By Clint Confehr
NASHVILLE, TN — More than 2,000 people are coming here for an “anti-corruption movement” conference March 29-31, organizers say of their “UnRig Summit” in the Music City Center.
“I guarantee you, this is one of the most diverse conferences ever to come to Nashville,” former Congressman Zach Wamp recently told The Tennessee Tribune.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who’s running for president, and Our Revolution President Nina Turner, a “firebrand progressive activist” from Ohio, are two notables Wamp names as headliners. Others include March for Our Lives activist Emma González.
[Sen. Kamalla Harris was reportedly coming. She’s not, a group spokeswoman said.]
Wamp and Metro Councilman Jonathan Hall were asked about the UnRig Summit’s name and presidential statements that the system is rigged.
“It’s rigged for incumbents, special interests, and the two-party system,” Wamp said. “The president has not done anything to drain the swamp, but he was smart enough to talk about it.”
On the rigged system, Hall said, “Isn’t it?” Nashville’s “spent quite a bit of money on disparity studies over the last 12-15 years on… policing… disparity… fair housing… I won’t say the system is rigged [but] there’s a lack of parity and continuity… We’re making great strides to be inclusive and have diversity, but… we have a very long way to go.”
Why is Hall attending the summit? “For me, everything’s about learning… The conversation needs to be about solutions.”
National solutions to be discussed are described at https://represent.us by actress Jennifer Lawrence, a RepresentUs Board member, and RepresentUs Director Josh Silver who say reformers must bypass Congress and force anti-corruption laws on cities and states. It’s how interracial- and same-sex marriages were legalized nationally. Similarly, women got the right to vote after change was approved by enough states to reach a tipping point. More state laws lead to federal victories, Silver and Lawrence say.
Among other things, they want to:
• Stop gerrymandering election districts by having lines drawn by independent commissions, not incumbent politicians;
• Overhaul lobbying, and ethics laws so politicians can’t be bribed with high-paying job offers;
• Make political spending transparent “so people know who’s paying who” and give voters a $50-$100 tax voucher so politicians raise money from constituents, not lobbyists; and, since the Constitution gives states control over how elections are run,
• Have ranked-choice voting in which voters prioritize candidates and winning candidates have a majority of first-preference votes, so third parties and independents can run and win.
It’s less about issues, as a political strategies.
Nashville Criminal Court Clerk Howard Gentry Jr., who’s helped former inmates expunge
records so they can vote, will speak and introduce Mayor David Briley who brings greetings from Nashville.
Also participating are: congressmen Jim Cooper (D-Nashville) and Tim Burchett (R-Knoxville); Nashville-Based Equity Alliance President Tequila Johnson; Think TN President Shanna Singh Hughey; Fisk University teacher Megan Barry; Tennessee Beacon Center Vice President Mark Cuningham; Color of Change Senior Campaign Director Brandi Collins-Dexter; journalist Steve Cavendish who’s leading a group to re-launch the Nashville Banner; and others named at unrigsummit.com.
Wamp says the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision is
wrong. Small individual contributions are how to raise campaign money.
Making election day a national holiday “makes a lot of sense,” to Wamp, and “When Mitch McConnell says… ‘Enough people are voting… We don’t need to address this’ low voter turnout… That’s nonsense.”
At Gov. Bill Lee’s State of the State speech, Wamp saw “African Americans applaud” Lee for endorsing civics education.“The average American doesn’t know how their government works…
“Legal immigrants take basic civics classes before taking a test to become a citizen,” Wamp said. “If we’re going to do that for new citizens, we … ought to do it for young Americans.”
Also speaking at the summit is Metro Councilman Fabian Bedne, an immigrant from Argentina — “a safe place for Jews to escape Europe” — and member of Congregation Mica. “I was told [the summit] would be nonpartisan, and it appears to be that way,” he said. Bedne will share his family’s story.
Wamp chairs the Nashville-based Gospel Music Foundation, leads its capital campaign, helps sell STEM education curriculum to states, and is a business development consultant
for electric utilities, and three business start-ups in Silicon Valley. He’s not a political candidate.
The UnRig Summit is in Nashville “because they want to emphasis that this is not a partisan effort. This is not a bunch of liberal Democrats trying to tell the country what’s good for them out of California. This is a cross-partisan effort with Republicans like me and Democrats, and people like Jennifer Lawrence who are neither… [and]… Nashville is… a cool place to have a conference. It is frankly the hottest city east of the Mississippi River.”
Summit funding is from entry fees and, “Dozens of reform groups are sponsoring part of it,” Wamp said. “It’s ironic, they raise money to influence politicians on how they raise money, but you need money to get your message out.”
He’s part of Issue One which gave $15,000 to event organizers. “The first issue is to fix the political system, so you can fix other issues.”