Bredesen Closing Campaign Fund, Paying Off 2002 Loan

Gov. Phil Bredesen says he will close his political accounts after using $1.4 million of the money remaining in them to partially repay a $3 million loan used to help finance his first election in 2002.

Former Govs. Ned McWherter and Don Sundquist both kept their old campaign accounts open after leaving office, using the money to make political contributions, cover the expenses of politically-related travel, buy flowers for funerals and the like. Both still had their accounts open when at the last reporting deadline.

But Bredesen, who will leave office in January of 2011, said in an interview that keeping an account open "doesn't make any sense" in his situation.

Bredesen has two campaign accounts, according to Registry of Election Finance records - one for his 2002 campaign and another for his 2006 reelection campaign. In 2002, he took out a $3 million loan and gave the money to the campaign.

His campaign spent a total of about $11 million in that race, which ended with his victory over Republican Van Hilleary in the general election.

Bredesen has kept money in the accounts, occasionally spending some for politically-related expenses, and for making interest payments on the loan - though not on the principle until last year. Records show he has since transferred out $1.4 million to pay toward the principle.

After the loan payments, his 2002 account still had a balance of $34,390 at last report, while the 2006 account had a balance of $739.50. They will soon be closed, the governor said.

"Then, after I leave office, I'll write a (personal) check for the $1.5 million (to pay off the estimated remaining amount of the loan)," Bredesen said, then close the accounts.

Under state law, Bredesen had the option of soliciting contributions from others to use for paying off the loan, but chose not to do so. Other Tennessee political figures, including U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, have used money from post-election fundraising to pay down loans to their campaigns.

Bredesen said he anticipates some politically-related expenses after leaving office, but intends to pay them from his own pocket and avoid "criticism from somebody saying, 'Oh, look, he's got a campaign account to pay for sending flowers'."

A multi-millionaire, Bredesen has not accepted his salary as governor, $185,000 per year, and has often picked up his own tab - and sometimes for staff as well - when traveling to job-related events when he could have billed the state.


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About this blog

    News Sentinel Nashville bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about state and Legislature news.