If Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan (R-TN-02) is looking over his shoulder, he may see Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett gaining ground.
A recent report by The Nashville Post that “Over the past decade Rep. Duncan has doled out hundreds of thousands of dollars to his two sons, his niece, his son-in-law, his daughter-in-law and his sister for campaign work,” is fueling talks of a primary challenge to the 15 term Republican Congressman by Burchett, who is term limited at his current job as Knox County Mayor.
Over $300,000 of those funds have been paid to a firm called “American Public Strategies.”
“If you look at the FEC filings, you won’t see any salary payments made out to John Duncan III after 2013. That’s because since November 2013, the younger Duncan has been getting paid under the aegis of ‘American Public Strategies.’ However, no business entity named American Public Strategies is registered with the state. The address for payments to the entity has been consistent with Rep. Duncan’s two campaign offices during the past four years, and currently payments are addressed to a house on Nubbin Ridge Road in Knoxville — the only house owned by the younger Duncan,” according to The Post:
[S]ince 2013, Rep. Duncan has paid his son $316,500 in salary alone. The campaign also pays for his son’s cellphone and reimburses his mileage, many meals and multiple other expenses.
Federal Election Commission records for the Duncan for Congress campaign committee reviewed by the The Tennessee Star for both the 2014, 2016, and 2018 election cycle show that payments made to American Public Strategies were categorized as “salary expense.”
As of March 31, 2017, Duncan for Congress had over $917,000 cash on hand, according to the most recent FEC filing.
In the first quarter of 2017 ending on March 31, Duncan for Congress spent $46,547, of which $21,000 was paid to American Public Strategies and described as “salary expense.”
During the first quarter, Duncan for Congress received only $5,142 in contributions.
The news raises” both ethical and legal questions for the senior statesman,” the Post reports:
“Watchdogs and political staffers say both of those provisions appear to be at issue with some of Rep. Duncan’s expenses, most notably with payments he has been making to his son John J. Duncan III since 2013. But payments to Rep. Duncan’s other family members also raise questions as to how much one family is profiting from its long-term grip on a congressional seat,” the Post notes:
In the fall of 2010, all signs pointed to John Duncan III continuing in his namesakes’ footsteps. The younger Duncan had just been elected Knox County Trustee, and chatter was that after two terms in office, his father would retire and he’d run for the seat in 2018 or 2020 — that is, if he didn’t first decide to run for another office in the city or county on his way to Congress.
But things didn’t work out that way. First there was a bitter divorce from his college sweetheart, complete with salacious allegations and rumors. Then there was the federal investigation into his management of the Trustee office — charges that included paying employees and himself $42,000 in bonuses for certification classes they never took.
John Duncan III resigned from office on July 2, 2013, when he pleaded guilty to felony official misconduct. (Everyone involved also resigned.) He received a year of probation for his cooperation with the investigation. He has since been granted judicial diversion and had the charges expunged from his record. And he has since remarried; he and his wife adopted twins in 2015.
Two weeks after that plea, on July 15, 2013, Rep. Duncan began paying his son a $3,000 bimonthly salary from his federal campaign account. A year later, in August 2014, the payments increased to $3,500 every other week — $84,000 annually.
Burchett made news recently when he declared that he will challenge either Duncan for his seat in the United States House of Representatives or incumbent Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) for his seat in the United States Senate. Both men are up for re-election in 2018.
A Burchett challenge to either incumbent in the 2018 Republican primary could prove difficult for either to overcome.
Corker, who has made a name for himself by criticizing President Trump, is considered vulnerable to a primary challenge in a state where polls show the president is extremely popular.
A recent Tennessee Star Poll showed that Corker is statistically tied in a theoretical primary match up with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07).
Until recently, Duncan did not appear vulnerable. “Rep. Duncan did not face any primary challenger in 2016,” the Post reports.
Questions surrounding his payments to John Duncan III and other family members, could change that in 2018.
Though not the most conservative member of the Tennessee Congressional delegation, Duncan’s voting record consistently places him as more conservative than the average Republican member of Congress.
According to the Heritage Action Scorecard, Duncan received a 77 percent rating in the 114th Congress that convened between 2015 and 2016, compared to the 65 percent average rating for Republican members of the House of Representatives.
While Duncan’s voting record has kept him safe from primary challenges in the past, questions surrounding his payments to John Duncan III and other family members, could change that in 2018, the Post says.
You can read the full Post story here.