It amazes me at times how gullible people are and how they will buy into anything. At what point do people seek the truth without trying to distort what that truth is?
Some ‘pay to say’ independent journalist, who is a good friend of a McDaniel campaign staffer, comes to town to break news that no one in MS is smart enough to do or handle on their own (or so he thinks). Only problem with his research and ‘investigation’ is that there are holes all in the stories he writes. And this Senate race is not the only thing he has reported on that has been controversial or with errors.
The first story he claims to have broken was about a prominent Republican and Cochran campaign Chair Person. Allegedly this person was out vandalizing and stealing McDaniel signs. This is also the same person that Johnson later claimed, “wanted to come clean” about massive amounts of money missing from the Cochran campaign. Johnson also reported in this same story, something about David Clanton and the USDA fraud. The main story that Johnson was known for was that of the preacher, Stevie Fielder, who claimed to have been hired by the Cochran campaign to ‘buy votes’. This story would be the basis and foundation for the McDaniel campaign’s vote buying and cross over voting allegations. These are just 3 of the stories that Charles Johnson has been hailed for breaking.
The sign story was the first in the series, so let’s look at that one first. It should be noted and is already known by the campaign and those close to it that the alleged responsible party for this crime is a long time friend of mine, Lee Blair. We graduated from Germantown High School together in 1992. It should also be noted that he started off on the fence about this campaign, but he did help me with the campaign and offered his help to the McDaniel campaign. He had spoken many times to the McDaniel campaign Communications Director as well as another paid staffer last year before the campaign teams were even established. It was not until the DeSoto County Town Hall at the Landers Center and the DeSoto County Republican Club’s Reagan Day Dinner in March that Lee would decide to support Senator Cochran.
In Charles Johnson’s version of events, he calls Lee Blair the DeSoto County Chair person for the Cochran campaign. That was false! As I previously stated, Lee could not have been a Chair person for the Cochran campaign when he only decided to officially support him over McDaniel in March. Johnson also has a caption underneath a picture of Lee that says, “Lee Blair attempting to flee the scene of the crime”. Again FALSE! At no time was Lee Blair trying to flee the scene and in a lot of people’s mind, there was no crime. Lee was not in his vehicle, was not the driver of the vehicle nor was he alone in the vehicle. The truck belonged to a prominent Republican and city leader’s son, whom also was a Thad supporter and volunteer. In the backseat was a 38-40 year old man.
This threesome often put out Cochran signs for the campaign.
DeSoto County had extreme issues with McDaniel volunteers putting signs out in places they are not allowed by law. They were put on private properties without permission, in right of ways, attached to street signs and placed in some areas that require a $25 permit sign fee to be paid first and approval obtained yet this was not done. Accusations flew left and right about sign placements, stolen signs and vandalized signs. It was out of hand, and personally, I was angry at both Cochran’s side and our side for all of the ridiculous nonsense. Lee reported to the campaign day after day reports from private citizens that were angry with our side putting signs on their property without permission. Reports were made to the city about improper sign placements and other documented evidence showed Thad signs that had been vandalized. It was a mess all the way around. (Pictures of the DeSoto Co vandalized Thad signs below).
The night of the incident I was on the phone with the campaign staff and others until 4:30am. I spoke with Lee as soon as he left the police department the next day. What I concluded from all that I had heard, been a part of and told directly, I figured the guys were out putting out Cochran signs when they saw some more McDaniel signs in the right of way. The person that witnessed this told me that the signs were in the right of ways or medians. I gathered that Lee picked up a sign in the right of way with the intent to put it behind city hall where the city puts the signs they pick up. He was accused of destroying a sign though, NOT stealing signs. Well I have never seen a sign that could be wadded up in a person’s hand. Most signs are corrugated cardboard. You can’t wad those up. Considering we had the Tea Party Express and other outside groups coming in regularly, the plastic cover could have been something they put out. That one cover he had wadded in his hand was the only single evidence of a sign being harmed in anyway.
Should anyone touch another team’s sign?! NO! When the McDaniel campaign volunteer saw him, Lee told him to get the sign since it was in the wrong place and the volunteer said NO. I have no doubt that Lee was sarcastic and rude. Tensions were high. Thad’s people had been verbally abused during this campaign. Our people had been verbally attacked during this race. Everyone was emotional, hyped up and tense! The personal attacks between both sides were out of hand and far from respectable.
I yelled at Lee just as much as I yelled at our side about this story, BUT the story was blown up and sensationalized to make Thad’s side look bad after the blogger situation and the courthouse debacle. Our side needed something to take the heat off of us and put it on the other side.
