If Tennessee voters send former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen to the U.S. Senate this fall then Bredesen will step down as chair Silicon Ranch, a company he founded that has ethics problems.
Silicon Ranch Corporation helps finance the construction of solar arrays. According to the Tennessean, Silicon Ranch owns or operates 100 energy facilities in 14 states and employs 30 people in Nashville, San Francisco, and Denver.
In 2010, before he left the governor’s seat, Bredesen had to report about his role at Silicon Ranch to the Tennessee Ethics Commission. Bredesen had a personal interest in a company that benefits from policies he enacted as governor.
Bredesen, however, only made the disclosure because the Tennessean revealed Bredesen’s involvement in the company five days prior.
Also involved were the state’s former Economic and Community Development Commissioner Matthew Kisber, who serves as the company’s president, and former state Revenue Commissioner Reagan Farr, who serves as its vice-chairman.
Tennessee Watchdog broke the story eight years ago.
“One can argue that Bredesen’s personal interest in Silicon Ranch may violate the state’s Guiding Principles of Ethical Conduct for Public Officials because of conflict of interest issues, or at least the appearance of them,” according to the website.
Bredesen had long touted the benefits of solar energy while he was governor, Tennessee Watchdog went on to say.
In 2009, for instance, he used $62.5 million in federal stimulus money to fund two solar-related projects under what was known as the Volunteer State Solar Initiative.
The first project, the Tennessee Solar Institute, is at the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory campuses in Knoxville and Oak Ridge.
The second project, the West Tennessee Solar Farm near Brownsville, is a five-megawatt 20-acre power generation facility. In 2009 Bredesen described that as one that helps with educational, research, and economic development matters.
Also in 2010, Silicon Ranch subleased office space from Pathway Lending, a company that had economic development interests with the state while Bredesen was governor.
“Such involvement on the governor’s part might serve as additional violations of the state’s Guiding Principles of Ethical Conduct for State Officials,” according to the 2010 Tennessee Watchdog article.
Those guiding principles warn elected officials against even the appearance of a conflict of interest when it comes to financial interests.
According to the Tennessean, Silicon Ranch has since relocated to another building in SoBro.