Spending in politics equates to power in politics. Politicians rely on financial donations and independent spending to help get elected and stay in office, while special interest groups and lobbyists use those dollars to sway legislation. By pulling together millions of rows of lobbying and campaign finance data, the Tennessee Lookout has published a first-of-its-kind publicly available database tracking political spending in Tennessee since 2009. This series will use that database to investigate the impact of private money on public regulations and spending affecting Tennesseans.

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Lobbying groups spent around $35 million to influence Tennessee lawmakers during the first half of 2023

BY: - September 21, 2023

Tennessee’s lobbying sector is doing just fine. From Jan. 1, 2023 to June 30, 2023, groups spent a combined $35 million on lobbying activity, according to filings released by Tennessee Registry of Election Finance earlier this week. It’s nearly $4 million more than groups spent during the same period in 2022, and a 66% rise […]

AT&T, the broadband conundrum and a $204 million tax exemption

BY: and - August 17, 2023

As Tennessee lawmakers rushed toward the end of the 2022 legislative session, debates over a new school funding formula, the budget, and critical race theory took center stage. Amid the chaos comparable to the final days of a school year, lawmakers unanimously passed the Tennessee Broadband Investment Maximization Act, containing only one item: a nine-figure […]

What happens when a cash-poor billionaire wants a new sports stadium? Lobbying.

BY: - July 26, 2023

Tennessee Titans CEO Burke Nihill stepped up to the podium on an early May 2022 morning to justify why his team needed, or more likely wanted, a new NFL stadium in downtown Nashville. For months, Nihill had made the rounds advocating the wonders of a new stadium, claiming it would benefit the taxpayers and community. […]

(Photo and graphic by John Partipilo)

Cash for Clout: Who’s funding Tennessee’s politics?

BY: - July 24, 2023

Every year millions of dollars flow to Nashville, flooding the halls of Tennessee’s state capitol as a small number of deep-pocketed groups attempt to influence lawmakers. The money comes in many streams through different legal channels, all aiming to influence regulations, push for tax breaks and secure government contracts, often to further private interests instead […]

Tennessee Capitol (Photo: John Partipilo)

Cash for Clout: Tennessee’s million dollar club

BY: - July 24, 2023

Since 2009, 168 groups have spent more than $1 million in Tennessee politics. An analysis of the spending of Tennessee’s exclusive seven-figure club shows the money serves as a benchmark of the power of private groups to influence public policy. The expenditures are legally allowed under the state’s campaign laws. While no set amount of […]