Part 1 – Dark Money and Undisclosed Funding

The school board race is heating up and with the release of new campaign finance data a number of new questions arise. Recent analysis of Stephen Vickers’ campaign in District 1 shows 59.2% of undisclosed donors. This is a concern, as most campaigns typically have only 15%-20% of undisclosed contributor.

We have contacted the election commission for a detailed list of these undisclosed donors; however, the commission was not able to provide the list and referred us to the District Attorney to obtain it from the campaign. Under Tennessee State law campaigns are required to keep detailed reports for the undisclosed funds “fish bowl” contributions for a number of legal reasons. The DA has the right to request this information from the campaign. A request is being made to the Hamilton County DA for this information. A key question we’ll be focused on: What percentage of Mr. Vickers’ contributions come from outside Hamilton County and special interest? The campaign has been found to violate state disclosure laws on their campaign signage "Paid for by committee to elect".

These campaign finance accounting irregularities have spurred further investigation into the candidate’s ties to the teachers union - Hamilton County Education Association (HCEA) - and its lobbying PAC, Hamilton County Fund for Children and Public Education (special interest group) along with Hamilton United and its newly formed activist PAC. Stay tuned for a series of articles into these group’s leadership, members and activities. Parents need to know what’s happing in their public schools.

During the Chattanooga Tea Party’s investigation items were discovered which raised more questions about Mr Vickers financial capability in managing the Hamilton County School’s budget of more than $400 million, based on court records. We also found Mr. Vickers received campaign contributions from Issa Bassam, developer and former president of the Islamic Center of Greater Chattanooga. Recently, Mr. Bassam purchased the Sears/JC Penning facilities at Northgate Mall in Hixon and then tried negotiating a deal with the school board at a much higher price than the original purchase price for a new school. We have requested an investigation from the DA and TBI on how Mr. Bassam came to know that HCDE was in talks with the property owners prior to his deal and public knowledge. This appears to be a clear case of insider information and profiteering off of taxpayers, which is illegal and unethical.

Stay tuned for the next part of our series.

Full Disclosure Available Here

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