(WJHL) – Its name seems benign enough — East Tennessee PAC — but the newly formed political action committee’s advertisements are anything but.
Tennessee State Representative Matthew Hill of Jonesborough (R-Seventh) has borne the brunt of attack ads released by the PAC this month as he faces his stiffest primary challenge since 2014. Those ads include at least two mailers being sent to homes in the district and a TV ad that has been running in fairly heavy rotation for the past several days.
Very little can be gleaned from Tennessee’s online campaign finance site at this point. It shows the PAC was created July 1, and that its treasurer is David Langdon, a West Chester, Ohio attorney whose website describes the practice he founded as “focused exclusively on political, election, nonprofit and constitutional law.”
The officer listed is a Thomas Norris, with no address given.
In a statement, Hill called the PAC “a faceless, nameless organization run out of Ohio which hasn’t released the name of a single donor.”
One thing that’s certain is that as Hill and his opponent, funeral home co-owner Rebecca Alexander, keep their advertising largely on the positive side, the East Tennessee PAC is going negative in a big way.
Two mailers sent out over the past several days label Hill “a typical politician,” and list several examples of what they say shows Hill “puts his personal interests before those of the people he represents” or “believes (he) can live above the law.”
Speaking of the law, the East Tennessee PAC’s treasurer, Langdon, appears to know his way around it when it comes to campaign finance. Second quarter financial reports were due July 10, but since East Tennessee PAC formed July 1, it won’t owe a report until July 30 — several weeks after its first mailers.
Until then, it may be impossible to know who is funding the PAC, how much it’s received, or how much it has spent in ads that urge voters to “Vote NO on Matthew Hill on August 6th.” The mailers also identify as being “Paid for by East Tennessee PAC. Not Authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.”
So far, two mailers received by Johnson City residents refer to several publicly reported stories related to Hill. Topics include a tax lien filed against Hill for unpaid income taxes, a story about campaign expenses to companies Hill has an ownership interest in, and stories about donations from a PAC tied to developers seeking a special tax zone for Boones Creek.
Of the specifics in the ads, Hill said: “This topic has been covered in the press extensively for the past year and I’ve been completely transparent about it: I am working every day to take care of these obligations” (presumably the tax lien).
Hill suggested the PAC was “no doubt funded by monied interests” that he has “made angry over the years” as he’s resisted what he characterized as lobbying him to raise taxes and “soften my support for life and the second amendment.”
An email to David Langdon’s office requesting more information about the East Tennessee PAC’s receipts and expenses has not been answered.