The Memphis City Council is going to hire the Nashville-based lobbying firm The Ingram Group to help sway legislators at the Capitol on issues of local control, like the rules that prevent the city from removing Confederate statues.
And it will likely cost the beleaguered Memphis taxpayers more than $100,000.
The price of the contract is still being negotiated but could exceed the $100,000 budget approved by the council in 2016.
The hire gives the council its own representation — separate from the lobbyists hired by Mayor Jim Strickland’s administration — as it navigates the choppy political waters in the state’s capital. In the past year, council members journeyed several times to Nashville for hot-button issues, including a bill, now dead, mandating de-annexation.
The Ingram Group will help the council defend against legislation that preempts local control, like in the case of the city’s efforts to remove Confederate monuments…
The Ingram Group was founded by Tom Ingram, a veteran political operative who ran the campaigns of Gov. Bill Haslam, as well and the state’s two sitting U.S. senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.
The Ingram Group and its principals have not been immune to controversy.
In 2013, Ingram clashed with First Baptist Broad pastor Keith Norman, who was at the time serving on the Tennessee Ethics Commission. Norman wanted to Ingram and their client to be fined $1,000 for not notifying the state of their lobbying contract, as required by law, during a three-year period.
Ingram client Hillsborough was in the midst of negotiating a deal with the state to mine for coal in the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area near Knoxville. At the same time, Ingram was working as a paid consultant to Haslam, raising questions about whether the nondisclosure of his firm’s lobbying agreement with Hillsborough was intentional.
Ingram said it was an honest mistake and the fine was never levied.