“My appearance on the WWTN Gas Tax Town Hall program, and my statements and comments during the program, were perfectly acceptable under all Tennessee laws and in complete conformance with the rules and regulations of the Tennessee Ethics Commission,” former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey tells The Tennessee Star in an emailed statement on Tuesday.
Last week The Star broke the news that Ramsey is a paid consultant to the Tennessee Coalition on Transportation, a group that supports Gov. Haslam’s proposed gas tax.
Here’s the full statement from former Lt. Gov. Ramsey:
I am more than completely confident that I have followed all the rules regarding a retired elected official in Tennessee.
I have consulted with legal counsel, who advised me in great detail regarding the limitations in Tennessee’s ethics laws on my activities and my right to speak my mind as protected by the free speech protections in the Tennessee and U.S. Constitutions – the same rights enjoyed by every other person in this great state and wonderful nation.
I have followed the laws and rules to the letter. I have said publicly many times that repairing our outdated transportation infrastructure funding formula was about the only important piece of business I did not get to address in my years in the state House and Senate and as the state’s lieutenant governor. To the extent the residents of the state are interested in my opinions on the importance of this issue, I am going to tell them.
My appearance on the WWTN Gas Tax Town Hall program, and my statements and comments during the program, were perfectly acceptable under all Tennessee laws and in complete conformance with the rules and regulations of the Tennessee Ethics Commission.
Ramsey identified his legal counsel as James Weaver with Waller-Lansden. He did not state whether the advice from his legal counsel was provided verbally or in writing.
“Ramsey noted that ethics laws allow him to serve as a consultant, though they prohibit him from lobbying his former colleagues in the General Assembly for a period of 12 months from his resignation as Lt. Governor,” as The Star reported last week:
It is not clear whether that 12 month clock started in November, when Ramsey was replaced in the Senate, or in January, when State Sen. Randy McNally was named President of the Senate and became Lt. Governor.
But the state law that prohibits former legislators from lobbying their colleagues may prohibit Ramsey from engaging in a panel that included five of his former General Assembly colleagues–two in the Senate and three in the House.
Lobbying is defined in 3-6-3-2 of the Tennessee Code Annotated as follows:
(16)(A) “Lobby” means to communicate, directly or indirectly, with any official in the legislative branch or executive branch for the purpose of influencing any legislative action or administrative action;
There are no public reports that any complaints have been filed with the Tennessee Ethics Commission regarding Ramsey’s consultant relationship with the Tennessee Coalition on Transportation.
The Tennessee Ethics Commission is responsible for enforcing the ethics regulations for former members of the Tennessee General Assembly. It does not offer public comments on whether complaints have been filed or the status of complaints that may have been filed.