One week after the Tea Party victory that wasn't, conservatives are still challenging the legitimacy of the black votes that helped Sen. Thad Cochran narrowly defeat Chris McDaniel. State Sen. Michael Watson said Tuesday that McDaniel's campaign has found over 3,300 voting "irregularities" across the state so far. That same day the conservative vote integrity group True the Vote sued the Mississippi Secretary of State and Republican Party to inspect the election records, according to the Sun Herald.
But the big (conspiracy) theory dominating the conservative blogosphere is an article claiming that Sen. Cochran promised a Democratic black pastor money to help organize a cash-for-votes scheme.
Charles C. Johnson, a former Daily Caller blogger who runs GotNews.com, reported that Rev. Stevie Fielder claimed Cochran official Saleem Baird said the campaign would pay him $16,000 to offer black voters $15 each to vote for Cochran. The article points to four text messages allegedly from the official asking for addresses for money envelopes. Fielder said the Cochran campaign convinced him that McDaniel was a racist — he doesn't think that anymore — and the campaign never paid him.
The story was picked up by the big conservative outlets including Breitbart News, The Blaze, and RedState. The main problem with the story's credibility is that Fielder was paid by Johnson for the story. As The Daily Caller argued, that's "both ironic and problematic: If you’re the kind of person who is willing to participate in a vote-buying scheme, isn’t it possible you’d also be the kind of person who is willing to make up a wild story in order to get paid by a reporter?"
Breitbart asked Johnson about paying his source and he argued that there's "a long history of ‘checkbook journalism’ in America. I'm bringing it back." He listed David Frost paying for the Nixon tapes as an example, but the problem with that analogy is there's a difference between paying for uncorrupted source material and paying someone to confirm your suspicions of a cash-for-vote scheme.
Cochran's campaign denied the allegations to The Clarion Ledger, calling the claims "baseless and false." A Cochran spokesman said Johnson has had to retract other stories in the past and said Fielder was hired as part of a legitimate get-out-the-vote campaign. "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?"
Oh, how silly. You thought a lawsuit threat was going to intimidate me? #mssen— Charles C. Johnson (@ChuckCJohnson) July 1, 2014
The question now is whether McDaniel will launch a formal challenge to the votes. The state's GOP executive committee met Tuesday at party headquarters in Jackson, Mississippi, in a meeting closed to the press, according to WAPT's Scott Simmons. In the meeting, Mississippi Republican Party chairman Joe Nosef was quoted saying the party was approaching the point when there needs "to have a challenge or not." If there is a challenge, far right groups like True the Vote are ready.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.