An undercover federal sting operation called the “Tennessee Waltz” aimed at corrupt deal-making within the highest levels of state government has led to a roundup of four sitting lawmakers, a former senator and two alleged bag men who face extortion, conspiracy, and bribery charges, reports The Tennessean. Among those arrested was Sen. John Ford, a Memphis Democrat who also is accused of threatening and intimidating potential witnesses. A federal grand jury indictment said Ford told an undercover FBI agent that “if he caught someone trying to set him up he would shoot that person, kill them, so there would be no witnesses.”
The two-year investigation has produced the worst corruption scandal to hit state government since the Rocky Top state bingo-corruption investigation 15 years ago, says the newspaper. Federal court papers paint a picture of a state Capitol where votes are bought and sold to get laws passed to benefit private interests. In this case, the company, E-Cycle Management, was a fake company set up by federal agents to snare lawmakers who would accept bribes to push legislation on behalf of the company.