Thad Cochran's Latest Senior Moment: Gets Lost in Capitol
Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) literally got lost on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, The Hill reports. Cochran accidentally, while speaking with The Hill’s Cameron Joseph, went to the Senate Democrats’ luncheon instead of the Senate Republicans’ luncheon.
“Cochran, while talking with The Hill, made a few wrong turns before accidentally ending up at Senate Democrats' luncheon,” Joseph wrote on Tuesday evening. “After exiting a Senate elevator on the wrong floor, Cochran and The Hill reboarded. He then found the right floor but turned away from the Senate GOP luncheon, a few yards from the elevator, to stroll in the opposite direction, arriving at the Democrats' weekly gathering a few hallways away.”
At that point, Cochran stopped to talk to Democrat Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas—who is facing his own re-election battle against Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR). Pryor chatted with Cochran for a few minutes and congratulated the senior Mississippi senator on beating conservative state Sen. Chris McDaniel in the recent GOP primary runoff.
“Cochran didn't seem to realize he was in the wrong place, until someone in the room asked him if he was planning to join the Democrats for lunch,” Joseph wrote.
“His father and I were elected to Congress and then to the Senate,” Cochran told The Hill about Pryor.
“The Mississippi Republican then paused for a second, fumbling to read some papers he was holding,” Joseph wrote about what happened next.
“OK, so I've got to find out where…” Cochran then said, prompting The Hill to ask if he was trying to find the room for the Senate GOP luncheon. That luncheon has been held every Tuesday in the same room in the U.S. Capitol for years, Joseph noted.
“Well, look, S-211. Let's see if I can do this. I've been here long enough — 30 years," Cochran then said, wearing what Joseph said was a “grin.”
Cochran was first sworn in as a senator in January 1978, or 36.5 years ago.
Cochran spokesman Chris Gallegos, in the unenviable position of having to explain Cochran's latest senior moment, offered the following explanation:
Everyone on Capitol Hill gets off on the wrong floor once in a while. He has lunches and events in both those rooms. Where Senate Democrats meet on Tuesday, there are other events there during the week. I wouldn't make anything of this. It's simple to get distracted when you're walking along with a reporter in the Capitol. Especially when it's in session, it's a very busy place.
To recap recent events, Cochran thrice said he didn't know much about the Tea Party, forgot who Atlantic reporter Molly Ball was 30 minutes after she interviewed him, forgot Eric Cantor lost his primary, claimed he grew up doing “indecent things with animals,” and then said he didn't remember saying that.
Noel Fritsch, a spokesman for Cochran's primary challenger, state senator Chris McDaniel, told Breitbart News he thinks it may not have been a mistake that Cochran went to the Democrat lunch instead of the Republican lunch. ”Given that Thad Cochran needed more than 40,000 Democrat votes to stay competitive on June 24, it makes sense that Thad would stop by the Senate Democrat luncheon to offer them his thanks for the strong support the Democrat Party showed Senator Cochran in Mississippi,” Fritsch said.
Cochran muscled his way through to get more votes than McDaniel in the June 24 runoff, openly courting Democrats to support him in the election. Final certification by the Mississippi Secretary of State and Mississippi GOP shows Cochran beat McDaniel by 7,667 votes. McDaniel’s team plans to challenge the election results in the wake of a series of reports of irregularities and allegations of voter fraud in Mississippi.
In response to a recent report from freelance journalist Charles Johnson on GotNews.com that Cochran’s campaign director of field operations allegedly illicitly used cash to help pay for get-out-the-vote efforts in the black community in Mississippi, Cochran’s campaign admitted it “screwed up” in reporting that information to the Federal Election Commission.
The Monday night report from Johnson alleged that Amanda Shook of Cochran’s campaign was reimbursed in large sums of cash, according to the FEC reports, for what the campaign described as “Reimbursed Expense – Campaign Walkers.” Shook was apparently paid $53,000 in cash, the documents show, something the Jackson Clarion Ledger reports FEC regulations do not allow.
“FEC regulations allow reimbursement to staff only for travel and food expenses, and any other outlay of money by a staffer would be considered a contribution, and subject to a $2,600 limit,” the Clarion-Ledger’s Geoff Pender wrote on Tuesday.
