An audio interview has surfaced in which the interviewee claims that he was to be paid by the Cochran camp to grease voters in the Mississippi GOP Senate runoff election. The audio interview, which coincides with a separate audio recording and batch of evidence produced by the newly launched GotNews.com, a project by Charles C. Johnson, alleges that the Cochran campaign conspired with a Mississippi Reverend to buy the votes of African American voters, who happen to be democrats.
Before I get into the weeds of what is in the audio interview and transcript, which are both below, let me set up the stage a bit. What is alleged to have occurred is illegal and very serious business. Under Mississippi law the alleged crimes could lead to Thad Cochran being removed from the Senate. Everything that follows comes from sources either on the ground in Mississippi, or those working closely with them.
Reverend Fielder has claimed to have evidence that would prove illegal activity took place in the Mississippi GOP Senate run off election. Furthermore, the evidence he claims he has would implicate the Barbour machine and a staffer to Cochran’s Senate campaign. The motivations of the Reverend are not those of a saint. As is made clear throughout the interview and in the transcript, this Reverend is looking to get paid to provide information, just as he sought to get paid to deliver votes by illegal means. Reverend Fielder claims that Cochran’s people were supposed to pay him approximately $15,000 for his efforts, but failed to do so after the incumbent Senator had achieved victory in the run off.
With all of that said, if the evidence is produced and validated, I don’t know how much longer Thad Cochran will be a Senator.
Let’s go straight to the tape.
Reverend Fielder begins with a small biography about how he was raised in the Democratic Machine by his father. After that he starts to talk about his motives and what he did.
I was like this now you know, I worked very hard for Thad, and I got close to some people that in trouble in the loop and were doing some things that I witnessed and know about and threw money to people for it, that I know that’s against ethics and all of that, and ah, I’m supposed to get paid on the back end and I didn’t and then I said how many times do I have to get burned by people in politics that um you know say after the votes counted say “hey” and it don’t come, this is what they do, so, You all had your reasons for not liking what happened, I had my reason that was the pay, and um, like
Knowing what it would take to hand the district to him because he couldn’t stand up behind the allegations of proof that I would put out, um he would have to turn the district loose. I mean That’s all there is to it. You know I mean you don’t just throwin things out there that I don’t think nobody would frown if a person paid black people 15 dollars a vote to vote, you know what I’m saying. You know I, you let me know what you feel about it as we discuss it.
INTERVIEWER: you said you DON’T think that anybody would frown on it?
FIELDER: I said I DO think.
INTERVIEWER : I do too. I don’t think that that’s right.
Reverend Fielder admits that he “worked very hard for Thad” and that he witnessed and participated in throwing “money to people for it”, while also admitting what he participated in was unethical and he knew so at the time.
Next Fielder apparently shows the interviewer a text from Saleem Baird, who I will get to in a moment.
INTERVIEWER: So when you say 15 dollars per person to vote, how does that happen? What does that look like?
(Fielder shows interviewer text received from Saleem Baird)
Fielder : That’s just a text from one of the workers to me. Just scroll down now. Have to go through some things. ____ back up. And that was carried out numerous times. That’s basically 20 people times 15, that’s 300 dollars, a small scale they needed 10,000 votes, black votes, to make sure, that ah, that they would have enough to beat, ah, Chris.
Reverend Fielder then goes on to ask again about being taken care of if he provides all of the evidence he has.
But I’m not you know I know you know once I do it and turn it over and chris gets his chair, you know, I know where that leaves me. You know, It’s either I get something, or I’m a good Samaritan, you know, and I don’t think in these days and times too many people work in the good Samaritan thing, so I want to meet face to face, that I have proof, you know I have definitely did what is highly illegal for him to do. They put us in that situation. And so um, The thing is if chris want his seat, and if he want to deal with me for it for whatever I need to do, I don’t mind doin it, so the problem is you know if he think, if he think what I got will benefit him, then long as I done did it, and not out there stuck out high,
INTERVIEWER – so you need to be protected.
Fielder : Yeah that and you know taken care of. Cause see they beat me out of like 15,000 dollars for work that I did. I was supposed to get paid right at 2,000 a day from Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday and Tuesday. So these names like that he’s askin for was done over and over and over and over until Chris McDaniel didn’t have a chance.
After a brief mention of Saleem Baird, who we still need to get to, Reverend Fielder then details the process of buying votes.
INTERVIEWER: So what, there would um, he said he would have cash divided up into envelopes?
FIELDER: That was for the people.
INTERVIEWER: Can you describe the process for me? Like how does that work?
FIELDER: Well I mean you know, it’s a give and take. I don’t want to just go all the way. If y’all are offering something, then I’m offering something. You know, let’s just be realistic. If y’all are offering something then I’m offering something. The process is easy to describe. It’s basically just what it says. If a person wanted to do that, he would just have the 20 envelopes already ready with each one, he just catch the people goin into the polls, folks that you know and folks that you don’t know. And you know 15 dollars that’s what they vote worth, and that’s what y’all got tangled up at the very end, he was scared. And there was some unprofessional things done.
INTERVIEWER: At what point do they make the recommendation about who to vote for? Like how do they know who’s going to vote for who when they walk into the polling place?
