The Thad Cochran/Mississippi mess is only growing.
Yesterday at GotNews.com, blogger Charles Johnson reported on the “walking around money” the Thad Cochran campaign was routing to its “expanded electorate” through its Director of Operations Amanda Shook…
Cochran campaign staffer Amanda Shook was illegally reimbursed for over $40,000 cash in walking around money during the Republican primary, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings. The payments are described as “Reimbursed Expenses – Campaign Walkers.”
Regulation 11 CFR 116.5 expressly defines funds advanced by campaign staff for any reason other than travel or subsistence as a loan. It is illegal under FEC rules to loan money to a campaign in excess of the contribution limit of $2,600. “[I]f your loan exceeds the limits, it is an illegal contribution, even if it is later repaid in full,” notes the FEC website.
Shook was previously alleged to be one of the sources of street cash in an alleged vote-buying operation in a Gotnews.com report from the Reverend Stevie Fielder.
Shook is Director of Operations for the Thad Cochran campaign, where she works for campaign manager Kirk Sims, who was also mentioned by Fielder as someone he worked with on the Cochran campaign. Shook previously worked for Sims in the office of Governor Phil Bryant, where Sims was the governor’s chief of staff and Shook was his scheduler. Sims is U.S. Senator Roger Wicker’s son-in-law.
FEC reports list seven payments by Citizens for Cochran, the candidate’s official campaign committee, to Shook totaling $52,625. The bulk of these payments describe the purpose of the disbursement as “Reimbursed Expenses – Campaign Walkers.” It is unclear how 27 year-old Shook acquired such large sums of cash for the initial outlays. Requests for comment from Shook went unanswered at the time of this writing.
If you’ll remember, Johnson had previously reported on accusations made by a Rev. Stevie Fielder to the effect that he and others were hired by a Cochran functionary named Saleem Baird to dispense “street money” in the black community for the purpose of buying votes in the June 24 primary. Fielder mentioned in his interview with Johnson that he was to be paid by an “Amanda” with the Cochran campaign. This is the Amanda, and there is written documentation of it.
Johnson found FEC documents showing the payments to Shook, of which the following is an example…
The GotNews report picks up a quote from Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell given to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger which is cringeworthy…
Spokesman Jordan Russell told the Clarion-Ledger: “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?”
Why? Here’s why…
Moreover, longtime campaign consultant Bill Pascoe tells Gotnews.com: “You’d ask for names and addresses to verify that the votes you bought were votes from people who are actually registered to vote, and to serve as a check on your vote buyers – to make sure they’re not just making up and handing in names to get the cash.”
Pascoe managed statewide campaigns in New Jersey, Illinois, and Louisiana, “where vote-buying operations are legendary.” Pascoe also executed Independent Expenditures for both Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund and Independent Women’s Voice in Mississippi.
What Pascoe says is true, as in next-door Louisiana a number of recent “non-traditional” candidate seeking bloc votes in the black community using the “street money” method – most notably Republican 2011 Lt. Governor candidate Billy Nungesser and Republican-turned-independent (and current Democrat) 2007 gubernatorial candidate and 2010 New Orleans mayoral candidate John George – weren’t quite the sticklers for documentation the Cochran camp was, and paid a price for it.
Another long-time campaign consultant, Rick Shaftan, who earlier this week raised accusations of FEC violations surrounding an ad campaign the National Republican Senatorial Campaign may or may not have paid for on behalf of a Mississippi political action committee (All Citizens For Mississippi) run out of a black Baptist church in Jackson, was on radio today characterizing the Shook allegations as potentially violative of tax law as well as elections law…
And a little more…
The Cochran camp’s denial of any wrongdoing that Rick Fischer mentions at the head of this was reported in a rather peculiar piece at the Jackson Clarion-Ledger yesterday…
A spokesman for six-term incumbent U.S. Sen. Cochran called the filing “a screw up,” and the campaign has denied vote buying and other allegations.
He said the campaign will soon make public a list of all the people the campaign paid in cash.
State Sen. Chris McDaniel is preparing a challenge of the results of the June 24 runoff, where he lost to Cochran by about 7,600 votes.
In a Tuesday statement, McDaniel said: “The allegations of criminal misconduct against the Cochran campaign and his close associates continue to mount. Mississippians deserve a full accounting of the unbecoming tactics of the Cochran campaign used in their attempt to drive ineligible voters to the polls in June.”
Some of the reimbursements listed for Cochran Operations Director Shook through June 3 are large, including payments of $8,000, $10,000 and $15,000.
Cochran campaign adviser Austin Barbour says the filings were a mistake by the campaign’s treasurer.
He said they should be listed as cash payments to “dozens” of people who helped knock on doors and with other GOTV work.
“Amanda, as director of operations, is like our office manager,” Barbour said. “So she would run to the bank to get cash to pay field workers.
“Our treasurer screwed up, and we are fixing it right now,” Barbour said. “We are amending our FEC report for the primary, and the one for the runoff — I think it’s due within a week or so — will be filed correctly.”
Barbour said campaign workers on Tuesday had “names and addresses of people spread out on the conference room table” and were compiling an amended report.
He said the campaign would make the report available publicly when finished, within a couple of days.
If you’re not particularly impressed by Barbour’s protestations of innocence, you’re not alone.
And on related subjects, Jeff Lord’s American Spectator piece about Mississippi Conservatives, another PAC which helped Cochran and has collected money from a fairly familiar daisy chain of donors, is a required read. So is Jen Kuznicki’s piece on the ruin, and ultimate suicide, of Mark Mayfield.