Ogles’ late fundraising report shows less than touted in 5th Congressional District race

By: - July 26, 2022 12:16 pm
Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles (Photo: andyogles.com)

Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles (Photo: andyogles.com)

Months after announcing he raised $453,000 in the first 30 days of his 5th Congressional District campaign, Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles filed a late report showing he brought in only $264,400.

Ogles was already beset by a TV ad claiming he failed to pay property taxes when he turned in his filing a week late with figures that didn’t jibe with an initial campaign press release in May.

In the late report, the former state director for Americans for Prosperity Tennessee showed $584,000 in total receipts but only $264,402 in total contributions, nearly $200,000 less than he claimed to have raised two months ago. Contributors included Ben Cunningham, leader of Tennessee Tax Revolt, former Nashville car dealer Lee Beaman and conservative economist Arthur Laffer.

With early voting underway and Election Day just a week off for the federal primary, voters are being flooded with election ads that, in many cases, force them to sift through the mud to find the truth.

Despite the initial braggadocio, Ogles’ campaign reported a loan totaling $320,000 to bolster his numbers. He spent $301,063 and had $283,338 in cash on hand with the Aug. 4 Republican primary election approaching. Some $53,500 of it is set aside for the general election. 

Notable Ogles donors:

  • Conservative economist Arthur Laffer
  • Businessman and talk show host Dave Ramsey
  • Auto dealer Lee Beaman

Ogles did not respond to text messages, and his campaign didn’t answer emails seeking comment. But according to the Tennessee Journal, he said he didn’t count a loan on the May total he placed in his press release.

Ogles finally filed his campaign finance report about the same time an ad funded by the Tennessee Conservatives Political Action Committee accused him of failing to pay property taxes nine times while supporting a sales tax increase and failing to oppose a property tax hike and a marriage tax. 

Reports, in fact, show Ogles paid taxes on a Franklin home between 2005 and 2015. Nevertheless, he was a few days to a week late three times and anywhere from 43 days late to 322 days late six times, which required him to pay interest of $43 to $279 on the late payments.

Ogles responded to the ad’s accusations by filing a defamation lawsuit against the Tennessee Conservatives PAC, saying his opponents were “working with left-wing special interest groups to spread malicious and blatant lies” about him, according to a Main Street Nashville report. The lawsuit also sought to stop the ad from running.

The uproar over the 5th Congressional District started when Republican state lawmakers redrew district maps this year and split Davidson County among three districts, creating a Republican seat and, ultimately, forcing Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper to step away after he held the seat for years. Democratic state Sen. Heidi Campbell is running in his stead. 

Wading through mud: Ogles alleges defamation by the Tennessee Conservatives PAC, which is largely funded by Oracle founder and billionaire Larry Ellison, while an ad from the School Freedom Fund accuses Harwell and Winstead of being “beholden to liberal Democrats.”

Two of the frontrunners in the newly-drawn 5th Congressional District, which takes in parts of Davidson, Wilson and Williamson and all of Maury, Marshall and Lewis counties, haven’t gone after him on his tardy federal campaign filing. 

Former National Guard Brig. Gen. Kurt Winstead has chosen the strategy of attacking President Joe Biden’s border policy – putting Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of the job – and saying as an “old general,” he knows how to get the job done.

But former Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell this week started running a TV ad calling Ogles a “lobbyist” and “tax raiser.” 

“The D.C. special interest group that attacked Donald Trump is now lying about Beth Harwell. They support Andy Ogles because he’s a D.C. insider. He’s also a tax raiser,” the narrator says in the ad, claiming Ogles backed a sales increase that hurt working families.

Tennessee Conservatives PAC was funded with a $1 million contribution from Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle Corp. and a supporter of former President Donald Trump. The PAC made a $232,552 independent expenditure in the campaign to go after Ogles. According to reports, backers of former candidate Morgan Ortagus helped form the PAC.

Notable Winstead donors:

  • Former Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey
  • Nashville real estate developer Jimmy Granbery
  • Lobbyist James Weaver
  • Businessman John Ingram

What comes around

In contrast, Ogles benefited from independent expenditures attacking Harwell and Winstead, a Franklin attorney, as “too liberal.”

