Cochran campaign sending in amended FEC filing report
Wednesday, July 9, 2014 1:00 PM
The Thad Cochran campaign said Wednesday it will have to amend it's primary report it submitted to the Federal Election Commission.
An out-of-state blogger who has grabbed headlines in the past couple of weeks with his sometimes-accurate reporting on the Mississippi Senate race broke a story Monday night on his site Gotnews.com pointing out that the Cochran campaign had reimbursed staffer Amanda Shook for $53,000 in cash listed as "Reimbursed Expense - Campaign Walkers."
A spokesman for Cochran, who defeated challenger Chris McDaniel in the June 24 runoff, said that was a mistake. The FEC filing should have reflected payments to several people who helped with the get-out-the-vote effort by knocking on doors, making phone calls and waving campaign signs.
Shook, campaign advisor Austin Barbour said, served as director of operations and would physically get money from the bank to pay lower-level campaign workers.
"Our treasurer screwed up," he told reporters. "We are amending our FEC report for the primary, and the one for the runoff [due next week] will be filed correctly."
Gotnews.com had previously reported on a Meridian man who admitted to agreeing to turn out black votes for Cochran for $16,000 in cash. The author, Charles Johnson, claimed that man had ties to Shook, and apparently saw the $53,000 - which came in sums of around $10,000 per payment - as proof that the campaign had funneled money through Shook for illegal vote-buying.
In reports Wednesday, Barbour reduced the latest "scandal" to nothing more than a common clerical error.
"People screw up FEC reports all the time," he said. "...You are allowed to go back and amend a report. You are encouraged to go back and amend reports."
The new report, he said, would include names and addresses for workers who were payed by the campaign and would be made public as soon as it was properly filed. The total price tag for Cochran's GOTV effort in the final three weeks leading to the runoff has been estimated by campaign staff at more than $500,000.
Campaign spokesman Jordan Russell could not be reached by press time.
McDaniel is preparing to challenge the June 24 vote. Official numbers from the Secretary of State's office, certified Tuesday, determined Cochran won the election by 7,667 votes, but McDaniel maintains that many of the 194,932 votes cast for Cochran came from crossover voters - folks who voted in the June 3 Democratic primary and are therefore disqualified from voting in the Republican runoff.
McDaniel's attorney Mitch Tyner said Monday afternoon that the campaign has found "thousands" of such votes, and that the challenge was "very likely" and could come "any day now."
A message that appeared Wednesday on McDaniel's campaign web site (www.mcdaniel2014.com) states that McDaniel has the momentum.
"The fight for our conservative values is not over," a message from McDaniel himself reads. "This election was a sham, and I will fight against it until the very end."