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Charges of ethics violations ‚Äėsubstantially true‚Äô

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Charges of ethics violations ‚Äėsubstantially true‚Äô | Diane Black, Lou Ann Zelenik, Congress, Politics, Tennessee, GOP, Tea Party, Court, Aegis Sciences Corporation

Politically motivated slander suits are nothing new in Tennessee, and Davidson County Circuit Judge Joe P. Binkley seems to have found more of the same in Black v. Zelenik, going so far as to state that charges of U.S. Rep. Diane Black’s wrongdoing are “substantially true.”

David Black, husband of Diane Black (R-Gallatin), and his drug testing firm, Aegis Sciences Corporation, filed suit in the midst of a hotly contested U.S. House primary campaign against Lou Ann Zelenik in 2010 after her campaign began airing ads that accused Black of steering millions of dollars in no-bid state contracts to her husband’s firm through her position as a state senator, in violation of state law.

“The communication was true or at least substantially true,” reads the April ruling by Binkley, who sided with Zelenik and summarily dismissed Black’s lawsuit as frivolous.

Black’s firm appealed the ruling in late April, and the matter is ongoing in the midst of another primary battle with Zelenik for the Republican nomination in Tennessee’s 6th Congressional District.

Documents reveal accusations of Black and her husband profiting from her political power in the state senate were nothing new, having been copied nearly word-for-word from a Tennessee Democratic Party mailer during Black’s 2008 re-election campaign for state senate.

Additionally, Black’s actions were detailed in a December 2007 issue of The Gallatin Newspaper, and were the subject of a WSMV Channel 4 News investigation in January of the same year.

Neither Black nor her family business hauled anyone to court at that time, but, then again, she was cruising to re-election by a 2-1 margin and had poured more than $50,000 of her own money into the race, according to documents filed with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance.

Her 2010 contest with Zelenik became a much different race, not only because she was seeking higher office in U.S. Congress, but also because she had a formidable opponent.

Zelenik, who is proud of never having held political office, rose from near-obscurity as a Tea Party leader and conservative firebrand, originally entering the race to take on incumbent U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon before the Murfreesboro Democrat decided against seeking reelection.

When Gordon announced his retirement, state Sen. Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville) immediately entered the race followed by Black, herself a state senator and Republican caucus leader.

Political prognosticators counted Zelenik out, but by late June polls leaked to the press indicated she was on top by a small margin, with Black and Tracy following close behind.

Then, almost immediately, came the lawsuit against Zelenik.

“Slander and defamation suits certainly have a chilling effect on your opponent coming forward with negative information about you,” said political scientist John Vile, dean of the University Honors College at Middle Tennessee State University. “They can cause an opponent to stop and slow down when they otherwise would not, and such lawsuits could give voters the impression that your opponent is not being truthful, but they’ve become exceedingly difficult for public figures to actually prove and win in court.”

Slander: A Tennessee tradition

The use of such suits in Tennessee politics is nothing new either.

One of the most notable instances took place in 1954, when U.S. Sen. Estes Kefauver found himself in a tough Democratic Primary battle with state Rep. Pat Sutton of Lawrenceburg.

Kefauver had just waged and narrowly lost a battle on the floor of the 1952 Democratic Convention for the party’s presidential nomination, and political pundits considered him weakened as he prepared to seek reelection to the U.S. Senate in 1954.

All the competition was in the Democratic primary at that time, and the nomination was tantamount to election since Republicans were almost completely limited to the eastern third of Tennessee.

Sutton rose to challenge Kefauver with financial backing from a wealthy Texas oil magnate, who no doubt played a part in Sutton becoming the first Tennessee candidate to impress crowds with a helicopter tour through the state (Texan Lyndon Johnson had been the first in the nation to do so with a helicopter dubbed “The Johnson City Windmill” just six years prior in his 1948 U.S. Senate re-election campaign).

