Tennessee State Rep. Harry Brooks says he sees nothing inappropriate about endorsing a Nashville recreational vehicle dealership in a television commercial but will nonetheless ask for a Tennessee Ethics Commission opinion on the matter, according to a report in the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The Knoxville lawmaker, recently elected assistant House minority leader by the House Republican Caucus, said he agreed to tape the commercial as a friend of Gary Armagh, general manager and owner of Music City RV in Nashville.
“There were three conditions: One, that I would receive no payment. Two, that they would not contribute to my campaign. And three, that they would never treat me any different than any other customer,” said Brooks in an interview.
The legislator said he purchased a motorhome at the dealership, trading in an older model, about two years ago. Brooks said he had met Armagh earlier, when he worked for another RV business.
Brooks said he parks the RV in a campground and stays there during legislative sessions rather than renting a Nashville motel room, as do most lawmakers from outside Middle Tennessee.
“I appreciate people who are willing to begin a new business in Tennessee. (Armagh) is a very hard-working fellow,” Brooks said.
Brooks is identified as a state representative in the commercial, which he said is being aired throughout the state and in some other Southeastern states. Country music singer William Lee Golden of the Oak Ridge Boys also endorses the dealership.
The commercial has raised some eyebrows among those who saw it.
“My initial reaction was that it struck me as being inappropriate for an elected official to promote a product for sale – especially using his title,” said Tom Pierce, who owns Ritta Market in Knoxville and contacted the News Sentinel after seeing the ad.
Bruce Androphy, executive director of the Tennessee Ethics Commission, said he would encourage Brooks to write the commission about the matter to promote discussion – though it appears no law was violated so long as no special benefit was received by the legislator.
Brooks said he would “probably” ask Armagh to stop running the commercial when the legislative session begins next month.