Operation Tennessee WaltzOperation Tennessee Waltz was a sting operation set up by federal and state law enforcement agents, including the FBI and TBI, that led to the arrest of seven Tennessee state lawmakers on the morning of May 26, 2005 on bribery charges. They are as follows:
State Senator John Ford, of Memphis, uncle of Tennessee U.S. Representative Harold Ford, Jr.
State Senator Kathryn Bowers, of Memphis
Former State Senator Roscoe Dixon, of Memphis
State Senator Ward Crutchfield, of Chattanooga
State Representative Chris Newton, of Benton
Barry Myers, of Memphis Hamilton County school board member and lobbyist Charles Love, of Chattanooga
Ford, Bowers, Dixon, and Crutchfield are all Democrats, with Newton being the lone Republican. The name of the operation comes from the state song of Tennessee, "Tennessee Waltz".
The Execution of the Operation
According to the FBI and TBI, all who were indicted were suspected of corruption in the past, so law enforcement had sufficient probable cause to proceed with an investigation. In 2003, federal agents approached the legislators posing as representatives of E-Cycle, a bogus company supposedly based out of Atlanta that disposed of outdated electronic equipment. They asked the lawmakers to support legislation that would advance the company's business in Tennessee. All who were arrested agreed to do so if they were to be paid for their introduction of legislation in the Tennessee State Legislature. John Ford supposedly said, "I'm the man who makes the deals." Over the course of two years, E-Cycle legislation made its way through Tennessee state government and almost passed, even though E-Cycle did not exist at all. On May 24, two days before the arrests, Rep. Newton voted to table one of the bills in question, thus stalling it in committee.
Those who were arrested took bribes from E-Cycle in different amounts. iii The largest bribe was $55,000, which was taken by John Ford. Other lawmakers took bribes anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. Barry Myers and Charles Love were to be the "bagmen" for the operation. In other words, they would take the money from E-Cycle and give it to the lawmakers, so that no one could potentially see the lawmakers being directly paid by E-Cycle.
In addition to bribery, Ford also faces charges of witness intimidation. During a visit by the disguised federal agents, Ford is accused of saying "If you're FBI, I will shoot you and kill you." Ford's lawyer, however, has argued that, taken in context, the statement is clearly a joke. Overall, Ford faces the most serious charges of anyone else indicted in the operation. He is currently out of jail on bond. (For more information on John Ford's troubles with the law, see John Ford (politician).
In the May 26 edition of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press, an article appeared about Charles Love, reporting that he owed almost USD$300,000 in back taxes and that Internal Revenue Service had placed liens against his home. The article also mentioned E-Cycle in passing, as if it was a real company.
In early September 2005, Chris Newton resigned as state representative and plead guilty to the charges against him.