Live from Music Row Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed all-star panelist Clint Brewer in-studio to help unravel the specifics surrounding the recent indictment of former Speaker Glen Casada and his aide, Cade Cothren.
Leahy: In the studio, our good friend, all-star panelist Clint Brewer. The words of the day are “small potatoes.” (Laughter) I’m looking at this indictment of former Speaker of the Tennessee House Glen Casada, his aide Cade Cothren, and “Individual 4,” a former member of the State House of Representatives, widely thought to be former State Representative Robin Smith. This was a stupid scheme, but it was like, not a lot of money.
Brewer: Nah. An embarrassingly low amount of money. I’m not saying it would have been better if it were more money. I’m just saying it’s very petty.
Leahy: It’s petty, and it indicates just really bad judgment to put this scheme together. The fraudulent element of this, allegedly – I’m going to say allegedly, right? Because everybody is entitled to a fair trial.
And of course, the timing of this is bizarre, right? Because what happened is, Glen Casada became Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives in January of 2019. In April of 2019, there was a very controversial bill that was Governor Lee’s number one priority for his first term, which is the Education Savings Account, which ended up finally being implemented.
By the way, the first approvals have happened on the bills now, more than three years later, its passage and signing into law. But basically it wasn’t going through. It was like 48-48 in the House.
And then purportedly, one state representative was persuaded to change their vote to be a “yes.” And there were allegations at the time, shortly after the bill passed, that there was some sort of bribery involved in getting those vote changes.
Brewer: I don’t think it was bribery. It was like a quid pro quo.
Leahy: The term “bribery” was used in the May 2019 story about it by Phil Williams at News Channel 5 when he said there was an FBI investigation into the possibility of bribery surrounding that.
Brewer: My understanding of it was, vote for this and you’ll get this.
Leahy: Yeah, well, quid pro quo, but the language used in that first story, of an FBI investigation, was bribery. This is May of 2019. Now, meanwhile, Glen Casada – somebody got a copy of some text messages he had between himself and his aide Cade Cothren, and they included sexist and racist messages. And it was a big mess. And he lost the confidence of the caucus and he resigned. So that’s August 2017.
Brewer: Resigned as Speaker.
Leahy: Thank you very much.
Brewer: Stayed on his House member. Yeah. And then he got re-elected one more time.
Leahy: He did get re-elected in November 2020. Then this little stupid scheme.
Brewer: Explain the scheme because it’s really …
Leahy: You hear the alleged scheme. He’s no longer a Speaker, he’s just a state rep. And apparently Glen Casada is in constant need of money. Apparently. And so this is a scheme allegedly to get a little bit of money.
And so, there’s an element of the Tennessee General Assembly where every member of the Tennessee General Assembly gets $3,000 bucks from the state.
Brewer: Their office gets it.
Leahy: Their office. Thank you. Gets $3,000 to do constituent service mail.
Brewer: At a federal level it’d be called a franking.
Leahy: There you go.
Brewer: It’s essentially money that the state gives you as a state office holder to mail your constituents and give them updates on what’s happening in your district and in the state.
Leahy: So there’s a rule in the Republican caucus, apparently, maybe a rule of the House, that you cannot, as a state representative, have a business that conducts mailing services.
Brewer: There’s a reason for that. This money was pursued for decades by people trying to take advantage of it.
Leahy: It’s a plum contract. You got to perform on the contract, but it’s like small potatoes, right?
Brewer: Yeah, it’s nothing.
Leahy: Okay. So anyways, to get around that, this Cade Cothren fellow sets up a phony company and a phony person called Matthew Phoenix. There is no – Matthew Phoenix is the other name of Cade Cothren.
He went to New Mexico to set up a limited liability company. Why? Because you don’t have to tell the state of New Mexico who you are.
So he creates this fictitious person, Matthew Phoenix, and a fictitious company called Phoenix Solutions, which then gets a contract by fraudulently representing that it is an experienced company, and that Matthew Phoenix is somebody other than Cade Cothren.
So they get a contract to do these mailing constituent services. In 2020, they end up billing the state of Tennessee $51,000for these. And apparently they actually did mailings. Apparently.
Brewer: It’s not like they were taking the money and not doing it. But, I mean, the bottom line is that you’ve got a former House Speaker, and a former state party chair, in Robin Smith.
Leahy: Now, in the indictment, Robin’s name is not mentioned …
Brewer: but it mentions her district,And she’s already pled guilty.
Leahy: It mentions Robin Smith, Individual 4 from Hamilton County …
Brewer: And she’s already pled guilty …
Leahy: Not been sentenced yet.
Brewer: But here’s the bottom line. The last time this happened was 2008, and it happened primarily to Democrats in the Tennessee Waltz scandal. And I’m not saying this is what’s going to happen, but this is, frankly, how power shifts begin in this state.
Leahy: It can be … To me. actually, when I look at where this might go, my first question is, this $51,000 in a contract fraudulently obtained but performed, it looks like.
And then the allegation is, and I’m trying to look at the indictment, and it’s 28 pages. We’ve got a copy of it. The money changing hands … there was apparently between Phoenix Solutions, Incorporated with a bank account set up in November 2019 with $51,000 in state contracts given to this operation to perform mail-in services.
So there was some, “kickback” from Phoenix Solutions, allegedly, to Glen Casada and an individual, most likely former State Rep. Robin Smith.
Listen to the interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.