Forging Ahead outspends CCCPF

Accounting gives liquor by the drink proponents almost eight times more than opposition
Mar. 12, 2013 @ 07:54 PM

With just a few days left before Pigeon Forge voters decide again whether to allow the sale of liquor by the drink in the city, campaign finance disclosure statements from the two sides indicate it’s a David vs Goliath confrontation, with a group that professes to be made up of concerned churches and citizens cast as David and the pro liquor group as Goliath.

Concerned Churches and Citizens of Pigeon Forge, the group opposing the measure, filed their documents Friday and pro-liquor group Forgoing Ahead filed theirs Tuesday. The deadline was last Thursday.

The documents indicate Forging Ahead received $26,550 between Jan .1 and Feb. 26, while CCCPF received $3,350 between Jan. 1 and March 1.

While the statements should indicate all money spent by the groups, they do not appear to include all money spent in campaigning on the measure. CCCPF Chairman Jess Davis, for example, personally paid for an ad that ran last week in The Mountain Press opposing liquor by the drink. Because he used his own money and not CCCPF funds, his money did not appear in the financial disclosure statement and neither did payment for the ad.

He is also the largest single contributor to CCCPF in the most recent statement; he gave $2,500 of the $3,700 in donations spent.

The statements indicate CCCPF paid that same amount for phone calls and mail outs by Targeting Strategies of Knoxville; they owe about $1,400 in additional funds on signs and other items. Davis could not be reached for comment on this story.

Forging Ahead received a total of $26,550 in contributions, including $5,000 from its chairman, Ken Maples — $2,500 from his business and $2,500 from his personal funds. The group also received large contributions from several hotels and restaurants in the city, including $500 from both the Blue Moose Restaurant and Johnny Carino’s, and $1,000 from both Bullfish Restaurant and Mellow Mushroom. The four restaurants are owned by Darby Campbell and Robert McManus, two of the developers behind The Island development.

Officials have said The Island partners were behind a move to get liquor by the drink approved for a section of Pigeon Forge that would have included their property.

Forging Ahead’s expenses indicate they spent thousands on ads that ran in The Mountain Press and local radio and television stations as well as other publications; they also agreed to pay $13,000 to Moxley Carmichael in Knoxville and the Calvert Street Group in Nashville on consulting.

Maples said he believes the greater contributions indicate Forging Ahead has more supporters. “I think it means we have more support,” he said. “We have more folks that want to keep LBTD and want to keep money going to the schools...

“We’ve worked hard and we’ve had a lot of supporters.”

A state official indicated neither group is facing a threat of any penalty for filing the reports late.

Before a civil penalty could kick in, the Sevier County Election Commission would have to send a certified notice to the groups and the groups would have had five days to respond, said Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.

Maples said that they learned they were past the deadline at the same time as CCCPF, but had to wait on their treasurer to return from a trip to file their statement.

In the November election, which was overturned after CCCPF contested the results, Forging Ahead received a total of $16,058.18 and CCCPF received $3,933.81. Both said they spent most of their contributions during that time on advertising and signs.

However, Forging Ahead acknowledged spending $5,000 to hire the attorney who represented the group when it joined the legal proceedings over the contested election.

CCCPF does not acknowledge spending money on the lawsuit in its disclosure form. It also does not mention a contribution of $1,000 that Pigeon Forge City Commissioner Randal Robinson acknowledged making during depositions for the contest.

In a phone interview, Treasurer Howard Reagan Jr. said he could not recall the details of contributions made at the time because he was occupied with his business. “We were busy, we were hammered and I cannot remember anything on that statement,” he said. He eventually ended the interview, saying he did not want to be quoted and “had no use” for the paper.

Reagan made similar assertions when he was deposed, acknowledging he was “sloppy” in his record keeping.

Robinson acknowledged making the contribution when asked about it Tuesday, but said that Davis had told him they didn’t have to disclose his contribution or the payments made to its attorney during the lawsuit because they came between the contested election and the new one.

Rawlins, however, responded to a question from The Mountain Press about the issue with this statement: “All contributions received and expenditures made by a single referendum committee (a group that supports or opposes a referendum) are required to be disclosed.”

While Forging Ahead acknowledged the payments made to its attorney, it listed a number of payments from 2012 as coming from anonymous donors. A total of $1,155.18 was listed as coming from anonymous donors — two donations of $50, nine donations of $100 and one of $155.18.

In its most recent statement, it lists one anonymous donation, for $62.

Rawlins indicates that money should not have been used.

“Anonymous contributions should not be used for campaign activity,” he said. “All contributions over $100 must be itemized with name, address, occupation, employer of the contributor; and date and amount of contribution.”

Maples said Rawlins’s office had indicated to him that they could use those donations.

He said they had listed the funds that way at the contributors’ request, but that this time around they didn’t have many requests from contributors to remain anonymous.

jfarrell@themountainpress.com