It will be recalled that Memphis physician/businessman George Flinn, a frequent candidate for political office, was edged out in the August Republican primary for 8th District Congress by fellow Memphian David Kustoff, a former U.S. Attorney.
Kustoff’s margin of victory, 2,689 votes, was earned late in the contest, it is generally acknowledged. Both campaigns were aware of polling that showed Flinn, who out-spent all others in the multi-candidate GOP race, was leading in various private polls until the last week of the campaign.
During that last week, a flurry of print and TV ads appeared in the district alleging that Flinn was on record as having supported a Democratic candidate. The Democrat had been Flinn’s son, Shea Flinn, who ran unsuccessfully for a state House seat some years ago, later was appointed to an interim state Senate seat, and still later won and served two terms on the Memphis City Council.
With election day almost on top of him at that point, candidate Flinn, a longstanding Republican, tried to point out the obvious — that he had merely been supporting his own son — but had little time to get that message circulated. Flinn’s people — and some outside observers as well — blame the last-minute anti-Flinn adds for his defeat.
Now, it develops, according to the Tennessee Journal, that those ads were paid for by the outgoing Republican 8th District congressman, Stephen Fincher of Frog Jump in Crockett County. In its October 21 issue, the Journal notes that $100,000 in late contributions by Fincher to Win for American PAC, which technically placed the anti-Flinn advertising, match up directly with the placement-time and amount of the ads.
Flinn had been among several candidates in 2010 who ran for the 8th District seat, won that year by Fincher, and had, as was the custom by all the candidates in the race, run negative ads against his opponents. But Flinn had supported Fincher during the now congressman’s successful reelection runs in 2012 and 2014.
Whatever may have motivated Fincher, Flinn himself seems to have been no stranger to Realpolitik. Though no evidence links him to the expenditures of another group, a 501-C4 organization called Power of Liberty, that group, which was able legally to conceal the identities of its donors, had launched issue-advocacy ads attacking every candidate but Flinn in the recent congressional race.