NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Following the money in the mayor’s race? It’s complicated.
A company owned by one of incumbent Mayor David Briley’s staunchest supporters, John Ingram, gave $20,000 to a political action committee he created; that PAC then gave $20,000 to another political action committee, which made the maximum contribution allowed by law to David Briley.
Ingram has a lot at stake in the mayoral election. He owns a majority stake in the company bringing major league soccer to Nashville. MLS passed metro council but is facing a lawsuit by a group that doesn’t want the stadium at the fairgrounds.
Ingram is limited by law to contributing only $1600 to Briley's campaign, but there are other ways to funnel money to a candidate. One of them is through PAC donations.
"The sky is the limit for wealthy donors," said Denise Roth Barber, with the National Institute on Money in Politics, or followthemoney.org
“He's a longtime friend and he has been a contributor to the campaign," Briley told News 4’s Nancy Amons when she asked him about John Ingram.
Barber said contributors can make the money trail harder to follow by giving to PACS that then give to other PACS.
"It's often referred to as the nesting syndrome. Remember the nesting dolls? And it's all legal; if it was illegal, it would be called money laundering," Barber said.
News 4 studied the PAC campaign disclosures in the mayor's race.
John Ingram's company, Ingram Industries gave $20,000 in April to a PAC called "A Better Nashville"; it's a PAC founded by John Ingram.
In early June, A Better Nashville then gave $20,000 to the Nashville Business Coalition PAC. A few weeks later, The Nashville Business Coalition gave the “Briley for Mayor campaign” $7,800 - the maximum PAC contribution allowed by law.
"You have to follow the money trail and it's a maze," Barber said.
Amons asked Briley about the Ingram’s donations and his PAC.
Briley acknowledged he had a meeting at Ingram’s office the day after the election, expecting to discuss fundraising for the runoff. Briley says he didn't know about Ingram's Political Action Committee.
"I'm not aware that he has a PAC," Briley told Amons.
Under current campaign finance laws, the PAC to PAC contributions seems to be legal – if not very transparent for voters.