DECEMBER 19, 2006
A Democratic legislator from Tennessee indicted last year for taking thousands of dollars in bribes from an undercover FBI agent, was charged this week with accepting nearly $1 million in “consulting fees” for helping contractors secure lucrative deals with the state’s medical program.
Tennessee State Senator John Ford, who resigned after his 2005 indictment, now faces more serious charges that could send him to prison for decades. Both cases stem from a widespread public corruption sting called the Tennessee Waltz, which has led to the arrest of at least seven state lawmakers and several Shelby County commissioners.
Ford, whose brother is a Memphis city councilman also charged with taking bribes, was initially indicted for accepting $55,000 in bribes from various undercover FBI agents posing as crooked businessmen. The former senator pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go to trail early next year.
His problems only worsened this week when federal authorities charged him with taking more than $800,000 in so-called consulting fees from contractors doing work for a state Medicare program. Ford conveniently failed to disclose to state officials that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars from a TennCare contractor and lied about the source of the income on his tax returns.
The Tennessee Waltz is such a massive and widespread public corruption scheme that it motivated state legislators to create and pass a sweeping ethics reform bill this year. The new law created a much-needed independent ethics commission, restricts lobbyists and caps cash political contributions at $50.
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