Pender interviewed senior Cochran campaign adviser Austin Barbour—the nephew of former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and brother of Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour, who heads the pro-Cochran Super PAC Mississippi Conservatives. While the Super PAC is facing its own series of allegations separately—including an inquiry by the FEC into its last-minute spending—Austin Barbour, on behalf of Cochran’s campaign, admitted the campaign “screwed up” with regard to the Shook payments of tens of thousands in cash.
“Amanda, as director of operations, is like our office manager,” Austin Barbour said. “So she would run to the bank to get cash to pay field workers. Our treasurer screwed up, and we are fixing it right now. We are amending our FEC report for the primary, and the one for the runoff – I think it's due within a week or so – will be filed correctly.”
Austin Barbour said that the campaign had “names and addresses of people spread out on the conference room table” and was working to correct the improperly filed FEC reports.
“People screw up FEC reports all the time,” Austin Barbour said. “We haven't gotten any notice from the FEC on it. You are allowed to go back and amend a report. You are encouraged to go back and amend reports.”
The tactics of Cochran’s campaign and the Haley Barbour political machine have drawn the ire of national conservatives and other Republicans.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), a senior member of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), called Monday evening for an investigation of the Mississippi Senate GOP primary runoff results. Cruz said in an appearance on Mark Levin’s nationally syndicated radio program:
What the D.C. machine did was not try to grow the party; instead, the ads that they ran were racially charged, false attacks, and they were explicit promises to continue and expand the welfare state, and nobody has suggested that the Democrats who voted in the primary will actually vote Republican in the general election. Instead, they were just recruited to decide who the Republican nominee was, and that’s unprincipled, and it’s wrong. But even more troubling, Mark, in the past week or so, we have seen serious allegations of voter fraud, and I very much hope that no Republican was involved in voter fraud. But these allegations need to be vigorously investigated, and anyone involved in criminal conduct should be prosecuted. The voters of Mississippi deserve to know the truth.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), in an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio program a week ago, similarly called for action to be taken and the allegations to be investigated.
“If these allegations are true—not just the allegations about race-baiting, but also the allegations of basically paying for votes, giving people $15 per voter to go out and vote, if those allegations are true, and if it’s true that they spent thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of dollars buying votes...” Lee said before Hannity interrupted to note that McDaniel had at that point found, according to his campaign, more than a thousand votes from Democrats who had voted in the Democratic primary on June 3, then in the GOP runoff on June 24.
After Lee and Hannity discussed how those ineligible crossover votes are one element of the forthcoming challenge by McDaniel, Lee went back to the allegations of vote-buying to say that, if they are proven to be true, it is “textbook corruption.”
“If this additional allegation—the one that broke last night—happens to be true, that is that they were buying votes, that is textbook corruption,” Lee said. “That is not just an irregularity. That is not just poor form or a technical violation of the law. That is textbook corruption, and there will be serious problems if that turns out to be true.”
Meanwhile, RNC Committeeman Ed Martin has called on RNC chairman Reince Priebus to intervene and investigate the matter surrounding their RNC Committeeman Henry Barbour’s role in what he described were “racially divisive ads and robocalls” reported by the UK Daily Mail’s David Martosko.
Without naming Henry Barbour in that July 8 emailed message to Priebus and a subsequent email to all RNC committeemen, Martin—a Missouri-based RNC Committeeman—asked for Priebus to “appoint a special committee of RNC members to investigate this matter” and then report back to committee members at their August meeting what they find.
“Many of us are unsure of all of the facts and seek more,” Martin wrote. “Specifically, if one of our own members helped finance ads or robocalls that tarred Tea Partiers as a group as racists, I am sure that most RNC members would find that deeply offensive, indeed unacceptable. We cannot object to the left smearing conservatives with such labels if we do not rebuke those on our side who sink to such tactics.”
The Martin emails were first reported by Ali Akbar, a conservative blogger working with the Black Conservatives Fund. That group is headed by Anita Moncrief, an activist who has, as a whistleblower against ACORN, uncovered widespread voter fraud before, and has called for an investigation by authorities as well.