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Registry Clears Stand For Children and School Board Candidates

Posted: 7:51 PM, Dec 07, 2016
Updated: 2016-12-07 22:49:36-05

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance ruled today that four Metro school board candidates did not violate campaign finance laws.

The Registry also cleared the Stand For Children Political Action Committee.
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Each of the candidates lost their election last August. All were supported by the Stand For Children PAC which supports charter schools.
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Members of the Registry, which oversees campaign finance laws, ruled unanimously that there was not enough evidence to show the candidates illegally coordinated their campaigns with the PAC.
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Attorney Gerard Stranch represented Tennessee Citizen Action which brought the complaint.
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"I'm severely disappointed. I think what's going on is the Registry has decided to give a pass to candidates because they lost," Stranch said after the ruling.
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Attorneys for the Stand For Children PAC and for the four losing candidates argued there was no evidence of illegal coordination and whatever happened -- it didn't help -- because all the candidates lost.
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"This is a well organized smear campaign by sore winners," said Stand For Children Attorney Stephen Zralek.
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Miranda Christy was the only former school board candidate to attend the meeting. Each of the candidates faced fines of up to $70,000 for the violations.
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"Why would I step out and do this again if I were a reasonable person?" Christy asked after the ruling.
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She warned cases like this could discourage people from running for public office in the future.
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"Our city needs good people to step up and throw their hat in the ring without having to worry about whether they are going to have to hire a lawyer," Christy said.
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The case was built around e-mails that seemed to show the Stand For Children PAC paid $10 an hour for door to door canvassers trained by the candidates - which indicate the candidates and the PAC coordinated illegally.
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But Registry members said the e-mails were inconclusive.
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Stand's Attorneys also claimed when a PAC employee met with a candidate during the so called ten day blackout period -- before the election -- he was on vacation.
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Because he was on vacation he did not officially violate the rules.
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"This tells people it's open season in Tennessee. You can do whatever you want. Take whatever amount of money you want and the Registry will give you a pass," said Stranch
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After the ruling Tennessee Citizen Action called on the Secretary of State to review the Registry's decision.
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They called it "rigged" and blasted other rulings by the Registry.
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"It seems clear the outcome was pre-determined and the Registry's members simply ruled in favor of those with the right political connections," said Andy Spears, Executive Director of Tennessee Citizen Action.