It was bad enough that John McCain, Mitch McConnell, Karl Rove, the Chamber of Commerce and NRSC were fine with Thad Cochran smearing Tea Partiers as racists to turn out DEMOCRATS to win a Republican Primary.
That was dishonorable.
However, it looks as if Thad Cochran’s campaign may have gone beyond dishonorable all the way to outright fraud.
Mississippi’s Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole has already noted that, “Large sums of cash are being passed around. These guys are old-school ‘walking around money’ vote buyers.”
Well now, there’s an operative who is flat out saying that the Cochran campaign asked him to pay voters $15 per vote.
A black reverend stiffed by the Cochran campaign has exposed an alleged criminal conspiracy by Cochran staffers to commit massive voter fraud ahead of Tuesday’s controversial U.S. Senate Republican runoff election in Mississippi.
Reverend Stevie Fielder, associate pastor at historic First Union Missionary Baptist Church and former official at Meridian’s redevelopment agency, says he delivered “hundreds or even thousands,” of blacks to the polls after being offered money and being assured by a Cochran campaign operative that Chris McDaniel was a racist. “They [the Cochran campaign] told me to offer blacks fifteen dollars each and to vote for Thad.”
It is illegal under several provisions of Mississippi law and federal law for campaign officials to bribe voters with cash and punishable up to five years in jail. (MS Code 97-13-1; MS Code 97-13-3 (2013) (Federal Code 18 U.S.C. 597, U.S.C. 1973i(c)) Voter fraud schemes are not unusual for Mississippi. In 1999 Mississippi’s attorney general reported massive voter fraud allegations throughout the Magnolia state. In 2011, a Mississippi NAACP leader was sent to prison for voter fraud, according to the Daily Caller.
It would seem that laws were broken here, too. At the direction of the Cochran campaign, Reverend Fielder went “door to door, different places, mostly impoverished neighborhoods, to the housing authorities and stuff like that,” telling fellow blacks that McDaniel was a racist and promising them $15 per vote. “They sold me on the fact that he was a racist and that the right thing to do was to keep him out of office,” Fielder says.
Text messages released to Got News and a recorded interview with Reverend Fielder confirmed that Saleem Baird, a staffer with the Cochran campaign and current legislative aide to U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, and Cochran campaign manager, Kirk Sims, were involved in a $15-per-vote cash bribery scheme to target members of the black community.
“They said they needed black votes,” said the Reverend Fielder on the phone. He says Baird told him to “give the fifteen dollars in each envelope to people as they go in and vote. You know, not right outside of the polling place but he would actually recruit people with the $15 dollars and they would go in and vote.” Fielder said he received thousands of dollars in envelopes from Baird and distributed them accordingly. Fielder also says he went to the campaign office on another occasion to pick up $300 in cash and was among a room full of people who were doing the same thing he was.
Fielder said that Saleem Baird was doing the same thing with people all over the state. Fielder believes that the racism charge against McDaniel and the promise of $15 a vote motivated ‘thousands’ of black Democrats like him to vote for Cochran in the runoff. When asked if Fielder would have been more suspicious of Baird’s promises had he been white, Fielder replied, “Yes, definitely.”
For his efforts, Fielder says the Cochran campaign and Baird promised him $16,000 for paying black voters $15 a vote, but Baird wound up stiffing him. Baird even asked him to delete all texts between the two of them. In addition to Baird, Fielder says he spoke with Kirk Sims, the Cochran campaign manager, and a woman named “Amanda” with the campaign, most likely Amanda Shook, director of operations to re-elect Thad Cochran. All refused to pay him the agreed upon amount of $16,000.
…As to what should happen next, ‘definitely the election should not be allowed to stand,” says Fielder, who says he’ll support McDaniel in event of a special election. ‘He’s been done wrong. He’s not what they said that he is.’
Got News tried calling both Baird and Sims with Fielder on the line. We got through to Sims but Sims insisted that there was a bad connection when Fielder asked about the racist smear campaign against Chris McDaniel and hung up. Were Baird found to have violated any laws in this matter, this would not be his first time he had a brush with the wrong side of the law. In 2011, Baird, who is a legislative staffer with U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, was allowed to keep his job with the senator after being arrested on charges of running an illegal strip joint in Jackson.
Fully aware that we have helped reveal the Cochran campaign may be involved in a criminal conspiracy, Got News will turn over any and all evidence to law enforcement.
Is this enough to convict Cochran staffers of voter fraud in a court of law? No, but it should be enough to prompt a criminal investigation — and if any of this turns out to be true and the Cochran campaign paid for votes, everybody involved in it from top to bottom should be sent to jail. Let me also add that if there is ANY TRUTH TO THIS, Thad Cochran should go ahead and concede to Chris McDaniel before it’s too late rather than pulling a Todd Akin and trying to go forward anyway after his campaign’s shot. There’s already a tremendous amount of bad blood between Republicans in Mississippi over the sleazy way Cochran won. If it turns out that he actually committed fraud to win on top of that, asking the conservatives his campaign smeared as Klan members and defrauded to vote for him in a general election is just a bridge too far.