The campaign staff of Senator Thad Cochran (R-Miss) vigorously deny buying votes with direct cash payments. But the key witness in this affair has four text messages that speak to such payments. Yesterday the chief spokesman for the Thad Cochran campaign tried to explain them away. And his explanations are worse than specious.
From Thad Cochran staff to witness: get a lawyer
Jordan Russell, Thad Cochran’s point man with the media, warned the witness, Stevie Fielder of Meridian, Mississippi, to get a lawyer. He has the same warning for Charles C. Johnson, originator of gotnews.com. In reply, Mr Johnson sent a brief message on Twitter saying a lawsuit would not scare him. In fact, Mr Johnson’s Twitter feed is now a running screed accusing Thad Cochran of ducking a press conference and raising questions of other financial chicane.
Mr Fielder gave Mr Johnson photographs of four text messages, that he received on a simple cell phone. (The embedded video shows them.) These messages came to him from Mr Saleem Baird, a Thad Cochran campaign official. Yesterday CNAV sent a request for comment to Saleem Baird’s email address. Saleem Baird has never replied. But neither has CNAV received any mailer subsystem delivery-failure messages.
The Associated Press and at least two other newspapers asked Mr Russell about the text messages from Mr Baird to Mr Fielder. Mr Russell confirmed the Thad Cochran campaign hired Mr Fielder. He said they hired him to knock on doors and get out the vote. Again he denied hiring Mr Fielder to pay voters to vote for Senator Cochran.
The problem: Mr Russell said the envelopes containing cash were the method by which the Thad Cochran campaign paid Mr Fielder and other get-out-the-vote employees.
Whether you’re a high school kid in northeast Jackson or a retired nurse in Greenwood, if you’re out working doors for us, you get paid in cash, in an envelope.
That last statement is likely either a bald-faced lie, or a confession of guilt of yet another election-law violation.
How campaigns really pay their workers
William Eames, of Morris County, New Jersey, recently ran for State Senator. His wife Barbara also ran for the Board of Chosen freeholders of Morris County. Mr Eames has direct experience with hiring people to knock on doors to get out the vote. Today he spoke by telephone to CNAV to share his insights.
Any person he hired, to get out the vote or to do anything else, he always paid by check. Furthermore, his campaign treasurer always got complete contact information, enough to file IRS Form 1099 if the total amount paid to any one person exceeded a certain amount. Mr Eames told CNAV that if any campaign were paying its workers in cash, handed to them in envelopes, they would be breaking the law if they did this in New Jersey. Nor does he imagine that any state in the Union, including Mississippi, would let an election campaign pay its workers any differently from paying by check.
A review of the campaign finance manual from the Mississippi Elections Division clearly shows any campaign must report itemized contributions and itemized disbursements. If any person gets more than $200 in all from a campaign, that campaign must report to the States a complete list of every check that person got.
What this means to the Thad Cochran campaign
The Thad Cochran campaign has now admitted that Stevie Fielder worked for them. They also have effectively confirmed the text messages Mr Fielder received from Mr Baird. In trying to explain how those text messages read, the Thad Cochran campaign made their story less believable that it was before. If, as they said, they do pay get-out-the-vote workers in cash, in envelopes, they are breaking the law to do this. Legitimate campaigns do not pay campaign workers “off the books.”
More likely, the Thad Cochran campaign now is covering up for some kind of unlawful activity that involves Messrs Fielder and Baird.
Thad Cochran campaign: other image problems
Last night, Fox News reporter Ainsley Earhardt told Sean Hannity, on his television program, that former Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, and some of his relatives, directly paid for the radio and TV ads that depicted Chris McDaniel, Thad Cochran’s opponent, as a racist. Chris McDaniel already has volunteers looking for voters who voted first in the Democratic primary and then in the Republican runoff. They claim to have found 3300 irregular votes in 38 of Mississippi’s 82 counties. And the True the Vote group have sued the Mississippi Secretary of State, and the Mississippi Republican Party, to ask a judge to force election officials to turn over voting records for the primary and runoff.
Many in the media keep hinting that Chris McDaniel is a sore loser. They urge him to concede the primary and move on. He will not do this, of course. But neither has anyone yet accused Chris McDaniel of relying on illegal crossover votes, accusing his opponent wrongfully of racism, or paying people to vote for him.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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