Cochran campaign says it 'screwed up' cash accounting report to FEC
The Thad Cochran campaign says it "screwed up" accounting reports it filed with the FEC that seemed to indicate a staffer had been reimbursed cash for "campaign walkers."
That's a no-no.
Facing allegations of vote buying and a challenge to a GOP primary runoff win, the Thad Cochran campaign on Tuesday said it made a mistake with its accounting of nearly $53,000 in get-out-the-vote cash and will have to amend its reporting to the Federal Election Commission.
The Gotnews.com site Monday night reported that the Cochran campaign reimbursed staffer Amanda Shook for large sums of cash listed as "Reimbursed Expense – Campaign Walkers." 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.
A spokesman for six-term incumbent Cochran called the filing "a screw up," and the campaign has denied vote buying and other allegations.
Challenger Chris McDaniel is preparing a challenge of the results of the June 24 runoff, where he lost by about 7,600 votes.
In a statement Tuesday McDaniel said: "The allegations of criminal misconduct against the Cochran campaign and his close associates continue to mount. Mississippians deserve a full accounting of the unbecoming tactics of the Cochran campaign used in their attempt to drive ineligible voters to the polls in June."
Some of the reimbursements listed for Cochran Operations Director Shook through June 3 are large, including payments of $8,000, $10,000 and $15,000.
Cochran campaign adviser Austin Barbour says the filings were a mistake by the campaign's treasurer. He said they should be listed as cash payments to "dozens" of people who helped knock on doors and with other GOTV work.
"Amanda, as director of operations, is like our office manager," 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," Barbour said. "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."
An innocent mistake? Perhaps. FEC regs are confusing and it appears a campaign accountant took a shortcut in filing where he shouldn't have.
But $53,000 is an awful lot of cash. It would represent payments to hundreds of campaign walkers. We don't know what they did with the cash and it will be very difficult to find out.
McDaniel may be building a case for an investigation into the runoff, but the state party isn't listening to him. He appears reluctant to take his case to federal court - perhaps because the evidence he has is suggestive of wrong doing but not hard evidence. Regardless, McDaniel is going to have to make up his mind shortly if he wants to get on the November ballot.