Sutton, a native of Wartrace and an MTSU graduate who became a Naval hero in Word War II, traveled the state lambasting Kefauver with charges of “befriending left-wing Northerners” and labeled one of Kefauver’s friends as a “known communist.”

Sensing the rising threat from Sutton, Kefauver’s friend promptly filed a slander suit which grabbed statewide headlines, halted Sutton’s momentum, and handed Kefauver the nomination.

The suit was dropped soon after the election.

No end in sight

In the case of Black versus Zelenik, however, the issue did not end with the 2010 election, and Aegis’ lawyers continued to push back the court hearing until after the April filing deadline in this year’s race for the newly drawn 6th District, possibly sensing the lawsuit could be a tool in an expected rematch with Zelenik.

Binkley dismissed the case in mid-April, forcing Aegis to pay the costly fees for litigation and further appeals, but money for attorneys’ fees seems easy to find for Aegis Sciences Corporation and its co-owners, the Blacks.

Black and her husband are in the process of building what could be the largest residence in the state, a palatial 27,000-square foot home on Old Hickory Lake in her home county of Sumner, and her required  financial disclosures indicate millions of dollars in yearly profits from Aegis and other ventures.

She is listed as one of the wealthiest members of Congress, and, since her election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Aegis Sciences has expanded heavily by winning additional drug testing contracts nationwide.

Appeals court hearings in the case have not been scheduled by Aegis’ counsel, and for their part, Zelenik, in her campaign for the Republican nomination in Tennessee’s 6th U.S. House District, vows to remain focused in spite of the legal threats hanging over their heads.

“This is the kind of dirty politics that we have come to expect from Diane Black,” Zelenik’s campaign manager Jay Heine said. “Lou Ann Zelenik plans on running a positive campaign based on the issues and not on who can throw the most amount of mud.”

Messages left for Rep. Diane Black at both her campaign office and district offices were not returned.

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Aegis Sciences Corporation, Congress, Court, Diane Black, GOP, Lou Ann Zelenik, Politics, Tea Party, Tennessee
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Members Opinions:
June 17, 2012 at 9:32am
Diane Black represents everything that is wrong with politics in our country. She is a very wealthy partisan who only advocates for the super rich, and she is as dirty as they come. We can do so much better.
June 17, 2012 at 3:31pm
I am SO upset over the front cover
of this weeks Murfreesboro Post.
Shocked beyond words. Our home is
not anti-guns, we are anti-violence.
This cover crossed the line! I am
not for, nor against either Diane or
Lou Ann. I do not know politic enough
to have an opinion. But, I can not understand why Lou Ann would put
a smile on her face and point a gun
at a photo of Diane at a target range.
This was done with intent, a women
pointing a gun at another women,
really,really!!!

Both women have children, what do you
think Diane's kids feel. How would
anyone feel about this happening to
them. Murfreesboro Post's motto is:
"Community-based newspaper" with this
photo plastered in every Post
newspaper box window what message is
the Post passing on to the community or
youth of this community?

The community newspapers MUST stop this
National Equirer survival tactics at
the expense of the community and our
youth. Were adults setting examples for
the youth, is this the example you want
to set?


