The U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran campaign is denying reports from a conservative blogger that it was trying to buy votes in Lauderdale County.
Blogger Charles C. Johnson of GotNews.com is reporting that Stevie Fielder says the Cochran campaign told him to offer black voters in the Meridian area $15 each to vote for Cochran in the June 24 GOP primary runoff against state Sen. Chris McDaniel.
Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell called the accusations of illegal vote buying "baseless and false."
"It comes from a blogger who in the last 24 hours has accused a Mississippi public official of being responsible for an individual's death and had to retract other outlandish accusations regarding another Mississippi elected official," Russell said. "The author of this article admits he paid his source for the story."
The report comes as McDaniel continues to examine records from the June 24 runoff that he narrowly lost and to consider a challenge of the results. Tea party groups supporting McDaniel have cried foul over the runoff, in which traditionally Democratic and independent voters helped Cochran narrowly win the Republican primary.
The GotNews report includes text messages Fielder says are from Cochran campaign Minority Outreach Director Saleem Baird, who is on leave from Sen. Roger Wicker's office while campaigning for Cochran. They include discussions of the campaign asking for names and addresses to provide envelopes of money. Fielder said the campaign agreed to pay him $16,000 but stiffed him on payment.
Fielder could not be reached for comment early Tuesday.
Russell said the campaign hired Fielder for get-out-the-vote work.
"We hire a lot of people — black, white, young, old — to help with get-out-the-vote efforts," Russell said. "… 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. Saleem asked the guy for names and addresses for (Federal Election Commission) filing purposes. Why would you ask a guy for names and addresses if you're buying votes?"
Jordan said the campaign agreed to pay Fielder $600, half up front, for campaign work.
"He was paid for reimbursement for gas, driving people around, get-out-the-vote work," Russell said. "But he never completed any work for the second $300. He never provided any names and addresses of people he said he was getting. ... He waffled on providing names and addresses."
Russell said the campaign's "standard rate" for people knocking on doors and doing other GOTV work is "$25 a shift — $25 in the morning, then a lunch break, then $25 for the afternoon."
"This is obviously a guy who ... sold his story to a blogger who's openly proclaiming he will pay people to tell him a story," Russell said. "… Most disturbing is (Johnson) is attempting to solicit pictures of Mrs. Rose Cochran in her nursing home, with a bounty up to $1,000."
State Sen. Michael Watson of the McDaniel campaign on Tuesday said he hopes the allegations are investigated.
"I'm an innocent-until-proven-guilty guy," Watson said. "… I do hope law enforcement will dig in and determine what happened."
The report says Fielder is an associate pastor at First Missionary Baptist Church in Meridian.Church Deacon Robert Markham said Fielder is not an associate pastor at the church but is a self-proclaimed minister.
Church member Melba Clark, a member of the Lauderdale County Democratic Executive Committee and its former longtime chairman, said she doesn't believe any vote buying happened.
"Not only do I not believe any vote buying went on, I don't even know who Mr. Fielder was supposed to have taken to the polls," Clark said. "I'm not aware of any people that Mr. Fielder took to the polls or anybody having promised money to people. Yes, I think I would have heard about that."
Both Markham and Clark say Fielder's reputation in the area is less than stellar.
<snip>Russell said Cochran is considering litigation over the allegations.
"If I were these two men, who made the claims or wrote the story, I would be talking to a lawyer," Russell said. "Because we are most definitely talking to ours."
more at link