Responding to five words of a mass mailing that claims he "never had a real job," Weston Wamp rebuffed an attack from Rep. Chuck Fleischmann's campaign for re-election Monday, accusing the congressman of not being able to tell the truth.
Wamp, the 25-year-old son of former 3rd District Rep. Zach Wamp, has been waging a primary challenge against Fleischmann since October of last year. The mailer, which portrays Fleischmann as a "workhorse" representative in Congress, makes light of Wamp and his fellow Republican challenger Scottie Mayfield, describing them as "showhorses" and complimenting each candidate with unflattering photos.
"Famous last name; Never had a real job; Fluff, no substance," the mailer's bullet-point criticisms against Wamp read.
Wamp, the only candidate to issue a response to the mailer, said he took offense to the congressman's unsourced claim that his work with the Lamp Post Group, a Chattanooga venture incubator, wasn't a "real job." The candidate then pointed to recently released depositions from a lawsuit involving Fleischmann and his former chief of staff, Chip Saltsman—who is on an unpaid leave of absence—as evidence that the congressman had been misleading in his prior campaign.
"Chuck has a history of being completely willing to make things up," Wamp said. "That's factual. In the depositions, he admits that he wasn't truthful in 2010. They've admitted to lying in his previous campaign, and this mailer, again, appears that Chuck and Chip are willing to say anything late in a campaign when they know they won't be held accountable."
Depositions made public last month revealed Fleischmann never saw an ad that relied on leaked confidential files to attack Robin Smith, his most formidable opponent in 2010, before the ad aired—despite having voiced that he "approved" the message in a federally mandated sign-off. The interviews also showed that Saltsman admitted to using the Tennessee state seal to make a nongovernment document appear official.
A motion by the congressman's attorney to have the depositions sealed from the public was denied by a judge last spring.
When asked about his business, Wamp said that since the beginning of his campaign, his workload for the Lamp Post Group and Wamp Strategy—a public relations firm he started with Lamp Post Partner Ted Alling in 2011—had dwindled. Wamp declined to say how decreased attention to his business had affected any of his clients and said the Wamp Strategy website had not been updated since June of last year because of a lack of time.
"That's private client work," he said. "I've not had a lot of time to update a blog. And it's also to protect my private clients, people that I've done business with during the campaign."
Alling, who along with being a partner at Lamp Post is president and CEO of Chattanooga-based Access America Transport, described the congressman's claims as an "outright lie." Alling is listed as one of Wamp's "Founding Ambassadors" on Wamp's campaign website.
"What Chuck Fleischmann says about Weston is an outright lie and is an insult to all young entrepreneurs in our city," he said.
Access America, a logistics company with offices in several states, is affiliated with the Lamp Post Group. A subsidiary of the company, AAT Carriers, routinely provides transportation logistics for hazardous materials, often for government entities such as the U.S. Department of Defense.
Jordan Powell, spokesman for Fleischmann's campaign, defended the mailing. Powell said that Fleischmann, who has touted his first job mopping floors at a McDonald's on multiple occasions during his re-election bid, formed his doubts regarding the younger Wamp's working experience upon reading that Zach Wamp had done consulting work for Access America Transport upon his exit from Congress in 2010.
"The two jobs that Weston's had since college is working for his dad's campaign for governor and working for a group of folks who employed his dad as a consultant," Powell said. "The Knoxville News Sentinel wrote about Zach being a consultant for Access America Transport in 2011, and I'm just saying it speaks for itself that since he's graduated from college, that he's never had a job that was outside his dad's sphere of influence."
Allan Davis, chief operating officer of Access America and also a partner of Lamp Post, said that any consulting that had been done by the senior Wamp for Access America had nothing to do with Wamp's work at the Lamp Post Group. Davis added that Wamp was brought on board before his father left Washington, D.C.—but did not specify if his hiring took place before or after his father's failed 2010 bid for Tennessee governor.
"... Lamp Post is a lot about paying it forward," Davis said. "We're about giving young people opportunities that they might not otherwise get and letting them shine. I went into our initial meeting with Weston pretty skeptical, and my mind was made up in 20 minutes that he was a very good, legitimate communicator and would be an effective spokesman."
Davis said Wamp's responsibilities at The Lamp Post Group included managing social media, public relations and marketing.
The mailer was not the first piece of negative campaigning to hit mailboxes in the 3rd District this year. Powell pointed to a mailer sent by Wamp's campaign in recent weeks, which used news headlines to suggest Fleischmann and Mayfield were running for Congress because they were "looking to just hold office."
Along with Mayfield and Wamp, Ron Bhalla is challenging Fleischmann in the Republican race. Dr. Mary Headrick and Bill Taylor are running as Democrats.
Primaries are Aug. 2.
Disclaimer: Nooga.com is affiliated with the Lamp Post Group, but editorial decisions for this publication are made independent of the Lamp Post Group.