The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance decided this week not to contest a ruling by an administrative law judge that found that Williamson Strong is not a political action committee, registry attorney John Allyn confirmed to The Tennessee Star.
Judge Michael Begley ruled March 28 that the parent group did not spend any money on “express advocacy” in supporting candidates. He also said in his ruling that Williamson Strong met the media exception in that members “posted factually accurate information and commentary regarding issues related to public education.”
Formed shortly before the 2014 school board race, Williamson Strong portrays itself as nonpartisan but its blog on its website and its Facebook page are highly critical of conservative groups, including the Tea Party, Americans for Prosperity and Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project.
Former conservative school board member Susan Curlee, elected to the board in 2014, filed a complaint against Williamson Strong with the registry in December of that year. In May 2015, the registry fined Williamson Strong and the group appealed. The group was issued a $2,500 fine for failing to register as a PAC by filing a form for appointing a treasurer. A second $2,500 fine for failing to file campaign financial disclosure reports was put on hold pending the outcome of the appeal.
The Williamson Strong case led other individuals to file complaints about other groups being PACs. The Williamson Herald reports that other groups named in registry complaints include the 9/12 Project filed by Brentwood resident and attorney Roger Abramson; Williamson County Homeschool Coalition, filed by stay-at–home mom and Williamson County Schools parent Gael Morkel; and Preserve Brentwood, filed by Brentwood-resident Thomas H. Carr, Jr.
The registry has delayed a decision on other complaints related to the definition of a PAC pending the outcome of proposed state legislation under consideration in the current session of the Tennessee General Assembly.
Read the full decision: