Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran has struck back against accusations that members of his re-election campaign attempted to buy votes in order to help the incumbent win a pivotal runoff election on June 24th.
Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell called Reverend Stevie Fielder an “[obvious] liar…who sold his story to a blogger who’s openly proclaiming he will pay people to tell him a story,” and noted that the author of the original piece “admits he paid his source for the story.”
That story claims thousands of black voters were persuaded to vote for Cochran by the promise of cold, hard cash: fifteen dollars per vote. Fielder alleges that he–and dozens or hundreds of other pastors and community organizers–acted as go-betweens for the campaign, and handled the money themselves.
Last week’s Republican primary was an unusually contentious one in Mississippi, where the GOP standard-bearer is virtually assured of election in November. It pitted Cochran against Tea Party standard-bearer Chris McDaniel, who defeated Cochran in the first round of voting, but didn’t muster enough votes to avoid a runoff.
Cochran, deploying an unusual strategy in such a red state, then campaigned to McDaniel’s left, appealing to thousands of Democrats who were eligible to vote in the Republican runoff provided they had not already voted in the Democratic one.
Cochran is vying for his seventh term in office, and reminded the largely black Democratic electorate of the millions in federal funds he’s brought to Mississippi since winning his first senatorial election in 1978.
The move paid off: Cochran defeated McDaniel 50.9 to 49.1% in the runoff. Now, his methods have come under scrutiny, though no concrete evidence has been produced that links the Cochran campaign to any wrongdoing.