Davis slams Bristol Herald Courier editorial

Hank Hayes • Jun 11, 2008 at 12:00 AM

U.S. Rep. David Davis charged Wednesday that a Bristol Herald Courier editorial accusing him of receiving “Campaign Cash With Strings” was a “gross misrepresentation.”

In a story published Sunday, the Herald Courier reported Davis’ campaign account got $11,000 in donations from BAE Systems’ political action committee after he requested more than $4 million in federal funding for the defense contractor.

BAE Systems’ Ordnance Systems unit is the explosives contractor for Kingsport-based Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HAAP), a federal facility. The 6,000-acre munitions plant has supplied explosives for the U.S. military since its establishment in World War II.

BAE has been an active corporate citizen in the Kingsport community, with company executive Tony Hewitt serving as chamber of commerce president in 2007.

The Herald Courier story called BAE an “arms dealer” accused of “bribing Saudi officials with call girls and money,” citing “published reports.”

The HAAP project in question involved high-tech ammunitions the Department of the Army had placed on their unfunded requirement list, Davis said in a release.

“The funding request, which was so inaccurately misrepresented by the local paper, is vital to our men and women in uniform because these munitions can penetrate bunkers and destroy munitions, biological weapons, and chemical weapons concealed within these bunkers,” said Davis, R-1st District. “Holston Army Ammunition Plant was the recipient of this funding request and BAE Systems is the contractor that was selected by the U.S. Army in a competitive bid to manage the facility.

“If a request is legitimate, benefits the U.S. Army, and creates jobs within Tennessee’s 1st District, I will make the request no matter who the Army decides to contract the business out to.

“Without these vital investments, we risk not only losing this facility as a job incubator in the 1st District, but our military would immediately lose access to critical weapons they have relied on for years. The requests I have made have been in an open, honest and transparent way, and it is sad to see that the Bristol Herald Courier is completely neglecting to acknowledge that fact.”

In an e-mailed response, Herald Courier Editor J. Todd Foster said: “We stand by our editorial, which contrary to Mr. Davis’ claims, did not run last week but ran Sunday. The editorial, which took Davis more than three days to criticize, was based on a news article that ran that same day and which proved — and which Davis does not deny — that he is the largest campaign recipient of a defense contractor under investigation for bribing Saudi officials with gifts and call girls.

“The editorial had nothing to do with the U.S. Army, local jobs or American patriotism, despite Davis’ ridiculous and convoluted assertions. The editorial was about congressional earmarks and how Davis is so fast and loose with them that he now has a challenge from within his own party.

“Finally, the most troubling aspect of Mr. Davis’ news release is its URL, which includes ‘bhcjerks.’ We would expect more maturity and dignity from a congressman.”

House ethics rules make “the point that a House member or employee should never accept any gift that is linked to any official action that he or she has taken or is being asked to take.”

“It is probably not wrong for the campaign managers of a legislator ... to request contributions from those for whom the legislator has done appreciable favors, but this should never be presented as a payment for the services rendered,” said a document from the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

During a tour of HAAP last March, Tennessee GOP U.S. Sen. Bob Corker said BAE officials would “much prefer” that the HAAP facility receive funding on a competitive, rather than political, basis.

According to the Herald Courier story, Tennessee U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander also took part in the federal funding request with Davis. But the story also said “federal campaign records show Alexander does not receive contributions from the arms dealer (BAE).”

During 2007, Alexander’s re-election campaign got $3,500 in contributions from BAE’s PAC, according to the Washington-based campaign finance tracking organization Center for Responsive Politics (CRP).

The Herald Courier editorial also said Davis’ contributor sheet “reads like a Who’s Who list of those seeking regulatory breaks and other favors from Congress.”

About half of Davis’ $430,000 in campaign contributions comes from PACs, said the editorial.

In contrast, Southwest Virginia’s Democratic congressman, Rick Boucher, received almost $800,000 in PAC contributions during the 2007-08 election cycle, according to CRP. But Boucher was not criticized by the Herald Courier editorial for his PAC gifts.

Davis is in a re-election battle with GOP challenger Phil Roe, whose campaign e-mailed portions of the Herald Courier story to area reporters.

Davis accused Roe, Johnson City’s mayor, of running a “negative and dishonest” campaign.

Roe, who said he would not take campaign contributions from PACs, has actually utilized Johnson City taxpayer money to employ a lobbyist at the taxpayers’ expense, according to Davis.

When contacted, Roe claimed that Johnson City, in addition to more than a dozen other municipalities, needed an organization to lobby Davis on a labor bill.

“We went to the congressman and could not get him to represent the interests of the cities so we had to go around him,” said Roe.

Roe, a retired physician, also confirmed he has made a one-time $500 donation to the American Medical Association PAC, as Davis has claimed.

Recommended for You

    Kingsport Times News Videos