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More info on Corker. Not good to have

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AKvetch Member Level  Wednesday, 10/11/06 07:21:59 PM
Re: StephanieVanbryce post# 48616
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More info on Corker. Not good to have this kind of news close to the election. Must be another conspiracy, like the Foley one.


Corker saw to interests in 'blind' trust, records show
Shared tips, met with firms' employees while in office

By Marc Perrusquia
October 11, 2006

A blind trust set up to shield businessman Bob Corker from conflicts when he was Chattanooga's mayor may not have been all that blind, record show.

Corker met often with employees from his private companies while mayor from 2001 to 2005, and he shared business tips with others. Corker also got help organizing his 2001 mayoral campaign from City Hall, where a government secretary passed on voting lists and set up meetings for the millionaire commercial real estate developer.

These details appear among thousands of Chattanooga city e-mails documenting Corker's tenure as mayor. City officials reported this summer that Corker's e-mails had disappeared, yet many of his electronic notes survived in e-mail files of his executive assistant, Shirley Pond.

Asked about those e-mails, obtained by The Commercial Appeal, Corker said he's convinced his blind trust "worked very well.' Yet to avoid any appearance of conflict if elected to the Senate, Corker said he's since sold most of his business holdings, including office buildings that leased to federal agencies.

"All I have now is two pieces of property (and) my home. ... I've got a pickup truck and the personal vehicles that our family has,' Corker said. "I want for people to know: I've read about all these conflicts at the national level, and have bent over backwards.'

A spokesman for a public watchdog agency said some aspects of Corker's blind trust while mayor seem dubious.

"Blind trusts are often created so that there's a perception of no conflicts of interest,' said Alex Knott, political editor at The Center For Public Integrity, a nonprofit that promotes ethics in government and has studied blind trusts in Congress.

"But in actuality there's always the potential still there.'

Corker's business dealings have come under scrutiny during a tight, heated race with Democrat Harold Ford Jr. to replace retiring Sen. Bill Frist. Corker, with an estimated $35 million net worth, has drawn criticism for not releasing income tax schedules that detail sources of income, partnerships, and other business dealings.

Questions about Corker's business dealings heightened amid hearings on a lawsuit filed over a city road built through a nature preserve in 2003 when he was mayor. Days after Corker's administration signed off on the road, his private company sold adjacent land for $4.6 million for construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Corker's Senate campaign has said he acted responsibly while mayor, and was shielded from knowledge of his personal affairs by a blind trust.

Records from his mayoral secretary's e-mail files, however, show Corker met frequently with some officials of his private company, the Corker Group.

Among them was James M. Haley, an attorney and Corker Group officer who became the firm's CEO in August 2002. Haley exchanged e-mails with mayoral secretary Pond in 2002 and 2003, when the Wal-Mart issue began roiling, though none mention the controversy.

"He did a ton of work for the city,' Corker said, recalling that Haley handled legal work for a city redevelopment effort called Enterprise South. Indeed, some e-mails mention that initiative. Others refer to a crime strategy and a city telecommunications initiative. One invites Haley to a Corker birthday party.

Another frequent correspondent was Corker Group officer Lynda Childress, who handled Corker's personal finances. Paying bills and balancing credit card reports, she wrote in an unexplained August 2003 note: "Bob, You received a check in the mail today from (insurance firm) Unum Provident for $152,078.59. Would you like me to deposit this into your personal account or give it to the company?'

Corker said he saw no conflict maintaining contact with Haley or Childress.

Public Integrity's Knott took a different view. For one, there's no way to know what all was said in their meetings, he said.

"Being a representative of this company and meeting with government officials basically makes him a lobbyist,' Knott said of Haley. And if the Corker Group provided Childress as Corker's personal secretary, that's "going to make him somewhat indentured to the company. ... He may want to repay that generosity in the form of legislation or city action.'

Haley and Childress did not immediately respond to messages left Tuesday at their Chattanooga offices.

E-mails also show:

Former Corker executive Michael Compton, who became the mayor's chief of staff, passed on details about Corker's privately held stock, and wrote in a November 2001 e-mail that he had to attend "the Corker Group leasing meeting.'

Mayoral assistant Shirley Pond, who also served under previous mayor Jon Kinsey, used her city e-mail to pass Bush voter lists to Corker as he prepared to run for mayor in 2000 and to set up meetings with "the right people.'

Copyright 2006, commercialappeal.com - Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.


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