The article below from Nashville's main daily newspaper, The Tennessean, provides an
overall description of what came to be known as the Tennessee Waltz FBI Sting. As in
much of the shoddy 'reporting' done by this middle-of-the-road fence sitting newspaper, this
article leaves the unsuspecting reader with the very wrong impression that Tennessee legislators
have cleaned up their act when in fact, most public policy advocates claim the
opposite. So-called "reforms" legislated after this corruption was exposed did little
more than spank greedy hands that continue to pass legislation that ignores public health and
welfare in favor of deep-pocket corporate lobby and other business interests.
As in the ongoing medical genocide initiated by Governor
Phil "No Medicine" Bredesen, if one just read The Tennessean, one would conclude that the needs
of the poor and catestrophically ill have since been adequately addressed when in fact, many
thousands of the poorest citizens of Tennessee remain without any insurance and necessary
medicine and physician assistance. The Tennessean conducted several interviews with
Senator Frist, allowing this total puppet for healtcare corporations, who pretends to be a
concerned physician, to brag about his supposed healthcare agenda while failing to ask Frist
one single question about the ongoing TennCare healthcare crises. It is no small wonder
that corruption continues to abound in the State of Tennessee, where the main daily newspaper
appears to be deathly afraid of the corporate shadow of its healtcare industry and other
utterly corrupt corporate advertisers.
Tennessee Waltz Impact Endures Year After sting
By BONNA de la CRUZ ~ The Tennessean Staff Writer ~ Friday, 05/26/06
A year ago today, public suspicions about dishonest politicians were confirmed as four state
lawmakers were handcuffed and whisked into federal court to answer bribery charges. By
the end of the day, seven people were arrested as part of a federal sting code-named Operation
Tennessee Waltz — four state legislators, one ex-senator and two "bagmen" who have since
pleaded guilty to ferrying payoffs to lawmakers.
Suddenly, Tennessee Waltz was no longer just a song. For many people throughout the
state, it became a sad commentary on the state of affairs at the Tennessee statehouse: Elected
officials exchanging their votes for cash.
"I don't think you can ever say Tennessee Waltz is in the past," said Sen. Kathryn Bowers,
D-Memphis, one of the indicted legislators. She has pleaded not guilty.
In its wake, tougher ethics rules were enacted that, among other things, were designed to cut
down on wining and dining of legislators. Political careers were derailed.
Tennessee Waltz abruptly brought down a 30-year legend in the Senate, the colorful John Ford of
the dynastic Ford family of Memphis. Former state Rep. Chris Newton, R-Cleveland, who
co-authored the Tennessee lottery bill, also resigned and is in federal prison.
"I think it was a tremendous shake-up," said James S. Kennedy, 51, a Smyrna physician
consultant who has followed the case.
"It opened the eyes of the public to see how tight the relationship was between money and
lobbyists and legislators...There's always been a general suspicion of corruption."
For months, rumors swirled that more arrests were coming, and in fact, some local politicians
were later arrested. But on Capitol Hill, the feeling of doom has since lifted, according
to some legislators.
"I think people have kind of moved on," said Rep. Tre' Hargett, R-Bartlett.
Sen. Jim Kyle of Memphis, the Democratic leader in the Senate, remembered May 26, 2005, as
"a very long day."
The shock of seeing longtime colleagues carted away to court came on the same day he presented
the governor's budget for Senate approval, he said.
"We kept working," Kyle said. "We didn't fold. We continued under pretty dire, traumatic
He compared the day Tennessee Waltz went public with the 1970 Apollo 13 space mission that went
wrong but ended in survival.
"Apollo 13 represented failure of the space program but also its finest hour," Kyle said.
Likewise, the ethics scandal served as a "wake-up call," resulting in some ethics measures that
otherwise would not have passed without the arrests, Kyle said.
The two-year undercover sting was built around a fake company, named E-Cycle Management Inc.,
which wanted the state's surplus computer equipment for resale. Its executives, really
undercover agents, engaged two "bagmen" to bribe politicians to support bills favorable to the
Newton rocked Capitol Hill when he pleaded guilty and described E-Cycle's practices as
"business as usual." He decried the corruptive influence of money in politics.
The U.S. attorney's office in Memphis, which spearheaded the Waltz investigation, said this
week that the public corruption probe is ongoing. But, federal prosecutors will say
little else about what touched off the investigation, how they targeted lawmakers and whether
anyone else will be arrested.
But one defendant, ex-Sen. Roscoe Dixon, has his own suspicions, which his attorney outlined in
court papers filed this month. Dixon's trial is scheduled to begin Tuesday. Dixon,
a Democrat from Memphis, charged that prosecutors are guilty of racial profiling.
"It appears from the outset that only black legislators were being targeted for the
government's undercover sting operation," his court motion said. Of the nine defendants,
seven are black.
To back up the charge, Dixon's defense team points to a secretly recorded conversation in 2004
between Tim Willis, a government informant, and Barry Myers, a co-defendant, who was used as
a "bagman." Myers tells Willis not to pay off white politicians. "It just be some
black folk that be in need of a little love," said Myers, who is African-American, according to
transcripts of the conversation contained in Dixon's court files.
The U.S. attorney's office in its court filings replied that it "absolutely denies that race
was a factor in any decision made in this prosecution." Further, Assistant U.S. Attorney
Tim DiScenza, noted that discussions about race were initiated by Myers, not the government
informant, who refused to go along.
The federal court judge handling the case agreed with
the prosecutor and denied Dixon's claim. Prosecutors subsequently have asked the judge to
bar Dixon's defense from bringing up racial profiling in front of the jury during
trial. Neither Dixon nor his attorney, Coleman Garrett of Memphis, returned telephone
messages left for them.
Over the last 12 months, other transcripts of secretly recorded conversations between
politicians and those working for the investigation as agents or informants have come out that
mention public officials who have not been indicted. Dixon's court file also contains a
list of places and dates of recorded conversations.
In these court documents, names ranging from House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, to
Hargett, a former Republican leader in the House, have surfaced.
In a recorded conversation that came out during the February trial of former Hamilton County
Commissioner William Cotton, another Waltz defendant, an undercover agent says, "We did
something for Tre'."
Hargett said he was upset his name was dragged into the corruption case, saying he does not
know what was meant by the comment. There are no indications that any of these
politicians are under investigation, except possibly in the case of Sen. Jeff Miller,
In December, two former staffers with ties to Miller testified before a federal grand jury in
Nashville. Zach Fardon, the first assistant in the U.S. attorney's office here, said that
investigation is ongoing but because of court rules said he could not say anything more.
"It made me very sad that politics and power could be bought like that," Kennedy said about
Tennessee Waltz. "My hope and prayer is that we can make government as open as possible."
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