Despite recent claims by a handful of legislators, allegations by some news media outlets, and a recent letter from the Tennessee Democratic House Caucus to the U.S. Attorney in Nashville requesting an investigation into “bugs” being planted in the offices of Tennessee legislators, there is no evidence that there is any truth to the stories. Now, the former Chief of Staff for House Speaker Glen Casada, Cade Cothren, specifically denies that any such thing has happened.
“I have absolutely not been involved in planting any listening devices in any legislative offices,” Cothren told The Tennessee Star, “nor do I believe it has even happened. I know for a fact that nobody in the Speakers office did any such thing,” Cothren pointed out that there is not a shred of evidence to support the outlandish claims, and that any legitimate investigation will quickly put this particular lie to rest.
“The fact that the media is running with a story without any substance or proof demonstrates how the current media feeding frenzy is completely out of control,” Cothren added.
Cothren also specifically denied that he listened in on meetings in Legislative committee rooms after Committee Hearings ended. “Not only did I not do that, I couldn’t have done that,” Cothren noted. “The access that our office had to the remote video streams of committee meetings is the same exact access that any Tennessean could take advantage of through the legislative website that streams video of floor sessions and committee meetings,” Cothren said. “When that streaming ends it ends for everybody — including those in the Speaker’s office.”
Cothren also spoke to the allegations regarding the Speaker’s use of “white noise” devices to block out sound. “The walls in the new offices in the Cordell Hull Building are paper thin as most legislators and staffers can confirm. There is nothing sinister about trying to conduct legislative business without being distracted by the conversations and noise in other offices.”
Cothren also dismissed the idea that “hall monitors” were dispatched by the Speaker’s office during the just-concluded legislative Session, as reported by The Tennessean.
“Because of the number of new committees created this year, and concerns by legislators that there were not enough research analysts available to compile data and research for them regarding various bills and initiatives, the Speaker added a number of new analysts this year,” Cothren pointed out. “These analysts, like lobbyists, activists, staffers and other legislators, tended to wait in the hallways to meet with legislators since there is not a ‘common area’ where those interactions took place in the old Legislative Plaza. There is nothing wrong with that and I am proud of all of the hard work our staffers did this past Session and the legislative accomplishments that wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
Cothren also discounted the idea that some of the analysts had been involved in the political arena before being hired. “Most of the people who are employed on Capitol Hill — from staffers, to analysts, to interns — either have been or plan to become involved in politics,” Cothren added. “Apparently the Tennessean reporters are the only people unaware of that fact.”
“The bottom line is that I have never installed or been aware of any listening devices being planted in legislative offices, and I know for a fact that it has not happened due to any involvement by anybody in the Speaker’s office. There is certainly no evidence of any such devices being discovered, nor any other basis for the stories that are being reported and the supposed FBI investigation that might be underway without any underlying proof of anything illegal having been done,” Cothren said. “And despite the unsubstantiated and unsourced news stories, I have never used drugs at the Capitol and have never solicited sex from interns — nor have any claimed that I did.”
“I engaged in some stupid communications with a colleague several years ago who has now chosen to selectively make some portions of those exchanges public. They do not reflect the whole and accurate picture of our conversations, nor do they reflect who I am or how I have conducted myself the last several years.”
Cothren indicated that he hopes fair and honest investigations into the bogus claims being made, including the allegations that he or anybody else altered an email from social justice activist Justin Jones in order to “frame,” will reveal the truth. “Unfortunately, the accomplishments of the House this year — from cutting taxes, increasing pay for teachers, making our schools safer, creating more opportunities for students in failing schools, and more — are being lost in a media frenzy that has little connection to honest and fair reporting and which is driven by partisan political objectives.”