MILLINGTON, Tenn. — When it's political season, one thing we know for sure is when we open our mail, there's bound to be a mailer asking us to donate money to a cause or candidate.
However, a mass mailing landing in mailboxes in Millington is raising questions. It claims if people don't donate money within 10 days, then Millington will become a sanctuary city.
It has to do with a letter from a dark money group called Secure America Now and written by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Right at the top, it says: "URGENT: Millington residents have 10 days to return the enclosed referendum on declaring sanctuary city status for this part of Tennessee." If they don't, the letter goes on to say, "Millington might become a haven for displaced, potentially dangerous people who are in the country illegally."
An active Republican and Conservative, Roland said his phone started ringing off the hook, mostly from seniors asking him if the situation truly is so dire that they had 10 days to donate. Otherwise, "Millington might change into a haven for illegal immigrants."
"I bet you I heard from at least 75 yesterday and that's while I was on the tractor, so I had to step away for two or three minutes," Roland said.
- Is a letter claiming that Millington is 10 days away from becoming a sanctuary city real?
The immediate answer is easy.
Tennessee passed a law in 2018 that no city in the state can ever claim to be a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants. Any claim that Millington is 10 days away from becoming a sanctuary city is false.
WHAT WE FOUND
It gets more complicated whether Secure America Now sent this false and misleading letter. The organization didn't respond to our emails and the website had no phone number.
OpenSecrets, a non-partisan group that tracks the finances of political action committees, found the Washington-based Secure America Now hasn't filed any records with the FEC since 2014, although it reported tax-exempt revenue of almost $8.3 million to the IRS in 2017.
It's the fear tactic, the pressure to donate, and the use of a familiar name that bothers Roland the most.
"On the letter itself, it's got Newt Gingrich's name on it," Roland said. "That's somebody if you're a Republican you know and trust everything, but when you get down to the straight skinny, it's all about money."
Roland worries about tactics from by the right and left to inflame people's emotions.
"I'm saying both sides are stirring the pot so bad that it's scaring people out there," Roland said.