BILOXI, Mississippi — It’s been called the “nastiest primary in the country.” Now you can add allegations of “walking around money” and “vote buying,” a Democratic operative nicknamed “Scooby Doo,” and the testy denials of a Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) ally to the mix.
Rickey Cole, the chairman of the Mississippi Democratic Party, says Cochran’s allies are paying Democratic operatives to help get out the vote with a questionable tactic.
“Pete Pery” – the chairman of the Hinds County Republican Party – “is paying James ‘Scooby Doo’ Warren thousands of dollars to funnel to black preachers and others to get-out-the-vote for Cochran,” Cole wrote in a Facebook message sent to a top aide of state Sen. Chris McDaniel’s campaign, Ric McCluskey, just after midnight Tuesday.
“Large sums of cash are being passed around. These guys are old school ‘walking around money’ vote buyers,” Cole wrote in the message, obtained by Breitbart News, adding, “Need some out of state media to put some heavy scrutiny on Pete asap.”
In a phone interview, Cole confirmed he made the allegations and that he thinks there should be an investigation. “I can’t prove any of it yet,” Cole said. “This is just what I had heard. It think it warrants investigating, because I don’t know all of the details on it I just got word that James [‘Scooby Doo’ Warren] was bragging that he got money.”
“The reason I sent that text is because I wanted the McDaniel people to know that there was an effort out here ongoing to mobilize Democratic voters to vote for Cochran,” Cole added. “That’s simply because I don’t like the idea of Democrats voting in the Republican primary or Republicans voting in the Democratic primary. I believe members of each party should vote in their own primaries.”
Warren confirmed to the Clarion-Ledger that he is working for Cochran, and got approval from Washington, D.C., Democrats to do so. “I called D.C. and told them what was going on with the tea party,” Warren said. “But I can’t do anything after the 24th because I’m a Democrat … Whoever wins will have to deal with me in November.”
In the story, Warren is not quoted addressing allegations of impropriety from Cole.
In an interview Monday, Perry said he hopes that money routed through him won’t end up used to pay for votes.
When asked if he thinks there’s payments for votes happening in this election, Perry said that “I certainly hope not” adding that while he’s “been against that all my life since the 60s” he has “seen it done and I’m totally against it.”
“It’s not going on now that I know of,” Perry said. “And I certainly hope it’s not going on on either side–on either side. Everybody will come out against it too–the governor, lieutenant governor, me, Joe down the street from me will probably come out against it. I hope it’s not happening and I don’t know if it’s happening on the Cochran side and I hope the McDaniel side isn’t doing it either.”
The practice of community organizers being paid to get out the vote on election day–colloquially known as “walking around money” or “street money”–is somewhat common among Democrats in the South and in inner cities throughout the country. While different states have different rules or regulations on walking around money, it’s technically legal everywhere, Slate’s Christopher Beam noted in a 2008 piece on how President Obama abandoned the practice in Philadelphia in his run for the White House. But the practice becomes illegal, according to U.S. Code, if the money would be used for a direct purchase of a vote.
“Both parties use street money, but it’s more common among Democrats, who tend to be better represented in the areas that rely on it,” Slate’s Christopher Beam wrote, adding later in his piece that while the “practice is legal everywhere” because it’s protected by the First Amendment, “some states have tougher restrictions than others.”
“In Philadelphia, committee people can hand out cash for any reason, as long as they’re not paying someone for their vote,” Beam wrote. “(The U.S. Code prohibits vote purchasing.) In New Jersey, campaign officials have to pay the workers in checks and their names, addresses, and amounts paid must be submitted to the Election Law Enforcement Commission. Presidential campaigns are always required to report the money to the Federal Elections Commission.”
Abuses – in which individuals are paid to actually vote – have been documented, and Cole is raising questions about exactly what tactics Cochran’s paid political operation will employ.
The allegations in Mississippi against Cochran’s supporters –which have been bubbling up behind the scenes here in Mississippi for over a week–prompted a national election integrity group to come to the state to investigate.
While far the information is only hearsay, the accusation from the state’s top Democratic Party official gives the issue some heft.
Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show that Mississippi Conservatives, a super PAC run by Henry Barbour and backing Cochran, paid Perry’s company Paradigm Government Relations twice for “Canvassing/Get Out The Vote” efforts. The first payment, for $25,000, came on May 20, while the second–for $35,000–came on May 30, just a few days before the primary.
Catherine Engelbrecht, the leader of an election integrity group called True The Vote, is now calling for an investigation into Perry’s actions.
“We’re extremely troubled by what we’re hearing out of Hinds County Mississippi,” Catherine Engelbrecht, the head of True the Vote, told Breitbart News. “How can Mississippi voters have confidence in the integrity of the election if election officials are being paid off by Senator Cochran or whomever manages his PAC’s checkbook?”
Engelbrecht called for Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann to look into the matter–and for Perry to be removed from any role in the upcoming runoff.
“With the eyes of the nation now on Mississippi’s upcoming runoff, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann should take swift and decisive action to protect voters’ rights by removing Pete Perry from all involvement in the runoff election and open an investigation into these potentially illegal activities,” Engelbrecht said.
Perry said Engelbrecht “does not know a damn thing about where the money went.”
“I have not given any money to James Warren directly,” Perry said, adding, “Did James Warren receive any of it? Maybe so. I don’t know how many people it might have gone through. I do know of James Warren–I’ve seen him around in politics before. I don’t know about ‘walking around money,’ and I don’t know about the other things you said.”
Black conservative activist Jeremiah Boddie, a supporter of Cochran’s primary challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel, said has “absolutely” he’s heard of these street money efforts from Cochran’s team. “They always pay their volunteers, and it’s known that they pay people to do certain things for their campaign and they incentivize them to pay people to get out and vote for them,” Boddie said in an interview.
Boddie added that he thinks the tactic is the “most desperate, pathetic thing I’ve ever seen in my human life.”