A sworn complaint was filed against State Sen. John Stevens to the state’s Registry of Election Finance alleging the improper use of campaign funds for the August 6 Republican primary.
Stevens is finishing up his second term as senator for the state’s 24th district, having first been elected in 2012. District 24 includes the counties of Benton, Carroll, Gibson, Henry, Obion and Weakley.
The complaint, filed by a resident of Stevens’ district, references his campaign finance disclosure report submitted on July 10.
In the report, Stevens itemizes an expense to the Tennessee Bar Association in the amount of $375 for membership dues.
The complaint points out this is likely a personal expense and, therefore, not a valid campaign expenditure as required by state law in T.C.A. 2-10-114.
Stevens’ disclosure also shows a donation of $1,000 to his senate colleague Rusty Crowe (R-Washington County), who is a candidate in the 16-way Republican primary for District 1 of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The complainant maintains that the contribution to a federal candidate is not allowed, because the statutory definition of a public office in T.C.A. 2-10-102 includes only state and local offices
Stevens is among 16 senators in even-numbered districts up for re-election in 2020. Stevens is being challenged by Casey Hood in the Republican primary on August 6.
In September 2019, Hood was appointed by the Obion County Commission to serve as the interim state representative for the 77th District. The seat was vacated by Bill Sanderson, the near four-term legislator who stepped down last summer citing family issues amid allegations of soliciting sex with younger men on the Grindr app.
In the November 2019 Republican primary special election, Rusty Grills was the successful candidate against Hood and two other opponents.
Hood’s campaign website compares Stevens’ campaign contributions from 2012 to 2020 in terms of dollars and number of transactions by individual contributors versus special interests, demonstrating a significant shift in both toward special interests.
Hood also points out that in the 111th Tennessee General Assembly, Stevens made no meaningful effort to advance a second amendment civil immunity bill that he sponsored and, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted to send the Heartbeat Bill to summer study.
In 2017, Stevens also voted in favor of the gas-tax-increasing IMPROVE Act, Hood advises voters.
The successful candidate from the August 6 primary will go on to face Independent candidate Yahweh Yahweh at the November 3 general election. There is no Democrat candidate running for the seat.
Bill Young, executive director of the Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance told The Tennessee Star that the sworn complaint filed pursuant to T.C.A. 2-10-108(b), which was dated July 28, had just been received in their office on August 5.
“The complaint will be presented to the Registry Board for review, and a consideration of what if any further action to take, pursuant to T.C.A. 2-10-206(7),” advised Young.
By publication deadline, Stevens had not responded to The Star’s inquiry regarding the complaint.
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Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.