Activist: TN media not reporting on Democrats’ state Supreme Court power


By Chris Butler | Tennessee Watchdog

(Writer’s note: This is the second of a two-part question and answer interview with Tennessee resident George Scoville. Part One ran Thursday)

NASHVILLE — A Tennessee resident who filed a formal ethics complaint against three state Supreme Court justices up for retention has called out another group, saying they’ve also fallen short of their responsibilities — the mainstream media.

“Whether or not media in Tennessee, who seem to have become reflexively protective of the power to which they once spoke truth, likely because that power is presently wielded by Democrats, will cover these complaints remains to be seen,” according to George Scoville, who filed the complaint against justices Gary Wade, Connie Clark and Sharon Lee.

George Scoville

As previously reported, Scoville is accusing the justices of violating campaign finance and expenditure laws and misleading voters about their true intentions. His complaint cites previous Tennessee Watchdog stories on the court.

“It is my hope that these complaints will prompt more vibrant and honest discussion of judicial retention elections in Tennessee this summer among relevant stakeholders and voters.”

No other mainstream media outlets have appeared to report news, which Tennessee Watchdog broke, that a George Soros-funded organization is involving himself in the election to help the three justices.

Additionally, no other media outlets have apparently followed up on Tennessee Watchdog’s report that Democratic Party operatives, some with ties to Barack Obama, are now apparently involved in the campaign to assist the justices.

These same outlets, however, preach the dangers of big business and the Koch brothers corrupting Tennessee’s judicial election with politics and money.

Thus far, no proof of their claims has emerged.

Trial lawyers who likely see the three justices as avenues to overturn the state’s tort reform laws are holding swanky, high-priced fundraisers for these justices — a point barely touched upon by Tennessee’s establishment media.

POLITICAL PARTNERS?: Justice Clark and Nashville attorney Margaret L. Behm enjoying the 2014 Women’s Final Four in Nashville.

As Tennessee Watchdog reported this week, the three justices had a breakfast with left-leaning organizations.

What are Scoville’s thoughts?

TNW: Can you elaborate on your claim that mainstream media protects Democrats?

SCOVILLE: The notion that dissident political activism is some sort of evil conspiracy against beneficent government officials just trying to do their job is exactly the type of fear-mongering we would expect out of totalitarian regimes in the Soviet bloc during the Cold War. Tennesseans deserve better from their government and their media.

I’m old enough to remember when being liberal meant you were suspicious of government. And today’s adult, American so-called progressives used to be!

They came of age during a time when Howard Zinn was the biggest man on campus, and sit-ins of university administration buildings were de rigueur. But the goals of the radicals of yore weren’t to simply stop powerful institutions from intruding on our lives. They meant to wrest power away from the squares, and to start meting out justice themselves in accordance with a particular worldview.

And so it goes with the mainstream media. The state of journalism in Tennessee seems to be a microcosm of a larger reporting ecosystem full of self-appointed referees of political life that overwhelmingly and heavily skew to the left or to the lazy.

TNW: Speaking of other media, they no doubt will begin to press you on what (or who) motivates you to take interest in this matter. Would you care to comment?

SCOVILLE: Tennesseans deserve better from their government and their media, and I was an activist long before I accidentally fell into strategy and communications.

To me, Keep Tennessee’s Supreme Court Fair really led with the chin when they accused fictitious bogeymen of spending $1 million against the justices with no actual proof that it was happening, and by

MAINSTREAM MEDIA: Are they being aggressive enough asking questions about Democratic Party activists helping three Tennessee Supreme Court justices?

MAINSTREAM MEDIA: Are they being aggressive enough asking questions about Democratic Party activists helping three Tennessee Supreme Court justices?

claiming they were “fair” and “independent” and “nonpolitical” when it’s clear they’re party members working with their own to win an election for public office.

My record of using my pen to combat and defrock this kind of “money in politics” hysteria, and cynical, disingenuous left-wing campaigning, is both long and public. It’s just that instead of simply writing blog posts or editorials, which frankly don’t always move the needle very much or very well, I’m using other tools available to me to attempt to strike the root.

TNW: Is the media missing anything else important in their narrative on this story?

SCOVILLE: A sense of critical thinking. A willingness to ask uncomfortable questions, especially when the dots are mostly connected for them already. But more than anything, and I think this is a point on which they and I will probably agree, mainstream media need more resources and a larger stable of reporters.

Democratic Party activist Carol Andrews, who is helping the three justices in their fight to win retention this summer.

Democratic Party activist Carol Andrews, who is helping the three justices in their fight to win retention this summer.

To get those resources, I think they’re either going to have to change their ad-supported business models or start doing better reporting with the resources they have to attract more consumers in a subscriber model. The latter might go a long way to ameliorating the former. But having more reporters makes it harder for any one editor or senior reporter to set a coverage agenda to which everyone else must kowtow.

TNW: Optimistically, what kind of outcome are you seeking from this complaint? Realistically, what kind of outcome are you seeking?

Tennessee is my home, and has been for most of my life, and I have no plans to leave anytime soon. I hope my complaint not only makes our state government more accountable and open, but that it also empowers people who maybe want to be involved but don’t know how or where to start unpacking their frustrations with government malfeasance.

Sadly, because the complaint process is so opaque, and because the people regulating judicial conduct are turning out for campaign events with the justices, I think it’s likely that the justices will come out of this smelling like roses, and that nobody will ever know any better what went on behind closed doors.

Contact Christopher Butler at or follow him and submit story ideas on his official Facebook page.

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