June 17, 2012 at 6:48pm
Kimberly,

It's obviously a doctored photo - the Post added the picture for comical effect. It's tongue-in-cheek humor, obviously. Get over it. Guns really aren't that scary to sane people. You're delusional if you think that photo is going to cause your kid to go on a raging psychopathic killing spree. Want a real shock? Go look at the video games your children are playing right now. We'll wait...
June 17, 2012 at 8:54pm
Culpepper...your right guns aren't that
scary to sane people, violence is.
You read into the raging psychopathic killing spree, it never crossed my mind, only yours. Hope you did not hold your breathe waiting for me to check my kids video games, I'm a mom it is my job to
know what video games, movies, television
shows, newspapers, magazines, and friends
they are exposed to.
June 20, 2012 at 2:29pm
print newspapers need to do whatever they can to get you to pick up the product. the shock value worked. this picture isn't going harm our youth or community.
June 20, 2012 at 5:00pm
I agree with you Kimberly! I was shocked beyond belief when I saw this cover story! I came to the website specifically to see if anyone else was as outraged as me. Photoshopped or not, this is awful either way! If The Post was attempting humor with this, they are WAY off the mark! Just ask Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona! As for what scares people, guns? No. Two leaders of our great state posing or being posed in a photo with machine guns pointed at each other? Yes, very scary. It is not necessary for The Post to use this type of shock value to get folks to buy their product. This makes me seriously question the judgement of those in charge at the paper. I'll never look at one of their editorials with the same respect again!
June 22, 2012 at 9:22am
The front page of the June 17 edition of the Murfreesboro Post (definitively the hippest newspaper in the South, arguably in all of America, having been compared to an amalgam of Rolling Stone and the New York Times . . . back when the NYT was a decent medium) featured a front-cover-oage photo of Lou Ann Zelik pretending to take aim at a photo of Dian Black on a firing range.

Immediately, there came roars of "bad tase," "inapprorpiate behavior" ( what a wuss term), and numerous calls denouncing the photo . . . rather, the implied message.

For those with a mental capapcity above the wards of a mental institution, it loomns quite obvious that this photo was metsphorical regarding intent. I highly doubt that Zelenik will challange Black to an old-fashioned, "Marshal" Matt Dilllon-style pistol duel, where the two combatants stand back-to-back, wall x-numer of paces in opposite directions, turn around, and commence shooting.

In the court case of Black vs. Zelenik, Zelenik alleges Black steered "millions of dollars in no-bid state contracts to her husband's firm though her position as astate senator. Too, Black's all.eged actions were detailed in a past issue of The Gallatin Newspaper.

Expectedly, Black is saying Zelink's allegations are untrue and slanaderous; Zelenik, of course, claims her allegations bear merit . . . typical tit-for-tat.

I don't enough of the particulars to say yeag or nay. However, I do have an intellectual suggestion. At the Ruco Jail, have Black and Zelenik - both attired in a full-piece swimsuit, like the lady wrestlers of old - compete in an old-timey rasslin' match. If Ron Fryar can use his omnipresennt media clout to land Struttin' Jackie Fargo as the ref, it'll be a SELLOUT . . . bite you tongue and get a haircut, Don King!!!
June 22, 2012 at 9:55am
I almost forgot! If Jackie Fargo is unavailable to ref the Black vs. Zelenik main-event headliner, then ex Rutherford County Sheriff Truman Jones would be an apt choice. Of course, planned protocol would have to be cleared with current Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold . . . but award-winning MP columnist Dan Whittle - with his many high-end connections - can handle such, no sweat. In the meantime, I'll reach out to Rick Flair and see, precisely, how to advertise this Black vs. Zeleink rasslin' match, to ensure it draws spectators all the way from the Blue Bloods of Capitol Hill to the Red Bloods of Readyville!

Diane, Lou Ann, you gals best procure trainers and plan on hitting the gymn 3-4 hours per day . . . it's on like Domkey Kong!
June 22, 2012 at 11:32am
Alert - MP Publisher Ron Fryar and MP Editor Micheolle Willard:

Be advised that attempts are being made to contact long-time, mega-successful wrestler/wrestling promoter Rick Flair/a.k.a. "Nature Boy," in an attempt to land Flair - to pun a bit - in our "corner." It is imperative that all parties involved pause and ponder the historical-political significance of a possible Black-Zelenik rasslin' match. Too, I have an octogenarian fenmale who is sifting through her wardrobe chess in an attempt to locate two one-piece bathing suits, similar to the ones worn by female wreatling legend "Fabulous Moolah" back in the '50s-'60s. Keep your fingers crossed that the octogenarian is successful with her wardrobe hunt . . . so very much is at stake, here!
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