The ‘G’ in GOP often stands for Grift, and Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) knows it all too well. Blackburn has spent 30 years in government. She just got caught taking from Tennessee families while enriching her own.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been funneled, from both Blackburn’s Congressional and Senate campaigns, into the accounts of companies owned by Blackburn’s daughter, Mary Morgan Ketchel, and her husband, Paul Ketchel III.
The thievery operated right out of the basement of the Ketchels’ Nashville home.
Since 2002, firms owned by Mary Ketchel and her spouse cashed in on $370,000 in payments from her Tennessee Republican Senator’s mommy’s campaign funds.
In 2004, while a Congresswoman, Blackburn’s son-in-law Paul registered as a lobbyist. That same year, Ketchel lobbied for Dialogic Communication’s Corp. A contributor to Blackburn’s political campaign. Ketchel received $300,000 from the federal contractor and maker of emergency notification technology. That is the kind of unethical-looking payment that is legal if reported. But there’s always a twist with the Blackburn clan.
At the time, Marsha Blackburn’s son Chad was also employed by Dialogic.
In 2006, the Federal Election Commission cited the GOP senator for receipt of an illegal campaign donation. $2900 over the $2100 limit. The donor? Wedge PAC. Founder, Senator Marsha Blackburn. PAC treasurer – her son-in-law, Paul.
Marsha Blackburn was questioned that same year for $123,000 in payments to Political Concepts, LLC. A consulting firm owned by (don’t be surprised here) Paul Ketchel. Almost $10,000 was paid to Paul’s wife and Blackburn’s daughter, Mary Morgan – for expenses.
Campaign finance irregularities have plagued Blackburn from the beginning. Between 2002 and 2021, the FEC made 57 requests for additional information regarding campaign spending and regulations. An internal audit prompted by an FEC inquiry in 2008 revealed almost $400,000 in unreported campaign contributions and expenses.
In 2010, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) named her one of the most corrupt members of Congress. Blackburn has been called out on Twitter by TN Holler and others.
FLASHBACK: “In 2010, Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics named @MarshaBlackburn to its list of most corrupt… Congressional Integrity Project accused Blackburn of funneling $370,000 to “basement-run firms” owned by her daughter & son-in-law…”https://t.co/41VH6uUExb
— The Tennessee Holler (@TheTNHoller) February 17, 2022
Even less unexpectedly, it turns out that critics of the Tea Party Republican “hardcore, card-carrying Tennessee conservative” are correct. She’s corrupt. Because it was the Congressional Integrity Project who called out Blackburn on her hypocrisy and corruption in 2020. Kyle Herrig, the group’s executive director, had this to say:
Marsha Blackburn has systematically used her campaign coffers to enrich her family, even in years when she did not have an opponent–paying her daughter and son-in-law’s basement-run firms more than $370,000. Instead of trying to amplify a conspiratory and baseless investigation that has consistently found no evidence of wrongdoing, Senator Blackburn needs to come forward and explain to her constituents why this type of corruption is acceptable.
Tennessee Citizen Action filed a complaint with the FEC in 2018. Top strategist on Blackburn’s Senate campaign, Ward Baker, was caught on audio talking about the presence, importance, and influence of the Koch brothers – and their money – on political candidates and races. The Tennessean published an excerpt from Baker:
We’re going to have a lot of people involved. To be honest with you, it’s just really – the Super PAC world and outside groups is part of your campaign now. And if you don’t treat it that way, then you’re going to lose because that’s just another arm. You have to do presentations for them. A lot of people are begging them for money, and you have to constantly be in front of them.
One constant, aside from the Grift, has been the presence of Senator Blackburn’s son-in-law, Paul. When he became a lobbyist, his only clients were either Blackburn’s campaign or contributors to his mother-in-law. The only other name on paperwork for a line of credit Blackburn failed to disclose in her House financial disclosure during the 2018 campaign is Paul Ketchel.
Down Yonder Properties, LLC purchased a home in South Carolina in 2014. Ketchel signed the paperwork for the mortgage. Since they closed on the real estate, they haven’t paid their taxes in a timely fashion.
Racking up thousands in fines and penalties for the senior senator from Tennessee.
Naturally, Blackburn disclosed that she had “liabilities” between $100-250,000 but failed to disclose her relationship with Down Yonder Properties. As co-signer on a mortgage line of credit, she violated the House Ethics Committee guide in 2017 by concealing those ties. The rule explicitly states:
“Members must report any mortgage, home equity loan, or home equity line of credit on any property that is personal – even if the property did not generate any income – if the liability totaled more than $10,000 at any point during the reporting.”
When Director of the TN Film, Entertainment and Music Commission, Blackburn ran up tens of thousands of dollars in expenses in just two years. At least $40,000, not including her $100 per diem. They threw a tantrum when her boss Bill Donavan, at the Department of Economic and Community Development, asked for an expense report from a trip to Los Angeles. Expenses Donavan thought to be excessive – like private drivers and limo rides – Blackburn responded the way any sane and innocent person would – she burned the receipts, put them in a baggie, and mailed them to Donavan.;
Attached to Blackburn’s burn bag was a brief note betraying her bitterness which read: “copy of LA expense report as requested.”
Early in her career, Blackburn campaigned on tax reform and transparency in government spending. She was calling for scrutiny of “every penny” of state spending, in her home state. Too bad she didn’t adhere to her own rhetoric. Her campaign spent over $40,000 on food alone in 2019 and 2020. Thousands of campaign dollars were spent on Chick-Fil-A runs, hotels, and home improvement stores.
Our readers may recall her impassioned defense of being a caveman because President Biden said Americans shouldn’t behave like neanderthals.
After running on a platform to make childcare affordable, to stand up for working mothers and families—and voting against the American Families plan, which would have done just that—it’s pretty apparent that the family Senator Marsha Blackburn values most: her own.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter: @cooltxchick