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Watchdog group asks prosecutors to investigate TN House Speaker’s per diem costs

House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, speaking to a Nashville civic group on Tuesday.
Alexander Willis
House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, speaking to a Nashville civic group on Tuesday.

The group wants to know whether Sexton violated any laws by claiming a larger per diem despite owning a home in Nashville.

A nonprofit progressive watchdog group wants Nashville’s top prosecutors to investigate whether Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton violated the law by claiming $79,000 in per diem expenses based on his Crossville home while owning a second one in Nashville.

The Campaign for Accountability filed a complaint Wednesday with Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk and Henry Leventis, the U.S. Attorney for Middle Tennessee, pulling much of its details from a series of articles published by Popular Information.

“[We] respectfully request your offices immediately investigate whether Sexton has violated any state or federal criminal laws, including felony theft, honest services fraud, and tax fraud,” the complaint stated.

Popular Information, a progressive news outlet, first reported on Sexton’s second Nashville home, revealing the House Speaker bought the home in a hidden trust which concealed its ownership.

Sexton, R-Crossville, purchased a house in Nashville in 2021 after downgrading from a home to a condo in his hometown district. He became Speaker in 2019.

Sexton has told reporters he lives in Crossville but owns his Nashville house because he has to spend a considerable amount of time in the city as Speaker.

The Republican leader confirmed that his daughter attends a school in Nashville and that he returns to Crossville on weekends, breaks and during the summer.

The House Speaker is paid more than the typical lawmaker because of the status and time it takes to do the job. Most lawmakers make $28,000 annually, while the House Speaker makes $85,000.

Sexton pointed to previous House Speakers Jimmy Nafieh and Ned McWherter who owned homes in Nashville as well as their hometown districts.

The Campaign for Accountability cited Tennessee law that says, “the place where a married person’s spouse and family have their habitation is presumed to be the person’s place of residence.” The group argued because Sexton’s family lives with him in Nashville, his residency is in Nashville.

The group mentions Sexton’s per diem claims. Lawmakers living outside Nashville can collect $313 per day working at the State Capitol to cover lodging and meals. In contrast, those within 50 miles can collect $79.

Sexton’s Nashville home is less than seven miles from the State Capitol.

Popular Information and the Campaign for Accountability contended by owning a second home in Nashville, Sexton shouldn’t qualify for the larger per diem. But, nothing stops a lawmaker from using the per diem to cover a mortgage payment versus a hotel or rent.

This article was originally published by The Tennessee Lookout.

Adam Friedman is a reporter with the Tennessee Lookout. He has a particular love for data and using numbers to explain all kinds of topics. If you have a story idea, he'd love to hear it. Email him at or call him at 615-249-8509.
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