Wednesday, March 30, 2005

When Politics and Ethics Come Full Circle

When Politics and Ethics Come Full Circle
In two previous posts here and here I described the start of problems for Tennessee State Senator John Ford (D-Memphis). It's turning out to be the proverbial tip of the ethics iceberg.

It all began to unfold for Senator Ford when he fought a petition from one of three women he has fathered children in her attempt to win an increase in child support payments. The woman was only getting $500 a month from Ford. The court proceedings uncovered around $300,000 in annual undisclosed income from unethical "consulting" work on behalf of firms who looked to influence Ford and his seat on three TennCare committees. This was on top of the $356,899 he earned legally in 2003. The courts ruled that Ford must up his child support payments. But, with the unwanted publicity of the ethical violations and investigations, the money Ford was earning on the side disappeared. Ford is now petitioning a Shelby County court to lower his child support payments due to the loss of income.

To top all this (yes it gets better), Senator Ford is facing mounting legal bills due to his unethical actions. The senator approached a Capitol Hill lobbyist and asked for a donation to help pay for his legal woes. I'll repeat that, the senator approached a Capitol Hill lobbyist and asked for a donation to help pay for his legal woes. Ford told the lobbyist ''I do have a legal defense fund. If you can help me, I'd appreciate it.'' In the state of Tennessee it is against the law for lawmakers to ask for gifts from lobbyists and for lobbyists to provide gifts to lawmakers. Chalk another one up for Senator Ford.

Ford is currently under investigation for:

  • Using his position on a Senate committee for child welfare to benefit his child support issues. He has six kids from three women and maintains two households. One child only gets $500 a month from Ford, who earned $356,899 in 2003 (minus bribes).
  • Representing a district he does not reside in, a violation of state law. He lists his family's funeral home as his place of residence, which is in his district.
  • Ford is sponsoring a bill that would directly benefit his family's funeral home; the bill could run lower cost funeral homes out of business.
  • Accepting $237,000 in bribe money from a business looking to score TennCare projects. Ford sits on three committees that influence TennCare, a failed socialized healthcare program that is ripe with fraud. The TBI has initiated a criminal investigation into Ford's actions.
(Sources The Tennessean)