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Report claims Cochran campaign engaged in vote-buying scandal

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Thanks to the votes of thousands of Democrats, Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., won his primary runoff election against Chris McDaniel, his Tea Party-backed challenger. But an explosive report posted Monday at Got News alleges that Cochran campaign staffers engaged in a massive vote-buying scheme that could cost Cochran his Senate seat under Mississippi law.

According to the report, Stevie Fielder, associate pastor at historic First Union Missionary Baptist Church, told Charles C. Johnson he delivered "hundreds or even thousands" of blacks to the polls after he was offered money and told that McDaniel is a racist.

"They," he said, referring to the Cochran campaign, "told me to offer blacks fifteen dollars each and to vote for Thad."

Several provisions of various state and federal laws prohibit bribing voters. Mississippi law says that any candidate engaged in vote-buying can be disqualified from running in that race for the office and be removed from that office if he or she has been elected into it.

Fielder, who says he was paid for the information he provided, claims he was promised some $16,000 by the Cochran campaign to entice blacks to vote. Others like him, he added, were also reportedly given cash to get blacks to the polls.

At the direction of the Cochran campaign, he added, he went "door to door, different places, mostly impoverished neighborhoods, to the housing authorities and stuff like that," telling other blacks that McDaniel is 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," he added.

According to Fielder, Saleem Baird, a Cochran campaign staffer who also serves as a legislative aide to U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, along with Cochran campaign manager Kirk Sims, were involved in the scheme. Baird, Fielder added, was doing the same thing across the state, but ended up stiffing him out of the promised $16,000.

"In addition to Baird, Fielder says he spoke with Kirk Sims, the Cochran campaign manager, and a woman named 'Amanda' with the campaign, most likely Amanda Shook, director of operations to re-elect Thad Cochran. All refused to pay him the agreed upon amount of $16,000," Got News said.

Fielder said he was paid for his story, something Johnson defends despite warnings by the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics.

“Why wouldn't I pay for an awesome story?” he told in an email. “Gawker, the Daily Mail, TMZ all pay for information (and they pay poorly, by the way). There's also a long history of ‘checkbook journalism’ in America. I'm bringing it back. Indeed, every press baron in American history has relied on it. Pulitzer, Hearst, Luce, and, yes, Oprah are all supporters of it. David Frost paid for the Nixon tapes, goodness sake.”

A full transcript of the interview with Fielder can be seen here.



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