NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For the past few weeks, the focus of my reporting on the Tennessee Supreme Court campaign has been on one simple question: are voters being told the truth?
Which brings me to an ethics complaint just filed against the three Democratic appointees who face a retention vote in August. That complaint was filed by political strategist/blogger George Scoville, who has repeatedly written in support of the effort led by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey to vote out the three justices. (Scoville refuses to identify his clients, although he insists he's not currently getting paid to work on any election.)
If you believe Scoville, the justices improperly allowed Supreme Court facilities to be used as part of their campaign for judicial office by allowing NewsChannel 5's cameras to shoot certain footage inside the Supreme Court chambers.
In his complaint filed with the Board of Judicial Conduct, Scoville named me as a potential witness.
However, if the strategist/blogger had asked me himself, I would have told him that his claim about our video was 100% false.
Specifically, Scoville takes offense with NewsChannel 5's taking Ramsey's written plan to unseat the three justices and shooting video of the document inside the Supreme Court chambers. He claims it violates an ethics rule that prohibits judges from using court facilities for political purposes.
"Under this rule, the use of the Tennessee Supreme Court chambers to film the so-called 'Ramsey plan' to unseat the justices on a podium in a 'news' story that gave favorable coverage to the justices' pro-retention campaign message, as if the so-called 'Ramsey plan' itself were on trial against the candidates, while no doubt a creative -- even compelling! -- use of metaphor, is a clear violation of the facility use provision of the rule," Scoville wrote.
Except the facts are very different. Specifically:
1) The Supreme Court chambers are public property. NewsChannel 5 made arrangements to get inside when the chambers were not being used, just as we have done in the Senate and House chambers.
2) NewsChannel 5 had zero contact with the three justices (or their campaigns) prior to that video being shot. We made arrangements to get access to the public space through the Administrative Office of the Courts.
3) No one knew that we had brought the Ramsey document into the Supreme Court chambers, and no one from the court staff observed us as we shot that video.
4) I reached out to surrogates of the justices for comment only after that video was recorded.
5) I never talked to the justices directly until well after NewsChannel 5 had aired the video that had been shot inside the Supreme Court chambers.
That's not taking sides.
It's just telling the truth.