Operation Rocky Top


Operation Rocky Top became public in January 1989 when W.D. "Donnie" Walker, a one-time bingo regulator in the state government who later became a lobbyist, pleaded guilty to offering McNally a $10,000 bribe in exchange for his vote on a measure to legalize horse racing. In exchange for a plea bargain, Walker gave investigators details on how he had helped bingo operators become chartered as bogus charities so they could obtain state licenses to run bingo games, and how bingo operators then channeled money back to state legislators who were part of the scheme.[1] At the height of activity there were nearly 300 bingo operations in the state with estimated annual revenue of $31 million.[1]

The investigation resulted in over 50 convictions[2] and the incarceration of several politicians, most notably state House Majority Leader, Democrat[3] Tommy Burnett.

Two other targets of the investigation committed suicide before testifying: Tennessee Secretary of State Gentry Crowell (in December 1989, just before he was scheduled to testify for a third time before a federal grand jury) and State Representative Ted Ray Miller of Knoxville (after being charged with bribery).[1][2] Following the scandal, Tennessee established limits on political contributions and placed new restrictions on lobbying.[2]

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