Former Tennessee legislator Jim Hackworth this week accused his campaign opponent, Rep. John Ragan, of violating state ethics and finance laws, but Ragan said Hackworth was engaging in “desperate attacks.”
On Monday, Hackworth said Ragan’s campaign website violated state ethics and finance laws because it included his official office phone number and state e-mail address. By Tuesday morning, Ragan had removed that contact information, although he said including it was not illegal and he had removed it as a courtesy to Hackworth, a constituent.
That didn’t seem to satisfy Hackworth.
“The fact remains that Mr. Ragan violated these laws when he listed his Nashville office and staff as a resource in his campaign,” Hackworth said in an e-mailed statement. “I commend him for removing that resource from his website. However, the fact still remains he broke the law.”
Ragan disagreed. He said Tennessee state law protects taxpayers from funding campaign efforts.
“The law is there to protect taxpayers from funding political activities, not the other way around,” Ragan said. “While nothing inappropriate was done, we changed my website to end any confusion.”
During a telephone interview Tuesday, Ragan said he pays for his campaign website himself, and his assistant in Nashville had been instructed to tell people who call the office number from the campaign website that the state office is for constituent issues, not campaign issues.
In a meeting with reporters at his campaign headquarters Monday, Hackworth also levied other charges against Ragan, saying his campaign literature had violated state law because it does not list a treasurer and challenging Ragan’s record on a series of issues from anti-bullying legislation to education.
Ragan said he is unaware of a requirement to list a treasurer on all campaign materials. However, he said all those publication disclose that they are paid for by the Committee to Elect John Ragan.
He and campaign aide Holt Whitt said one document that Hackworth and Ryan Mackay, Tennessee Democratic Party deputy field director, characterized, at least in part, as improperly labeled campaign literature was actually a state-approved newsletter.
Whitt said Hackworth sent out similar newsletters when he was in office.
“That’s just them grasping at straws,” Whitt said. “It is completely nonpartisan.”
Ragan, a first-term legislator, is an Oak Ridge Republican who defeated Hackworth, a Clinton Democrat and four-term representative, in the November 2010 election.
The two face off in the Nov. 6 election this year for the Tennessee House of Representatives district that includes Anderson County south and west of Interstate 75. Early voting begins July 13.