In a widening corruption scandal, as many as a dozen more Republicans in the Tennessee legislature might face subpoenas.
“Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton has been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury as part of an ongoing FBI investigation into Capitol Hill corruption. Legislative sources said they believe that as many as 10-12 other House Republicans were also served Tuesday with grand jury subpoenas,” WTVF-TV reported.
“This dramatic development follows the recent guilty plea of now-former Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, to federal wire fraud charges relating to a shadowy company that provided mailing services to Republican lawmakers, using both campaign money and taxpayer funding.”
In a statement, Sexton suggested other members of his caucus would be subpoenaed.
“We have been fully cooperating with the federal authorities since I became Speaker in 2019. It is not unexpected that I and other members would be called to appear before a grand jury to provide factual statements as part of this ongoing investigation,” Sexton stated.
Smith agreed to cooperate with federal authorities in a continuing investigation into a clandestine political consulting firm reportedly founded by Cade Cothren, a former top adviser to former House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin. Smith admitted to conspiring with Cothren and Casada, both of whom are still House members, to cheat the state and members of their own Republican caucus.
In 2019, Cothren quit, claiming that his continuing work was “just a distraction.”
Cade Cothren, the chief of staff for House Speaker Glen Casada, has resigned following claims that he solicited sex in text messages to interns and lobbyists and used illicit narcotics in the legislative office building. Cothren, a longtime Casada aide, was named chief of staff in January and earned $199,800, the third-highest wage for a legislative employee, prior to his retirement.
“I have resigned as Representative of the Tennessee House. I did so out of respect for the honor of Tennesseans, my commitment to public service over the last several decades, and of course, my Christian faith. I believe in forgiveness, and I hope to earn yours over time,” said Smith in a statement.
Smith allegedly received two payments from Phoenix Solutions totaling more than $24,000 in September and December 2020, which she placed into her consulting firm’s bank account, according to the Information.
According to the Information from a court document, Smith assisted others in devising and intending to devise a scheme to defraud the citizens of the Middle District of Tennessee, including two unnamed individuals believed to be former Speaker of the House Glen Casada and his former chief of staff Cade Cothren.
The anonymous individual 1 was a member of the Tennessee House, first elected in 2003, and served as Speaker of the Tennessee House from about January 2019 until around August 2019, when he resigned when a scandal became public, according to the Information. Individual 2 was a businessman and former Chief of Staff to Individual 1 when he was Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives.