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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Tennessee Politician Pleads Guilty to Bribery

Representative Chris Newton has plead guilty to accepting bribes in an FBI investigation that has rocked Tennessee politics. See the story in today's Chattanoogan.

He's announced that he'll step down from the legislature on Nov 1. Here's what he said:

"After much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to enter a plea of guilty in the case against me arising out of the 'Operation Tennessee Waltz' investigation. This has been an especially difficult decision for me. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be of service to the citizens of this State. Being elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives at the age of 23 was, in many ways, a dream come true.

"During my time in Nashville, I was able to help accomplish a lot of good, both for my constituents and for the people of this state generally. However, I also became caught up in business as usual in Nashville. It is time for us to acknowledge candidly that the legislative process has become saturated with money and special interests. While many in our legislature have the best interests of the people at heart, the people deserve representatives who are entirely free from the corruptive influence of money in politics.

"As I told the court, I acknowledge and recognize that I was part of the problem. I agreed to support and sponsor the E-Cycle bill, at least in part, in return for the funds that I received from Charles Love. Although I considered the money to be a contribution to my campaign, I know now that what we call the money does not matter. It was wrong to accept the money at least in part for my agreement to support the bill, and my actions today are in recognition of my role in this matter.

"I am here to take responsibility for what I have done and to do what is right for the citizens of our state. We need to begin the process of rebuilding public trust in our institutions of government, especially the Tennessee General Assembly. This process begins with me today. The public deserves the right to know that their elected officials are considering and voting for legislation with integrity, without fear or favor, and without partiality or favoritism.

"Finally, I want to acknowledge that the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI have handled this investigation with the utmost professionalism. The people can rest assured that I stand willing to be of whatever assistance I can be to help restore the trust of the public in its government."

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