The primary source in a report alleging that Sen. Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) campaign paid African-Americans in the state $15 a pop to vote for him over state Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) has changed his story, but is still pointing his finger at Cochran.
The source, Stevie Fielder, is now saying that he did not help the Cochran campaign buy votes but maintains that someone approached him about it. Fielder refused to say who approached him.
“I would be in jail because that’s illegal,” Fielder told the Clarion-Ledger. “I haven’t done anything illegal.”
Fielder has also said he talked with the Mississippi attorney general’s office about his claim.
Previously, conservative blogger Charles C. Johnson, reported that Fielder said he was recruited by the Cochran campaign to help get out the vote efforts and that Fielder brought “hundreds of even thousands” of African-Americans to vote for Cochran. Johnson’s report said that Fielder went to impoverished neighborhoods and told “telling fellow blacks that McDaniel was a racist and promising them $15 per vote.”
According to Johnson’s report, Fielder said the Cochran gave him thousands of dollars to pay voters to support Cochran. Fielder also said he was supposed to get a cut for himself from the Cochran campaign’s Saleem Baired but was stiffed. Fielder suggested that he had talked with Cochran’s campaign manager as well.
Now, Fielder said that he was only describing a “hypothetical” situation and that the recording that Johnson used in his report was probably edited. But Fielder also seemed to contradict that statement in his interview with the Clarion-Ledger.
“Maybe I got out there and said, gave an interview to somebody that I shouldn’t have talked to … I’m not trying to take away the recording,” Fielder said.
Johnson denies that the recording was edited at all.
Fielder wouldn’t say whether or not Baird was the one who approached him about buying votes.
“I was aware of a person who wanted to do that,” Fielder said. “I don’t think that right now is the time [to say who]. I’m giving them the opportunity to tell it themselves.”
Baird, who is on leave from Sen. Roger Wicker’s (R-MS) office, serves as the Cochran campaign’s minority outreach director. The Cochran campaign denied the allegations and said Baird was unlikely to make any statement. The Cochran campaign has also said that Fielder was hired for get-out-the-vote work and paid $600, half of which he was paid up front.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s office was also asked by the paper if they are investigating the allegations of vote-buying.
“It is our policy to neither confirm nor deny what we may or may not be looking into,” a Hood spokeswoman said.