the Registry, insisting that he knew nothing about the Faith Family Freedom Fund and chastising the agency board for issuing the subpoena.
"I've got to be honest: I felt like you were a little reckless in issuing a subpoena to me, and it was damaging because it allowed the media to assume the worst, which they do," the Franklin Republican said.
Casada begins by accusing Registry of being “reckless” and “biased.” pic.twitter.com/I99VYSgH67— Phil Williams (@NC5PhilWilliams) March 2, 2022
Casada suggested that the agency could just ask him and other legislators to attend their meetings.
"And if we don't come, by golly, you all need to put the hammer down — that's why you're here," he continued.
Registry member Hank Finchum fired back, telling Casada that the agency is dealing with allegations that could constitute a felony and that they have a duty to fully investigate.
"We follow that duty even if it upsets people," Finchum said. "We subpoenaed you to find out what, if anything, you know."
Casada denied any role with the Faith Family Freedom Fund, which was involved in a Republican primary attack on former Rep. Rick Tillis, R-Lewisburg.
"I have no knowledge, association or interaction — and, quite frankly, there is no evidence to suspect that I do," he continued.
Casada was not placed under oath for those statements.
As our NewsChannel 5 investigation first revealed, the attacks on Tillis included robocalls, mailers, Facebook ads, even text messages. But in a campaign finance report filed in mid-July, the group claimed it had not raised or spent any money.
The Faith Family Freedom Fund was registered in the name of a young woman out of Utah, Sydney Friedopfer.
In January, Friedopfer testified by phone that Cothren had asked her to set up a political action committee because he couldn't have his name on the filing papers or be associated with the PAC.
Friedopfer said she was just 22 at the time and thought she was in love with Cothren. She said he told her all she had to do was sign the registration paperwork for the Faith Family Freedom Fund and that he'd take over running the PAC.
More than a year ago, the FBI raided the homes and offices of Casada, Cothren, Tillis opponent Todd Warner and others.
That investigation is believed to be continuing.