The School Freedom Fund, linked to the Club for Growth, is funded with $15 million from Jeff Yass, founder of Susquehanna International Group and a Tik Tok investor, who is spending big on the election to reduce taxes and back 2020 election deniers, according to reports.

The super PAC spent $197,000 each attacking Winstead and Harwell. It also paid $665,000 to go after Republican U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of Huntsville, Alabama, who lost the support of former President Trump after he declined to reject the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.

The School Freedom Fund sent out mailers saying Harwell and Winstead are “beholden to liberal Democrats.” They point to Harwell’s vote in 2017 for former Gov. Bill Haslam’s six-cent fuel tax increase to build hundreds of roads of bridges, in addition to her endorsement by the Tennessee Education Association during her failed gubernatorial run four years ago.

Ogles lobbied against the fuel tax increase five years ago but couldn’t turn it back.

The mailers also hit Winstead for making contributions of more than $2,500 to Democrats over the years.

Harwell’s campaign declined to respond to questions about the attack ads. 

Notable Harwell donors:

  • Former Gov. Bill Haslam
  • Former Comptroller Justin Wilson
  • Lobbyist and former Haslam chief of staff Mark Cate

But Winstead campaign manager Chris Devaney said the retired National Guardsman supported Republican candidates and donated more than $30,000 to them over the last decade, including former state Senator and Congresswoman Diane Black, U.S. Rep. Mark Green and U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

“This pales in comparison to any other contributions over a decade ago. When he was busy raising a family, serving his country and growing a business law practice, his opponents were calculating their next run for political office. The General hasn’t spent his life planning to run, he spent his life serving our country,” Devaney said in response to questions.

USA Freedom Fund, which was buoyed by nearly $3 million from the Club for Growth, also spent nearly $800,000 supporting Ogles.

The group was responsible for ads criticizing Harwell for her 2001 vote in favor of legislation allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. She was one of 19 Republicans who supported the bill as part of an effort to make sure people who were in the country illegally knew the rules of the road.

The TV spot linked Harwell’s vote to the 9/11 attack, claiming it enabled terrorists to use state-issued driver’s licenses to board airplanes. The ad accuses Harwell of being “too risky” and “too liberal.”

Harwell, though, voted to repeal the law in 2004, and in her own ad responding to the attack, Harwell claimed she stopped illegal immigrants from getting licenses and would counter the policies of President Joe Biden, including building a wall to “stop chaos” at the Southern border and end the president’s “socialist agenda.”

5th District congressional candidate Beth Harwell, photographed at the U.S.-Mexicso border wall built under former President Donald Trump. (Photo: Beth Harwell for U.S. Congress)
5th District congressional candidate Beth Harwell, photographed at the U.S.-Mexicso border wall built under former President Donald Trump. (Photo: Beth Harwell for U.S. Congress)

In the latest reporting period, Harwell brought in a total of $986,036 with $836,033 in contributions and a $150,000 loan. She spent $605,7356 and had $380,300 in cash on hand.

Harwell received strong support from former legislative colleagues, including Republican Reps. Mark White, Dale Carr, Curtis Johnson, David Hawk and Ron Gant, former Rep. Rick Tillis, Sens. Art Swann, Shane Reeves and Page Walley, as well as former Gov. Bill Haslam, former Sen. Jim Tracy, former Comptroller Justin Wilson and lobbyists Mark Cate and Mike Bivens.

Winstead reported receipts of $2,126,315, but that included $985,315 in total contributions and $1.14 million in loans. He ended the reporting period with $407,785 in cash on hand and $696,225 in loans owed by his campaign.

Contributors included state Rep. Gary Hicks, Sen. Ed Jackson, former Wilson County Sheriff Terry Ashe, former Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey and Nashville real estate developer Jimmy Granbery.

Winstead’s inflated total receipts were caused by loans made to the campaign. He removed a $460,000 loan from his account because it wasn’t needed and was accruing interest, according to Devaney, but he then made another loan of $200,000 to the campaign.

None of the candidates responded to the question of whether they think President Biden or former President Trump won the 2020 election.

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Sam Stockard
Sam Stockard

Sam Stockard is a veteran Tennessee reporter and editor, having written for the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, where he served as lead editor when the paper won an award for being the state's best Sunday newspaper two years in a row. He has led the Capitol Hill bureau for The Daily Memphian. His awards include Best Single Editorial from the Tennessee Press Association.