Gov. Phil Bredesen isn't putting too much stock in a recent think tank report that gave Tennessee an "F" in personal financial disclosure requirements for governors.
"I would have to say think tanks giving out ratings is not something that drives my thinking about things very much because they generally have an agenda and certainly are not the last word in what has to be done," Bredesen said of the report during his Kingsport stop Thursday to celebrate Eastman Chemical Co.'s announced $1.3 billion reinvestment plan.
The report, released by Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity (CPI), downgraded Tennessee and a number of other states following a survey of disclosure laws. Washington was the only state to receive an "A" grade in CPI's analysis because it provided the most information to the public on its governor's personal income and investments. Tennessee ranked 33rd.
Including Tennessee, 33 states do not require governors to report the value of outside income, either as a precise number or a dollar range, while 31 do not have value or income amounts for investments, according to CPI.
CPI also found that 28 states do not require descriptions of the services provided by the companies from which governors may receive outside income, while 37 states do not require descriptions of organizations for which governors serve as advisers and directors.
As the top elected officials in each state, governors sign legislation into law, recommend and approve state budgets, and have wide-ranging powers to appoint department and agency heads and fill board and commission positions. Requiring them to disclose their private financial ties could reveal possible conflicts of interest, CPI stressed. Idaho, Michigan, Utah and Vermont do not require their governors to file financial disclosure reports.
In his Internet document filing with the newly formed Tennessee Ethics Commission, Bredesen did not list the dollar amount of his sources of income. The document indicated he is receiving a pension from his past service as Nashville mayor. It also pointed out that Bredesen, a former health maintenance organization executive, has returned his governor's salary to the state. He disclosed in the document that he is the majority shareholder in Qualifacts Systems, a private Nashville-based information services company.
The document also noted Bredesen's investments are in a blind trust.
Bredesen admitted disclosure documents are "kind of light" in what he is required to disclose.
"In my report, I have reported more than what is required," he said. "Property values, you can go on the Internet and find the assessed value of any property I own. ... (But) if you have a blind trust, how do you handle that? Somehow, it seems to be better for me to have a blind trust than to know what the investments are. It's a complicated issue."
For more about Bredesen's financial disclosure go to www.tennessee.gov/sos/tec/officials.htm.
For more about the CPI report go to www.publicintegrity.org:80/StateDisclosure/report.aspx?aid=925.
CPI describes itself as a "nonprofit organization dedicated to producing original, responsible investigative journalism on issues of public concern."