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 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 which he narrowly lost and consider a challenge of the results.
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?”