A Tennessee judge ruled that a state department is in contempt and must return $64,000 worth of fees collected from political action committees (PACs).
The lawsuit, brought by the PAC Tennesseans for Sensible Election laws, said that a 2018 ruling put an injunction in place blocking the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, Registry of Election Finance from collecting registration fees.
The suit, however, states that $64,000 in fees were later collected in 2021 and then not returned to the PACs even when the agency stopped collecting the fees.
Davidson County Chancery Court Judge Thomas J. Wright found that the state agency collected and retained the fees in 2021, with internal communications showing that the agency expected the contempt allegation.
“By ‘expecting’ a contempt charge defendant obviously considered that its conduct could be construed as contemptuous,” Wright wrote in his decision, stating that the agency consulted the Tennessee Attorney General before collecting the fees. “Defendant nevertheless initiated enforcement of the statute without seeking relief from this court’s injunction forbidding enforcement.”
Wright also said that the plaintiffs had the right to collect attorney’s fees for the lawsuit if request is received within 15 days of Monday’s ruling. Court fees will also be paid by the state agency.
Wright ordered that the $64,000 in registration fees be returned to the PACs within 15 days.
“While the Tennessee Attorney General’s lawless approach to court orders and constitutional rights continues unabated, so does TSEL’s commitment to vindicating the rights of Tennesseans to participate in elections without illicit governmental interference,” attorney Daniel A. Horwitz, who represented TSEL with attorneys Jamie Hollin and Lindsay Smith, wrote on the case. “Court orders are not voluntary — even for the state officials who wrongly believe themselves to be above the law.
“We look forward to ensuring the return of $64,000.00 that the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office instructed the Registry to steal.”
This article was originally posted on Davidson County court orders Tennessee agency to return PAC fees