Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Lee donated $1,000 to Phil Bredesen’s campaign in 2004, when the current Democrat candidate for U.S. Senator was gearing up to run for his second term as governor of Tennessee, and did not contribute to Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign, according to reports filed with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance and the Federal Election Commission.
A spokeseperson for the Lee campaign confirmed to The Tennessee Star that Lee donated $1,000 to Bredesen in 2004, but noted that Lee also donated $1,000 in 2006 to his Republican challenger that year, Jim Bryson.
The spokesperson also confirmed what a review of Federal Election Commission records by The Star revealed: Lee did not contribute to Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign. The spokesperson was quick to add that Lee voted for Trump in 2016 and attended the January 2017 inaugural.
Bredesen’s 2004 election finance report filed with the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance shows that William B. Lee of Franklin, Tennessee donated $1,000 to Phil Bredesen on October 5, 2004.
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This new revelation that Lee, who describes himself as an “outsider” and a “conservative,” donated $1,000 to the state’s most well-known Democrat and ultimate insider in 2004, but failed to make any donation to Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign creates a problem for his gubernatorial aspirations, especially in light of the fact, first reported at The Star, that he also donated $500 to disgraced former Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, also a Democrat.
“Bill has said repeatedly that like President Trump, businessmen have to make business decisions in their donations from time to time, and in instances like these, that is exactly what happened,” Lee campaign advisor Chris Walker told The Star.
Walker also noted that “in state and federal races, Bill has donated over $160,000 to political causes and candidates and 99.993% have gone to Republican and conservative political organizations.”
The Lee campaign provided The Star with detailed financial donation records to support this assertion.
Those Lee campaign records also state that Lee has donated $2,500 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN-07) 2018 U.S. Senate campaign, and has made no contribution to the 2018 U.S. Senate campaign of her Democratic opponent–the same Phil Bredesen he donated $1,000 to in 2004.
The Star review of Tennessee Registry of Election Finance records confirms that Lee donated $1,000 to the Republican candidate for governor, Jim Bryson, in 2006.
A Tennessee Star Poll released on Friday shows that Lee has surged into third place in the Republican gubernatorial primary with 20 percent support of likely Republican primary voters. The poll showed Knoxville businessman Randy Boyd in the lead with 32 percent support, with Rep. Diane Black (R-TN-06) in second place with 27 percent support.
Sources tell The Star that Lee’s Democratic donation problem is about to get worse, and that he also has donated to another major Democratic candidate in Tennessee.
The Star will report subsequent developments in this story when it is able to confirm the facts.