The GOP civil war in Mississippi continues as Chris McDaniel’s campaign to force a special election targets not only Senator Thad Cochran for voter fraud but former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s PAC for using misleading racially charged ads against a fellow Republican. The ads from “Citizens for Progress” claim Chris McDaniel, among other things, wants to take African-Americans back to the “good ole’ bad days.”
Though cynical, what Barbour did is not illegal. What is illegal is another allegation made by supporters of Chris McDaniel concerning “vote buying.”
According to Got News, Reverend Stevie Fielder said Cochran for Senate campaign officials “told me to offer blacks fifteen dollars each and to vote for Thad.” That activity, if explicit enough, is a violation of Mississippi and federal election law. If the allegation can be proven not only might a judge order a special election but those engaged in the scheme may be prison bound.
It is illegal under several provisions of Mississippi law and federal law for campaign officials to bribe voters with cash and punishable up to five years in jail. (MS Code 97-13-1; MS Code 97-13-3 (2013) (Federal Code 18 U.S.C. 597, U.S.C. 1973i(c)) Voter fraud schemes are not unusual for Mississippi. In 1999 Mississippi’s attorney general reported massive voter fraud allegations throughout the Magnolia state. In 2011, a Mississippi NAACP leader was sent to prison for voter fraud, according to the Daily Caller.
It would seem that laws were broken here, too. At the direction of the Cochran campaign, Reverend Fielder went “door to door, different places, mostly impoverished neighborhoods, to the housing authorities and stuff like that,” telling fellow blacks that McDaniel was a racist and promising them $15 per vote. “They sold me on the fact that he was a racist and that the right thing to do was to keep him out of office,” Fielder says.
Text messages appear to show Cochran For Senate campaign staffer Saleem Baird participating in the scheme saying there were envelopes full of money ready for Reverend Fielder to pick up.
The back and forth within the GOP over the Mississippi Senate primary election results bubbled over when a McDaniel supporter crashed a Thad Cochran conference call and began asking Barbour about his involvement in the racially charged ads and whether the Cochran campaign broke election laws with vote buying. Later that day a GOP strategist associated with the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Brad Dayspring, took to Twitter to condemn Got News publisher Charles Johnson whom he believed was responsible for crashing the conference call.
Regardless of the bitter turmoil within the Republican Party over the Mississippi Senate primary, the ultimate decision as to what happens next with the election is now up to a judge.