Stockard on the Stump: Beaman’s past adds questions to Ogles campaign

August 19, 2022 7:00 am
Flanked by family members, GOP congressional nominee Andy Ogles told supporters Thursday he's ready to "get DC out of Tennessee." (Photo: John Partipilo)

Flanked by family members, GOP congressional nominee Andy Ogles told supporters at his Aug. 4, 2022 election party that he’s ready to “get DC out of Tennessee.” (Photo: John Partipilo)

Nashville car magnate Lee Beaman appears to have rebounded from bizarre accusations his fourth wife made in their divorce trial, serving again on the Belmont Board of Trustees, donating thousands of dollars to conservative groups and candidates and serving as treasurer of Andy Ogles’ congressional campaign.

All is forgiven, forgotten or cast as fabrications.

For those who need a reminder, Beaman’s wife of 17 years, Kelley, claimed in a 2018 pre-trial filing that he did numerous sordid sexual things to her during their marriage, including forcing her to watch video of him with a prostitute so she would know how to perform, asking her to make a three-some with him and a prostitute, watching porn in the presence of their young son and demanding sex even after they were breaking up.

Beaman’s attorneys argued that her filing was meant only to make him look bad. It did.

He stepped down from the Belmont and MBA boards for a few years while he cleaned up his legal affairs. But he is back with a vengeance and in the instance of Ogles’ campaign, funding a super PAC, raising questions about whether he violated federal campaign finance law.

Conservative Nashville car magnate Lee Beaman serves as treasurer to Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles’ congressional campaign, but he was also the sole donor of $50,000 to Volunteers for Freedom PAC, which put $24,000 to an ad buy backing Ogles. That necessarily means Beaman coordinated with the PAC, which is shady at best and illegal at worst, though it’s unlikely he’ll face charges.

According to the state’s registry, Beaman gave $3,200 to Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirich, $1,600 to Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson, $3,200 to Republican House candidate Michelle Foreman of Nashville, $1,700 to GOP House candidate Bob Ravener of Williamson County, $1,600 to Republican House candidate Laurie Cardoza-Moore of Williamson County and $15,000 to the Tennessee Firearms Association Legislative Action Committee.

Last year, Beaman gave $15,000 to the Tennessee Legislative Campaign Committee, $7,500 to Tennessee Firearms Association Legislation Action Committee, $5,000 to CAM PAC (the political action committee for House Speaker Cameron Sexton), $1,000 to Republican Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown, who is under indictment, $5,000 to the conservative group Latinos for Tennessee and $5,000 to Concerned Constitutional Conservatives.

He also gave $25,400 to Gov. Bill Lee over a two-year period, and in 2018, he gave $8,000 to gubernatorial candidate Diane Black and $8,000 to Lee. Beaman has also been a major donor to the Tennessee Federation for Children, backers of private school vouchers, giving the group $105,000 from 2012 to 2016. He gave $50,000 to the Tennessee Firearms Association’s lobbying group over the last decade and $50,000 to the Tennessee Legislative Campaign Committee, the state committee for the Tennessee Republican Party.

In some cases, Beaman’s contributions are unsolicited, and they appear to cover a wide range of political beliefs. For instance, he gave $3,000 to Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk in 2014 and $1,000 through ActBlue Tennessee while doling out $1,500 to former Republican Sen. Mae Beavers, former Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham, since expelled, and $1,000 to current U.S. Rep. Mark Green’s state Senate campaign.

Lee Beaman (Ballotpedia)
Lee Beaman (Ballotpedia)

Some Ogles supporters say Beaman’s divorce case doesn’t cause any heartburn because wild accusations are thrown about all the time during breakups, nor were they corroborated.

State Sen. Kerry Roberts, a Springfield Republican who has received $5,600 from Beaman and his former wife over the last six years, says he wasn’t aware of the salacious allegations Kelley Beaman made. He said he doesn’t read “tabloid” stuff, considering it “gossip,” although most of the articles about her accusations were in The Tennessean, the Nashville Scene and other scurrilous publications. 

“I’m aware that he went through a divorce that got a lot of attention, but frankly I just saw the headline and moved on,” Roberts says.

The senator notes he has known Beaman for years going back to the time his family donated money to Lipscomb University and has had “nothing but a good experience” and “nothing but good things to say.”

Defenders also contend there’s nothing wrong with Beaman donating money to a super PAC during the Republican primary for the 5th District Congressional race, as long as he had nothing to do with its formation and messaging.

An official complaint has been filed against the Ogles campaign because it was more than a week late in filing a second-quarter report with the Federal Election Commission. The complaint also points out Ogles’ report showed he raised much less money than he claimed in a May announcement.

Ogles hasn’t given much of an explanation for the late filing and the discrepancy, though he claimed he pushed donors away from his campaign to super PACs because they face fewer rules and fundraising limits.

But regardless of whether Beaman came up with the message, he was the sole donor of $50,000 to Volunteers for Freedom PAC, which put $24,000 to an ad buy backing Ogles. That means he coordinated with the PAC, which is shady at best and illegal at worst, though it’s unlikely he’ll face charges.

