Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Three Bob Corkers

In the past 72 hours, since details of Bob Corker’s shady land deal have been exposed on the front pages of the state’s largest newspapers, people have had a lot to say about the transaction that netted him $4.7 million while he was mayor of Chattanooga.

  • Bob Corker’s lawyer -- who filed a motion on Primary Day to hide all records of Corker’s shady land deal from public view -- has said Corker was not “sneaky.”

  • Bob Corker’s campaign spokesman -- who has said “the actions taken were completely ethical and consistent with the public good” in a “transparent” process – has also said questions about those actions are evidence of “pure partisan politics.”

  • The Memphis Commercial Appeal and the Knoxville News-Sentinel have, nevertheless, reported this week “the controversy is roiling” over whether Mayor Bob Corker’s decision to permit the paving of public lands for the private gain of Developer Bob Corker was proper.

Yet, Bob Corker, the U.S. Senate nominee who bought his primary win with less than half his take on his shady land deal, has said nothing.

No surprise there. Developer Bob Corker and Mayor Bob Corker have been fighting for three years to keep the public in the dark about their shady land dealings.

  • Developer Bob Corker claimed in court that the citizens of Tennessee had no legal right to challenge Mayor Bob Corker’s failure to protect public lands from being paved over. Developer Bob Corker took that fight all the way to the Tennessee Supreme Court -- and lost.

  • When Mayor Bob Corker left office, the mayoral suite, including computer hard drives, was scrubbed clean of any documents. Chattanooga officials filed a police report in July after discovering CD-ROMs containing Corker’s mayoral e-mails were missing.

  • As voters across Tennessee headed to the polls to select a Republican U.S. Senate nominee on August 3, lawyers for The Corker Group headed to the Hamilton County courthouse to file a motion to seal all the proceedings in a three-year-old lawsuit from public view. They lost that fight, too, on Aug. 14.

Meanwhile, Senate candidate Bob Corker steadfastly has refused to produce his tax returns that would show how he made more money as Mayor than in the 24 years before taking office combined, claiming the voters of Tennessee would only “misinterpret” the information.

There is further evidence the Corkers aren’t even talking to each other. In June 2003, according to public records, Mayor Bob Corker’s administration signed off on an access easement giving a developer the green light to build a road across public lands. But U.S. Senate candidate Bob Corker’s campaign today says, “The public record is clear. The approval was given before Bob Corker became mayor.” Every available public record indicates Mayor Bob Corker took office in April 2001, more than two years before June 2003.

While Mayor Corker, Developer Corker, and Candidate Corker straighten their stories and prepare to face more difficult questions, this much is clear: In June 2003, only one person stood between Developer Bob Corker and $4.66 million -- Mayor Bob Corker. And when it came to Developer Bob Corker’s private gain from public land, Mayor Bob Corker stepped aside.

Ford Campaign Senior Advisor Michael Powell released the following statement on Mr. Corker’s shady land deal:

“There is a reason why Mr. Corker made more money in his four years as Mayor than he did in the previous 24 years combined. There’s a reason why he won’t release his full tax returns.

“He’s a politician businessman who used his public office as Mayor for private gain and self-enrichment.”