Former Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey tells The Tennessee Star that his legal counsel, James Weaver, a partner with the prestigious Nashville law firm Waller Lansden Dorch & Davis, who has advised him that his appearance at a WWTN Gas Tax Town Hall to advocate in favor of Gov. Haslam’s gas tax increase, a position held by his client, the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, is “perfectly acceptable under all Tennessee laws” has done so verbally, but not in writing.
“James and I have had lots of discussions about what I can and cannot do in this first year,” Ramsey tells The Star in an emailed statement.
“James is an expert in this area. As my council, I have never felt the need to have anything in writing from him. I simply wanted his advice and council,” Ramsey adds in the statement.
At former Lt. Gov. Ramsey’s invitation, The Star has reached out to Mr. Weaver and anticipates providing more details on the Tennessee statutes as they relate to guidelines for consulting and lobbying as they apply to former members of the Tennessee General Assembly during their first 12 months out of office.
At issue is whether Ramsey, as a paid consultant to the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee, engaged in lobbying activities during his appearance at the WWTN Gas Tax Town Hall earlier this month.
There is no Tennessee statute or regulation that prohibits former Lt. Gov. Ramsey, who left his position in the State Senate in November and was replaced as Lt. Governor in January by Randy McNally, from providing consulting services to any entity operating legally in the state of Tennessee.
Typically, “consulting” is defined as providing private advice to a client. “Consulting” can also involve preparing reports for a client, which they in turn make public.
Former Lt. Gov. Ramsey, however, adheres to a broader definition of “consulting,” one which allows him to share a stage with former colleagues who are publicly engaged in a debate in which he is engaged advocating on behalf of his client.
That broader definition may be, as Lt. Gov. Ramsey asserts, “perfectly acceptable under all Tennessee laws.”
There have been no published reports that anyone has filed a complaint with the Tennessee Ethics Commission, which administers the state’s laws and regulations regarding lobbying by former members of the Tennessee General Assembly, concerning Lt. Gov. Ramsey’s activities as a consultant to the Transportation Coalition of Tennessee.
There is however, a perception that his activities push very close to the “lobbying” line.
A more detailed legal analysis supporting the former Lt. Governor’s broader definition of “consulting” could address those perceptions.