Ogles faces Democratic Sen. Heidi Campbell in the November general election to represent the newly-drawn 5th Congressional District, which was set up by the Legislature to hand victory to a Republican. The GOP-controlled Legislature split Davidson into three districts to nix Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper and send eight Republicans to D.C. from Tennessee, leaving U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen of Memphis as the only Democrat. 

It’s probably going to work.

Between west Wilson, southern Davidson, eastern and northern Williamson, Maury, Marshall and Lewis counties, there might not be enough Democrats to field a baseball team, giving Ogles the upper hand in this race.

Being the forgiving type, too, Republicans are likely to cast their votes for Ogles, regardless of the support and questionable actions by Beaman. After all, when’s the last time a woman told the truth in a testy divorce? And she got her money.

Just passing through

Reports out of Chattanooga show groups of asylum seekers are being bused there and dropped off, left on their own to find a way to Washington, D.C.

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn asked the burning Twitter question: “Who’s paying for their tickets and what type of government ID are they using? Tennesseans deserve to know what’s going on in their communities.”

The Tennessee Immigration & Refugee Rights Coalition responded that donations from Chattanoogans, “who have a lot more compassion than you,” footed the bill for at least part of their travel.

Queried about the situation, Gov. Bill Lee’s Office declined to respond.

Readers might remember the uproar last year when a group of immigrants was dropped off at the Chattanooga airport. That led lawmakers to raise cain about the Biden Administration opening the door to undocumented foreign folks.

Then, the state shut down La Casa de Sidney, a group home operated by The Baptiste Group, which had a federal contract and the state’s permission to accept children temporarily. Outrage grew when two of the staff’s members were accused of having inappropriate relations with minors there.

The General Assembly followed with hearings and legislation, which led to legislation requiring child-care facilities to file reams of new paperwork, in addition to a stalled resolution urging the federal government to seek state permission when it brings immigrants to town.

U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn speaking at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority event June 17 in Nashville, (Photo: John Partipilo)
U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn speaking at the Faith and Freedom Road to Majority event June 17 in Nashville, (Photo: John Partipilo)

Since then, the state reached an agreement with Baptiste allowing it to apply for a new license.

In this latest tempest, the Tennessee Immigration & Refugee Rights (TIRRC) people claim Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is sending people out of the state as part of a “political stunt” against President Joe Biden and U.S. laws in place to protect asylum seekers. The people in question are from Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua, Colombia and Haiti and traveled for long periods to escape persecution.

TIRRC representatives have been in Chattanooga the past two weeks working with the mayor’s office to make sure people are “treated with care,” says Judith Clerjeune, campaign and advocacy director for TIRRC.

The group has been helping them clean up, finding out what they need to survive, contacting family to figure out where they can live and providing travel money. People were asking to be dropped off in Chattanooga so they could relocate to other areas instead of being taken to D.C. But they’ve followed the lawful process for asylum and have documentation, according to Clerjeune.

“It’s really unfortunate our elected officials fail to see they are human beings,” says Clerjeune, choosing instead to use them as “pawns” for political purposes.

Yet the outrage continues.

Opioid settlement reached

Attorney General Herbert Slatery announced a settlement this week with Endo International and its lenders that would require $450 million to be paid to 30 states and local governments, stop the promotion of Endo’s opioids and force the company to open millions of documents about its role in the national crisis.

The deal resolves allegations that Endo bolstered drug sales by deceiving people about the risks of addiction and overplayed benefits of its drugs. The Ireland-based drugmaker filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protections in the Southern District of New York this week, according to the AG’s Office release.

The company makes Percocet and Endocet and previously produced Opana ER before it was taken off the market in 2017. Tennessee and other states claim Endo “falsely promoted” Opana ER’s benefits as an abuse deterrent that failed to stop oral abuse and led to fatal outbreaks of Hepatitis and HIV because of abuse by injection. People were shooting up the sh–.

“In Tennessee, Endo’s tactics were especially profitable for them and devastating for us,” Slatery says in the release. “From 2009-2015, Tennessee’s Opana ER sales were the highest in the nation, and the drug was abused at three times the rate of the older formulation.”

Damage control

Michigan-based Hillsdale College is flooding Tennessee with propaganda designed to turn the public tide in favor of its charter school applications.

President Larry Arnn contends the things he said in a secretly-recorded reception in Williamson County – teachers come from the “dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges” in the nation – were aimed at teacher colleges not at teachers. 

People aren’t buying it. 

A four-piece mailer sent to households across the state from Hillsdale College leads with accusations against Nashville media.
A four-piece mailer sent to households across the state from Hillsdale College leads with accusations against Nashville media.

One state lawmaker told me this week if he’d been at the event as Gov. Bill Lee sat there in silence while Arnn bashed education programs, teachers and pretty much everyone in Tennessee he would have punched him in the mouth.

Not that I’m condoning violence, but sometimes people need to have some sense knocked into them. 

The governor has claimed he supports teachers, but he has refused to repudiate Arnn’s statements, meaning he either doesn’t have the guts to stand up to him or he agrees. 

No wonder Tennessee is struggling with a teacher shortage. Who wants to go into a field that gets no respect?

The question is whether the governor-appointed charter authorizing commission will fold like a paper airplane.

“No dark sarcasm in the classroom.”

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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 and Best Single Feature from the Tennessee Press Association.