Bill Lee Donated $164,000 to Federal and State Candidates, 99.3 Percent Went to Republicans

Bill Lee

Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee donated $164,540 to candidates for federal and state offices during the 19 year period beginning in 1999 and ending in 2017, according to records provided to The Tennessee Star by the Lee campaign.

Of that amount, 99.27 percent, or $163,340, went to Republican candidates, while 0.73 percent, or $1,200, went to Democratic candidates.

Notably, as The Star reported on Saturday, $1,000 of that $1,200 to state Democratic candidates went to Gov. Phil Bredesen’s re-election campaign in 2004.

The majority of those donations–$130,640–went to federal candidates, while another $33,900 went to state candidates. (Note: $12,600 of the state candidate contributions were made by Bill Lee’s wife, Maria Lee, and $3,000 of the federal candidate contributions were made in 1999 by Bill Lee and his late first wife.)

All of Lee’s donations to federal candidates went to Republicans.

Three percent of Lee’s $33,900 to state candidates–or $1,200–went to Democrats.

The Lee campaign did not provide a list of Lee’s donations to local candidates and committees to The Star.

As The Star reported previously, Lee donated $500 to disgraced former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, a Democrat, and the Lee Company, which he owns and now serves as chairman after many years as CEO, donated $5,000 to the pro-Common Core Williamson Business PAC in 2016.

“The overwhelming number of donations to Republicans certainly helps Lee deflect his donations to Megan Barry, Phil Bredesen and a group that aggressively campaigned to defeat conservatives in Williamson County,” Tennessee Star Political Editor Steve Gill said.

“But the fact that he is on the defensive rather than defining two of his opponents who are leading him in the polls is still a challenge he has to overcome if he is going to carve out a credible path to victory in the next 30 days,” Gill added.

Lee donated $1,300 to the John McCain Presidential campaign in June 2008 and $5,000 to the Mitt Romney Presidential campaign in June 2012, but made no contributions to the 2016 Presidential campaign of Donald Trump.

At the state level, Lee has been a strong supporter of Gov. Bill Haslam, beginning with his first donation of $500 in February 2010, when Haslam faced a tough Republican primary battle against former Rep. Zach Wamp and former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey.

All told, Lee has contributed $25,200 to Gov. Haslam’s gubernatorial campaigns, or about 75 percent of the $33,900 he has contributed to all state candidates over the 19 year period between 1999 and 2017. (Note: $12,600 of the $25,200 in contributions to Gov. Haslam were made by Bill Lee and $12,600 were made by his wife, Maria Lee.)

During the 2016 election cycle, Lee contributed $3,500 to five Republican members of the Tennessee General Assembly who were running for re-election: $1,000 to State Senator Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville), $1,000 to Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell (R-Nashville), $500 to State Rep. Glen Casada (R-Franklin), $500 to former State Rep. Jeremy Durham (R-Franklin), and $500 to State Rep. Michael Curcio (R-Dickson).

You can see the complete list of Lee’s donations to federal candidates, as provided to The Star by the Lee campaign, here:

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Bill Lee Fed 1999 to 2017″]

You can see the complete list of Lee’s donations to state candidates, as provided to The Star by the Lee campaign, here:

[pdf-embedder url=”” title=”Bill Lee State Donations 1999 to 2017″]



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7 Thoughts to “Bill Lee Donated $164,000 to Federal and State Candidates, 99.3 Percent Went to Republicans”

  1. […] The Tennessee Star reported, 99.3 percent of the $164,540 Bill Lee donated to federal and state candidates over the 19 year […]

  2. […] you still can’t guess which State Senator got $1,000 in 2016 from Bill Lee, here are the […]

  3. Kevin

    Good piece of reporting, and an even better piece of campaign management by the Lee campaign! Releasing the list of campaign donations was transparent, open and honest! I would love to “see” the political contributions made by the other candidates!

    My analysis of Lee’s contributions yields one main take-away. At an average yearly rate of $8,632 per year, Bill Lee is either a political campaign finance novice, he’s really cheap, or, he truly is conservative! I think more on point is the fact that he was relatively late to learn that in order to be a successful mechanical services contractor in Tennessee, you have to get into the political pay to play game.

    This is MUCH different than his two opponents, Randy Boyd and Diane Black! A cursory look at Campaign finance records indicate a different story.

    Randy Boyd has been playing the political game for many years as part of the Haslam political machine. You don’t get the “Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research” part of the Haslam College of Business, at the University of Tennessee, named after you for a measly $ 8,600/year! Oh, and isn’t it interesting that since 2016, the Boyd Center, part of the Haslam College, publishes the annual ” An Economic Report to the Governor of the State of Tennessee”! A classic case of the Mouse watching the Cheese! I bet it can even make the “blue cheese” gas tax increase smell like American?

    And then there’s Diane Black, who has been laundered big bucks to all sorts of political games for decades! A noteworthy one is the John Boehner/Paul Ryan led National Republican Congressional Committee PAC, where it only takes half a million dollars or so a year to be named the Chairman of the Budget Committee, as Diane Black was. Also of note, was to Cortney Roger’s State House challenger, Len Silverman, a “strong school/SEIU/NEA backed candidate. Or how about the $2,800 to Steve Dickerson in 2012.

  4. Stuart I. Anderson

    My fellow conservatives, PLEASE let’s not lose sight of our ANYBODY BUT BOYD mission as we are rapidly heading to the early voting period and that can only be brought about by UNITY behind a single candidate rather than balkanization behind three. These contributions don’t tell a story of devotion to movement conservatism to make up for the fact that (1) Diane is most likely to defeat Randy! as per the polls, (2) Diane is a known quantity through years of holding office as opposed to Lee’s never holding office, (3) Diane’s Heritage score of 78% after eight years in Congress show her to be a tepid conservative on the warmer side.

    It is only reasonable to assume that as we approach election day Randy! and his friends will engage in OPERATION DIVISION attempting to split the conservative vote as evenly as possible between Lee and Black. We therefore can expect a campaign by the centrist Republican establishment to boost Lee while denigrating Black. PLEASE DON’T FALL FOR IT. Barring a sudden surge in the polls, in order to avoid eight years of Boyd we must be prepared to unify behind Black.

  5. Dave Vance

    Not dedending Lee but if we are going to talk donations and support especially as it relates to topics such as amnesty remember David Black (the brains of the pair) was an alternate delegate for pro amnesty Little Marco Rubio. Diane donated to Alexaner and was an honorary chair in 14 when conservatives were trying to Beat Lamar! She also donated to Cantor in 14 over Dave Brat in Va. The Black’s donations to the GOP are huge! Probably why she was budget chair and those party funds enerally go to RINOs, not conservative challengers .

  6. David James

    Steve Dickerson is the MOST LIBERAL Republican in the state Senate. He voted to give illegal aliens in-state tuition, he was the ONLY Republican to vote AGAINST suing the feds over refugee resettlement and voted yes for the gas tax. And this is who Bill Lee gave his money to???? Guess it was just another business decision.

    1. 83ragtop50

      Good point. I guess one could assume from this that Mr. Lee’s conservatism is not deeply rooted. There seems to be a history of wealthy Tennessee business people turned politician who are “moderate” in their conviction to conservative values. Does lots of money encourage them to slide toward the left?