Multiple sources have confirmed to The Tennessee Star that former Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) instigated a confrontation with a prominent Tennessee Republican donor in the first class section of a commercial flight from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta, Georgia on January 3, just hours after his term as a United States Senator representing Tennessee had expired.
Corker reportedly raised his voice during the boarding process in a conversation he initiated with Tennessee Republican donor Tim Pagliara, who contributed $3,900 to the former senator’s 2012 campaign, and in recent years has been a frequent critic of the outgoing senator’s personal financial dealings while in office.
Both men were on the plane after attending the swearing in ceremony of Corker’s successor, Marsha Blackburn, to the United States Senate in Washington, D.C. on January 3.
Pagliara, a prominent money manager based in Franklin, Tennessee who founded and operates CapWealth Group, has been a leading contributor to many Tennessee Republican causes, including most recently the 2018 campaign of Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
One person from the flight who spoke anonymously to The Star said, “Senator Corker walked onto the plane, where multiple people greeted him and shook his hand. He chatted briefly with Mr. Pagliara as he did with others on the plane before taking his seat.”
Others tell it differently.
Corker began his tirade, sources say, when he saw Pagliara, who has consistently criticized Corker’s dealings with Wells Fargo Bank.
Corker was seated in first class of the Delta flight, along with his chief of staff Todd Womack, sources say.
Corker, the former head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reportedly initiated an unsolicited discussion with Pagliara, defending his personal finances and business transactions. Corker was in the seat in front of Pagliara, but turned around in his seat to face him, knees on the seat facing backward, peering over the top of the seat.
Womack was seated behind Pagliaria, but joined in his boss’s verbal confrontation with Pagliara, sources said.
The outgoing senator verbally confronted Pagliara, reportedly, for his claims that he, the senator, had improperly secured a benefit for his private dealings in a large retail development in Mobile, Alabama known as McGowin Park, among other issues.
Pagliara held his ground, sources say, noting that the McGowin Park project–in which Corker reportedly had a 15 percent interest–had secured $61 million in non-recourse financing, something usually unavailable to private citizens not sitting in the U.S. Senate.
Corker reportedly responded that he did not personally negotiate that generous non-recourse financing with the lender, Wells Fargo Bank. Corker further argued that he was not a partner in that development project until after the non-recourse financing with Wells Fargo had been secured.
“Senator, I didn’t ask you that. I just made a statement of fact,” Pagliara responded, sources say. He went on to note that Corker became a partner in the McGowin Project two months before the $61 million in non-recourse financing with Wells Fargo was recorded.
Other travelers in first class looked askance at the unfolding spectacle of a former U.S. Senator verbally confronting one of his former constituents on a plane in a public setting, sources say.
Corker, sources say, ignored that fact and pivoted to another subject, claiming that he “never shorted the housing system.”
Pagliara noted that Corker’s ownership of the Pointer Hedge Fund and his various personal investments allegedly violated Senate ethics rules.
Corker claimed he had no idea what that hedge fund owned, sources say.
Pagliara replied that Corker made $35 million off a deal that involved the Pointer Hedge Fund, CDS Abacus 18, and AIG.
Todd Womack, Corker’s chief of staff, then jumped into the fray, reportedly claiming that “we” didn’t make that much money off the deal, sources say.
Corker then reportedly said he made a lot of money when he sold his company in 2006, and that he was not personally liable for anything related to his company after that.
Pagliara reportedly disagreed, noting that Corker has allegedly never produced a UCC release from a $22 million GE Capital loan.
Womack jumped in, sources familiar with the exchange say, claiming that such a release does exist, and further claiming that he can produce it.
Pagliara asked him to do so, sources said, because if Corker wants to run for president he does not want to have questions about that $22 million GE Capital loan hanging over his head.
Corker ended the conversation as the plane landed in Atlanta, saying he was going home. He quickly exited the plane, virtually sprinting through the concourse, sources say.
Sources tell The Star that Pagliara and the other first class passengers on the plane were shocked at the vicious and personal nature of Corker’s verbal confrontation, which went far beyond the bounds of propriety for any passenger on the flight, let alone a former United States Senator.
The Star asked Pagliara, Corker, and Womack to confirm that they were on a Delta Flight from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta, Georgia on January 3 and that the incident described above took place. They all declined to comment.