FIELDER:: Well I mean you know, they a lot of time ain’t nobody with em, but you just gave ‘em 15 dollars, and telling them “hey, this is the guy to vote,” it looks like to me by the numbers that they did pretty much did what they were supposed to do. You know, So I don’t think I think for 15 dollars that for us to go on in there, if somebody wanted help, they got help, but pretty much people went in and did what they said they was gonna do.
INTERVIEWER: Who tells them who to vote for?
FIELDER: Well I think whoever they give the money to. If it gave me, if it was me had the thousands of dollars at a time 20 or 15 dollars at a person, so I go out and get these people, and hey, I’m doing what I’m told. You know the camp say this, and I realized that’s a ____ of mind. They just used a mean tactic. I remember years ago, in government they used to talk about a dollar a vote in the old days, years ago, they would have a thing already made out. But they want to make sure that, I don’t know how they put the price at 15 dollars, but ah it worked. And and all I know is he sent me you know that text among others to make sure that uh this how we do it, and this is how you pick it up. And he just give me the envelopes, and they go on, and that’s what’s in the envelope, 15 dollars, and all that, as you see it said all names addresses and all, I think they assumed ah, they’re not worried about that, they just had the envelope, just a plain white envelope.
Ok, that is a pretty detailed picture that was painted by the Reverend. His motives are clearly suspect, but it sounds like he knows what he is talking about when it comes to vote buying schemes.
Now we get to the naming of names.
INTERVIEWER: And so you would give him the names and addresses?
FIELDER: That’s what they was wantin. And I gave em supplied em yeah one time to this guy here.
FIELDER: Uh huh. And he was high up in there. A guy high up into the thing.
INTERVIEWER: So saleem worked for thad Cochran?
INTERVIEWER: And what’s saleem’s last name? do you know?
INTERVIEWER: Saleem Baird
FIELDER: Yeah. [shows me text again]
INTERVIEWER: Saleem O. Baird. OK. Um. So um, and they would give you the envelopes, and who would drive around and pick ‘em up at the addresses, you would do that?
FIELDER: Well, like I said now, I wanted you to come and let you see I had what we needed, and I know it would help you, but now I think it’s you all, you know it’s Chris’s turn, now that I done showed you that I got something that would help, and I know it would help you, I’m not stupid.
The Reverend balked on verbal confirmation of Saleem Baird as the Cochran staffer who facilitated the vote buying scheme, but if the text he referenced, featured at the GotNews site, is validated, that changes the game in many ways.
Reverend Fielder goes on to mention that he is on a timetable to sell this information because the Cochran camp wants to meet with him and delete all of the evidence from his phone.
They want me to erase everything, and they want to pay me, you know he called last night two three times, and they want to try to get together this evening and all of this, but I had talked to you all, I live up to my word. If it’s nothing that you all want to do with it, fine, I’ll just deal with em and be through. But if you all, I’m still giving you the chance, because I called you. And and and it’s gonna look bad, a guy helping the tea party, but I don’t care cuz the bottom line it was there’s some wrong that’s done. And ah if he’s, willing to ah, you know negotiate with me, I’m fine with helping him get his seat, cuz he I mean, he he was defeated by black people that was allegedly, I’ll say at this point until we deal, paid.
Now if you can see where that would help you fine, if you don’t? Just tell me now.
Well I mean, you know I told you, I brought some information to the table. And he don’t have a big window, cuz I know at 5, I’m supposed to meet ah, them, some of em was claiming from out of town some kind of way. I don’t know a johnny barbour, some barbour guy, you know em?
The interview then ends with a series of appeals from the Reverend to get paid.
Saleem Omar Baird is/was a staffer for Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker. You may remember Saleem Baird from an incident in 2011 which involved a strip club and the legislative aide being put on leave.
As implied in the interview, and confirmed by the text messages, Baird now works for the Cochran campaign and allegedly participated in a vote buying scheme to secure victory in the Mississippi.
As I said at the beginning, these allegations are no joke. Under MS Code § 23-15-561 (2013) which is a subsection of the Article on the Conduct of Elections, it is unlawful for both the Cochran campaign or outside supporters to “publicly or privately put up or in any way offer any prize, cash award or other item of value to be raffled, drawn for, played for or contested for in order to encourage persons to vote or to refrain from voting in any election.”
Is doesn’t take a genius to figure out that $15 in an envelope with a flier telling you who to vote for might fit into the definitions laid out in MS Code § 23-15-561 (2013).
The statute goes on to note a fine of $5000 and a prescription for candidates found guilty of engaging in any of the above schemes.
(3) Any candidate who shall violate the provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall, upon conviction thereof, in addition to the fine prescribed above, be punished by:
(a) Disqualification as a candidate in the race for the elective office; or
(b) Removal from the elective office, if the offender has been elected thereto.
As more information comes to light, Thad Cochran, heck, the entire Mississippi, might want to look into who the best lawyers are, both elections and criminal.
Transcript: Reverend Fielder Transcript
After the story broke here on RedState and on GotNews.com, Charles C. Johnson and I joined Thomas LaDuke for a special episode of the Snark Factor and to discuss these latest allegations of vote buying. You can listen here.