Cochran camp weighs legal action against blogger, source over vote-buying story

Posted on July 1, 2014 

The Republican runoff election circus seems destined to land in court one way or another.
Chris McDaniel's supporters have been pining for legal action since their candidate lost by more than 6,000 votes to Sen. Thad Cochran in the June 24 GOP runoff. McDaniel is expected to challenge the results, which his campaign says include many ineligible voters.
Now, Cochran's campaign is telling a blogger and a former campaign worker from Lauderdale County to lawyer up.
"There's a guy out there lying about the campaign, selling the story to a blogger that clearly seems to be trying to turn into the next Clayton Kelly imitation," said Cochran campaign spokesman Jordan Russell. 
That blogger is Charles C. Johnston, who came to Mississippi with the Tea Party Express bus tour, and "the guy" is Stevie Fielder, a self-proclaimed minister from Meridian who said he was given money by the Cochran campaign to buy votes. Clayton Kelly is another blogger who is one of three people charged with a plot to photograph Cochran's invalid wife in her nursing home bed.
"We hired lots of people, young and old, black and white, from all regions of the state to help with get-out-the-vote efforts," Russell said. "Mr. Fielder was one. I'm sitting here looking at the receipts from when we paid him. He was was paid $300 for his efforts. It was for two vans and the the drivers -- driving people around, knocking on doors."
Russell said Fielder was supposed to get another $300 but he "didn't follow through on his obligations."
"He could not tell us what he did to earn that $300 so he didn't get paid," Russell said.  Russell said Fielder has a sketchy background that includes fraud charges and foreclosures on property. "Apparently the guy kept calling up here asking for money, asking for Kirk (Sims, the campaign manager),  ... He'd call up and demand to talk to everybody."
He said staff members told him after Fielder was let go, "this guy is going to cause problems down the road, trying to tell us we owe him something and we don't."
He said the reason the text messages in Johnson's story mention names and addresses is those are needed for FEC forms that are filled out to show where money went. Johnson says it supports Fielder's claim that voters were paid for votes.
"(Fielder) started demanding all this money from the campaign, so this blogger showed up last week with Tea Party Express and admits he paid him for the story," said Russell.
"He's so much like Clayton Kelly. He's trying to start his own blog and he's making loud accusations trying to defame us.
"Frankly, if I were these two gentlemen, I'd be talking to my attorney because we're talking to ours," said Russell. 
Johnson didn't answer his phone and hasn't responded to an email request, but he earlier tweeted: "You establishment hacks do know that I've been threatened with lawsuits, death threats before, right? I planned on this. #mssen"
 

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