FEC Probes Pro-Cochran Barbour-Run Super PAC
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has asked a pro-Thad Cochran Super PAC, called Mississippi Conservatives, to provide additional information about what the newspaper Roll Call said “appears to be campaign finance violations.”
At issue are last-minute expenditures made by the PAC in the days before the initial June 3 primary. The FEC “Request for Additional Information” says the PAC does not appear to have disclosed some of its spending in a timely manner.
The FEC notes in the letter sent to treasurer Brian Perry that failure to “adequately respond” by Aug. 1 “could result in an audit or enforcement action.”
“The FEC letter states the committee may have failed to file one or more of the required 24-hour report(s) regarding "last minute" independent expenditures,” Roll Call’s Kent Cooper wrote:
Specifically, the committee did not file a 24-hour report for a $15,000 payment on May 30th to Scott Howell & Company as an independent expenditures against Chris McDaniel, R-Miss. The FEC also sought answers for an independent expenditure paid to Winning Edge that was reported on a 24-hour report, but was not correlated with the committee’s Schedule E for the 12-Day pre-runoff report covering 5/15 through 6/4.
According to FEC filings that Mississippi Conservatives did report, the two entities—Scott Howell & Company and Winning Edge—conducted radio and television ad placements and direct mail production, respectively, for the Super PAC.
The Super PAC is run by Henry Barbour, a Republican National Committee (RNC) committeeman and nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour—who has offered financial support for the PAC, as well. The group has been at the center of much of the campaign hullabaloo since earlier this year when it received what conservative super lawyer Cleta Mitchell—who represents the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund (TPPCF), which supports McDaniel—alleged was an illegal bank loan.
On Jan. 29—within days in either direction of many late January donations from current and former Trustmark executives to Cochran’s campaign—Trustmark National Bank made a $250,000 loan to the pro-Cochran Super PAC, which is run by former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s nephew Henry Barbour.
The PAC and the bank argue that the loan was secured by a certificate of deposit by a third party, though neither will divulge the identity of the CD's owner. Mitchell has alleged that whether or not it was secured by a deposit from a mysterious benefactor, the arrangement comprises an illegal in-kind donation.
This FEC inquiry that Roll Call first reported doesn’t mention anything about that loan—or other transactions to or from that Super PAC that have come under public scrutiny, like $60,000 worth of disbursements to Hinds County GOP Chairman Pete Perry. Perry, a key Cochran ally who runs the GOP elections, including primaries and runoffs like this in Hinds County, Mississippi, was paid $60,000 by the Super PAC to perform Get-Out-the-Vote services for Cochran for the June 3 primary.
State Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole has alleged that Perry used that money as “walking around money”—in that it was, according to Cole, converted into cash, then distributed among leaders in the black community. The practice is technically legal, depending on the purpose of the cash. It is illegal to directly buy votes, but cash can be used for gas to get to the polls, to buy voters food if they’d need to skip a meal to vote, as well as other uses.
In an interview with Breitbart News, Perry declined to provide an accounting for how the money he received was spent.
“None of your business,” Perry said when asked for details in a late June interview about where the money went.
On Saturday June 28, Perry was arrested for a DUI in Leake County, Mississippi.
The group Mississippi Conservatives is also behind racially charged advertisements that attacked the Tea Party as racist to get black Democratic voters to vote for Cochran. The organization paid Mitzi Bickers, a Democratic operative from Atlanta who’s behind the group Citizens for Progress, according to reports from the UK Daily Mail and the National Review.