Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cochran camp threatens litigation over vote-buying allegations; my earlier hunch was right

The Cochran campaign is apparently deciding whether or not to sue Charles C. Johnson, the weird guy from California who the Tea Party Express brought into Mississippi to help with the McDaniel campaign, as well as Stevie Fielding, the minister who says the Cochran campaign engaged him to buy votes.  We'll see what happens with that going forward.  Paul Hampton has that story over at the Sun-Herald's Crawdaddy blog.

Also in that story is this quote from Jordan Russell:
He said the reason the text messages in Johnson's story mention names and addresses is those are needed for FEC forms that are filled out to show where money went.
That gels with my thinking in this previous post from earlier today:  The one big problem with the proof in the alleged Cochran vote-buying scheme.  In short, I don't think this Fielding guy is telling the truth.

*Edited to add the complete quote from Russell, this from the Clarion-Ledger:
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?"


Anonymous said...

Matt, although your hunch definitely jived with the story from team Cochran, that does not mean that everything was on the up and up.

Now obviously, we have to take what Fielder says as suspect. That was true from the beginning, though, right? We knew he was confessing to participation in a vote-buying operation (he has now retroactively retracted and says only *other* people participated but not him personally). We also knew he was trying to milk McDaniel for said confession, and was paid cold hard coin by the California guy Johnson even for the partial story (Johnson said as much in his original post). This is not a case of an honorable-whistle-blower, but a case of a stiffed-bad-guy... at least, allegedly.

That said, there are four obvious reasons that team Cochran would ask for names & addrs.

1. It allows them to later claim that this was all legit stuff, if caught. See the newer story at gotnews.com about the bulk 40k payout to Amanda Shook, likely one of the people named ("Amanda or somebody") by Fielder as involved on 6/24, which Johnson found in the paperwork for 6/3. That money was reported wrongly... and maybe illegally... depending on if it was to hide the names & addrs of the 'workers', or as team Cochran now claims, was merely a clerical goof. If you have the list of names, you can plausibly claim innocence, or at least, innocent mistake, when you do not report them until & unless caught.

2. If you don't collect names from Fielder, how do you know he won't just make the names up, and then pocket the $15 per head himself?

3. If you don't collect addrs from Fielder, how do you know he won't poach from outside his assigned geographic area? which will annoy your other operatives, and also increase the chances you get caught (as well as pay for votes twice to unscrupulous voters).

4. The biggest reason of all is: future elections. Once you have the names & addrs of people who CAN be bought off, no need to continue to pay folks like Fielder in the future. If you don't collect their names & addrs, you won't have the list at all. Moreover, you need the names & addrs, because that tells you (when compared to poll-books ... team Cochran ordered a full set of copies) which people *said* they would come vote for the payout, but then failed to show up. You end up with a whitelist of reliably-bought-votes to use again and again, for merely one-time consultant-overhead. Also, you get a blacklist of unreliably-bought-votes, that should not be contacted ever again.

Basically, if you are running a vote-buying operation, you do it exactly as Fielder described: you hire consultants to bring you the names, you pay the consultants $300/halfday or $1000/halfday or something like that, you pay each of the voters in cash in a blank envelope, you file the expenses as one large bulk "GOTV" payout which hides the details of what happened. You use the name & addrs as a check on the honesty of your gotv-consultants, as a check on the honesty of the bought-voters, and as a way to compile a whitelist of reliably-bought-names&addrs for future campaigns. Plus, if you get caught, you can say you hired people, but simply forgot to itemize them.

Now, just because this is a PLAUSIBLE description of and efficient vote-buying op, does not in fact mean that is what HAPPENED during the 2014 election. It does seem pretty clear the Fielder has been involved in dirty elections, and it seems likely that team Cochran was paying folks in with envelopes stuffed with cash. Whether what they did in 2014 was illegal, or borderline-legal-just-horribly-unethical (such as hiring 10k "campaign walkers" for one single shift at 15 to 25 dollars each on the day before the election)... or fully on the up and up... only time will tell.

Anonymous said...

It might not be a long time, that we must wait, either.

McDaniel is currently struggling to get writs from judges, giving full access to the ballot-boxes and the other election-materials, without paying thousands of bucks for the privilege of doing so. (McDaniel can pay but is thinking of future tea-candidates.) Once that gets ironed out -- basically there is a conflict between the state law about redaction and the federal NVRA law -- then I expect McDaniel lawyers will file a runoff-challenge, and the hard evidence (if any) concerning the vote-buying allegations will come out, perhaps including a trip to the stand under oath for Snowden.

Until then, though, count me as very unconvinced by the "explanation" Russell gave, that he MUST be innocent of wrong-doing, since, why would he ask for names & addrs? The better question is, HOW MANY names did team Cochran hire as "workers" during 2014, how much was each paid in total, and what days did they work for that pay? Plus of course, were all these names reported to the FEC, or were some elided? Nobody in the media has interviewed Amanda Shook, or indeed ANY low-level workers on the Cochran campaign, to see what answers might be forthcoming before the challenge... so I guess we have to wait for the final McDaniel lawsuit.

p.s. Johnson is not affiliated with the Tea Party Express, he is a sensationalist-blogger-journalist (not registered to vote he says although most of his stories are political pieces).

p.p.s. Nosef is also planning on trying to kick the 22 named plaintiffs in the related-but-distinct TrueTheVote lawsuit filed in federal court (7/1 in northern and then refiled 7/8 in southern district per order of the judge) out of the repub party. The idea, presumably, is to keep them from holding precinct-chair positions, and from being delegates to the state GOP convention where votes on party rules and presidential nominees and such take place. That is also where Henry Barbour is elected as RNC committeeman, and where Nosef is elected as state party MSGOP chair, of course! Most of the 22 are vocal McDaniel supporters, and several of them are officers in their local tea-party-groups.

As for the accusations by Fielder, as reported by Johnson, the goal of suing for libel/slander/etc is straightforward: keep such things quiet in the future. Similarly, suing the local MS plaintiffs in the TTV lawsuit (TTV is a group from Texas that is also active in NC and IL and various other states) is straightforward: keep such things from happening in the future.

All in all, I have found the McDaniel vs Cochran vs Childers election the most terrifying ever (partly because of what happened and partly because I fear it is not the worst we will see during the next decade or so). I realize that most of the authors here are Childers-supporters, and only see McDaniel as a useful way to stir up intra-repub trouble... but I wish you would take a step back, and think this over. Do you *want* dirty elections? Do you really really *want* Henry Barbour to say, hey the repub party left me, and have the estab-repubs and the megadonors join the dems once again? You had that for years and years and years, since the 1860s. Be careful what you wish for, and consider seeing if you can help McDaniel discover whether fraud exists, and if so, how deep and nasty it was. Consider whether you WANT to tar all republicans as racists, and cheer whenever an estab-repub joins the tarring. We are not racists. More to the point, there are several areas where dems and tea-folks overlap. (McDaniel's position on the NSA is probably closer to what ought to be the mainstream position among dems, for instance... it *was* the mainstream position when GWB was in office, sadly.)

In any case, appreciate you publicizing the PDF with Snowden's history of paying Fielder. Did you uncover that fact yourselves, or was it reported by some other group first? Is there a searchable history of campaign workers, that you know of?