State turns to court after ex-House aide refuses subpoenas

Apr 26, 2022, 1:03 PM | Updated: 1:06 pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s attorney general is taking the one-time chief of staff of a former House speaker to court after he refused to comply with subpoenas in the investigation of a shadowy political action committee.

Attorney General Herbert Slatery asked a Nashville judge late last week to order Cade Cothren to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for not obeying the subpoenas in the investigation of the Faith Family Freedom Fund PAC. Cothren worked for Rep. Glen Casada before both resigned their top leadership roles in 2019 amid scandals.

Cothren’s attorney has informed state campaign finance regulators that he is invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The attorney general’s filing says Cothren’s team hasn’t cited sufficient reasons to do so.

Ahead of the 2020 GOP primary election, the PAC attacked then-Rep. Rick Tillis, who is the brother of North Carolina U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis. Rick Tillis lost to Republican Rep. Todd Warner, who was among those subject to FBI searches at the legislative building and other addresses in January 2021, alongside Casada, Cothren and ex-Republican Rep. Robin Smith.

In federal court, Cothren and Casada have been implicated in an alleged political consulting kickback scheme involving a different political entity that has prompted the guilty plea of another former lawmaker. Last month, Smith resigned and then pleaded guilty to wire fraud in the alleged scheme.

Federal authorities say Smith, Casada and Cothren collaborated on the separate consulting firm, Phoenix Solutions, as a way to funnel money to themselves secretively and illegally through both campaign and taxpayer-funded work. Prosecutors have so far kept Casada and Cothren unnamed and haven’t charged them with anything, but they described the two in easily identifiable terms in court documents.

Some fellow GOP House lawmakers have said they feel betrayed after Smith talked them into using the vendor. Prosecutors said the three claimed the firm was run by a certain “Matthew Phoenix.” In fact, it was Cothren using an alias because they feared lawmakers and the office of his successor, Speaker Cameron Sexton, wouldn’t use the vendor if Cothren’s involvement came to light, prosecutors allege.

Sexton, who has said he is cooperating in the investigation, was among those who testified along with other lawmakers in front of a grand jury last month.

Casada and Cothren had been pressured into resigning as speaker and chief of staff in 2019 over swirling scandals, including revelations they exchanged sexually explicit text messages about women years beforehand.

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance, meanwhile, has referred its probes about the Faith Family Freedom Fund PAC to the Williamson County district attorney’s office.

The registry decided to reopen an earlier probe into the Faith Family Freedom Fund after the PAC’s treasurer testified in January that she is Cothren’s former girlfriend and she opened the PAC at Cothren’s request. She said Cothren asked her to, saying Cothren assured her she was doing nothing wrong. She said she took no further action.

Cothren informed the registry in February that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and wouldn’t abide by subpoenas for evidence and testimony in an investigation surrounding a political action committee, saying they were “made in bad faith and are an abuse of process.”

In its legal filing last week, the attorney general’s office wrote that Cothren hasn’t provided information to support those claims. The state’s filing further argues Cothren’s objections aren’t sufficient to disobey the subpoenas and that he can’t give a “blanket” assertion of invoking the Fifth Amendment.

Casada, who was also subpoenaed, has told the registry he wasn’t involved with the Faith Family Freedom Fund.

Casada announced in November that he wouldn’t run for reelection this year, and would instead run for Williamson County clerk.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
3 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
11 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
11 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
18 days ago
A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. The cal...
Associated Press

US aims to restore bison herds to Native American lands after near extinction

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
18 days ago
Children play in a dried riverbed in Flassans-sur-Issole, southern France, Wednesday, March 1, 2023...
Associated Press

Italy, France confront 2nd year of western Europe drought

ROME (AP) — Bracing for Italy’s second consecutive year of drought for the first time in decades, Premier Giorgia Meloni huddled with ministers Wednesday to start mapping out an action plan Wednesday, joining France and other nations in western Europe grappling with scant winter rain and snow. Meloni and her ministers decided to appoint an […]
20 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
State turns to court after ex-House aide refuses subpoenas