One of the advisers helping Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) build out a national political organization for his presidential run has been linked to a nasty campaign in Missouri that ended with the suicide of a Republican gubernatorial candidate there.
Last summer, Cruz hired Jeff Roe, a seasoned Republican operative who previously advised former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on their respective presidential campaigns. Roe is the principal of Kansas City-based Axiom Strategies.
He’s also reportedly affiliated with Citizens for Fairness in Missouri, a political action committee that ran a statewide radio ad blasting late state Auditor Tom Schweich (R) as “weak” and corrupt. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch report published earlier this month outlined Roe’s connections to the PAC, which the newspaper described as a “front group” for the political strategist.
Schweich committed suicide on Feb. 26. While it’s unclear exactly what led Schweich to take his own life, he had expressed concern that the state’s Republican Party chairman was trying to hobble his gubernatorial campaign by telling people that Schweich, an Episcopalian, was Jewish.
After Schweich’s death, Missouri media immediately pointed out the particularly nasty atmosphere of the Republican gubernatorial primary, including the Citizens for Fairness in Missouri radio spot (Roe was not linked to the alleged “whisper campaign” in any way.)
The ad’s narrator compared Schweich to a bumbling “The Andy Griffith Show” character, Barney Fife, and said that Democrats in Washington, D.C. would “squash him like the little bug that he is” with their gubernatorial nominee.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch report noted the similarities between that ad and an award-winning spot Axiom Strategies produced against independent U.S. Senate candidate Greg Orman of Kansas. Both ads featured a narrator imitating the voice of Frank Underwood, Kevin Spacey’s ruthless character on the Netflix show, and cast Schweich and Orman as pawns of Washington Democrats.
“Elections have consequences,” the narrator says at the start of both radio spots.
In addition to pitching in on Cruz’s 2016 team, Roe is managing the campaign of Catherine Hanaway, who was Schweich’s main opponent in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
Hanaway denied any involvement in the ad to the Post-Dispatch. But the report noted that an attorney affiliated with Roe, James C. Thomas III, registered Citizens for Fairness in Missouri to his own mailing address. Thomas, who also serves as Hanaway’s campaign treasurer, served as the PAC’s deputy treasurer until the day the anti-Schweich ad ran, according to the report.
Missouri Scout, a local news blog, also caught the PAC amending a quarterly report from 2014 on the day of Schweich’s suicide. The report was amended to remove an expenditure to Candidate Command, a direct mail outfit owned by Roe.
Roe did not respond to a request for comment from TPM. The strategist previously declined to answer a list of written questions he’d asked the Post-Dispatch to submit to him and instead provided the newspaper with a statement offering condolences to Schweich’s family.
A spokesman for the Cruz campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TPM.