Lee Blair is not a prominent Republican or person of power in the party or our county. Unfortunately, he had been laid off from his job at the Catholic Church after the church changed priests last year. Lee and his wife do charity work and have a charity that gives out clothes to the homeless. Lee had only been appointed as the VP of the DeSoto County Republican Club a couple of weeks before the incident. He was never a Chair Person for the Cochran campaign. He volunteered so many hours that in May, they decided to hire him to do GOTV work. He mainly oversaw the teenage volunteers, canvassing neighborhoods, handing out information at community events, putting out signs and so forth. Not quite as powerful or sensational as reported.
Why were the other two people in the vehicle never discussed? How could Lee force the driver to stop the truck and let him out to steal or vandalize signs if that was his intent? At the very least, it makes the driver and other passenger complicit in the act, yet they were not charged for anything. If the vehicle wasn’t his, how is it that all of the signs in the back were his responsibility? Answer: THEY WEREN’T and he wasn’t charged for stealing signs! The driver had a story and Lee and the other passenger had a story. No matter what, this is a misdemeanor at best, with no jail time or serious consequences. This is not a life and death situation! The attorney representing Lee is one of the very people that our side continuously puts signs on his private property without permission. There is no real crime. There was only one sign and honestly, $20 would cover the cost of it. People here have been picking signs up in the right of ways for years and never thought anything about it. Was Lee right? NO! But trying to make a story big to make your side look better is wrong. Look where that got Mark Mayfield! And for the record, Charles Johnson admitted to me and Lee Blair that he had heard from many people what a great person Lee is and how it is not in his character to steal signs or vandalize them. Johnson even stated on numerous times how bad he felt about his article about the incident.
Now in relation to large sums of money missing from the Cochran campaign, that was NEVER EVER stated!!!! I am the one that talked to Charles and gave him information about this story, NOT LEE!!! I shared with Charles information from a private conversation I had with Lee. At no time was Lee aware that I was going to share that information with Charles. Lee had no idea who Charles even was and the information was not incriminating.
After the Amanda Shook story broke, Lee and I discussed the situation. EVERYONE knew that Cochran was paying volunteers $25/shift. They had day and afternoon shifts. On days that the campaign had community events to work, they had 3 shifts/day. Some volunteers were given a meal as a thank you for their hard work and most others were paid. A few volunteered for credit for their school’s government class. Nonetheless, they had anywhere from 10-35+ volunteers/ day depending on the day. It was no secret that volunteers were paid with cash in an envelope. McDaniel supporters were regularly and publicly making fun of Cochran for having to ‘pay’ volunteers! In DeSoto County, there was paperwork filled out on the person paid. It wasn’t lengthy, but it was documented. Honestly, from a business standpoint, I am sure it is easier to pay one person for GOTV work versus documenting every $25 going out for a paid volunteer. That would be hundreds or thousands of pages worth of information. If they had only 10 volunteers per county and there are 82 counties, that is 820 paid GOTV people. That’s a lot of paperwork. I am not justifying, excusing or agreeing with their actions, just stating the obvious. Lee and I both felt that if anything, their business practices were sloppy but not illegal.
In DeSoto County, did Lee know that a paid staffer may have $7000+ in cash and it was gone quickly? Sure! Does that mean money went missing? NO! Lee Blair was never the treasurer, banker or accountant for the campaign. His job had nothing to do with overseeing the money. When you think of paying 15 volunteers for two shifts per day/week, the campaign would have been spending $5250 at minimum per week for GOTV. Paying $25/permit for signs in Southaven x just 30 signs = $750. That doesn’t include the office fees, staffers, booths at the community events, $500 table at the Reagan Day Dinner, utilities at the campaign headquarters or anything else that was spent for the campaign here locally. So for Charles Johnson to claim that Lee Blair knew about large sums of money missing is as ludicrous as me saying that my parents are criminals because as a child I knew they received paychecks and I don’t know where that money went. I assumed my parents made large sums of money. I didn’t know how or where they spent it, so are they criminals?
The only difference between our county and let’s say Jackson was that here they paid predominantly white teenagers and college kids for the work that was done by African Americans there. I don’t know that anyone can say with any certainty that their workers even voted for Cochran. Some may have not voted at all.
As for David Clanton, Lee knew nothing about any criminal charges against him. He stated to Johnson that both sides ran pitiful campaigns. Most of the politicos agreed that both campaigns did a poor job of running their campaigns. It was a hot, mess all the way around! There were just higher expectations for Cochran’s side because he was the 40 year veteran candidate and the Barbours are no strangers to the political realm.
Johnson reported the story as though Lee Blair was an important, prominent Republican with great influence and a top position with the Cochran campaign. That only led to the sensationalization of the story. Not to mention that Johnson never asked for permission to record him nor did he even make him aware that he was being recorded. Although MS is a one consent state, the law prohibits anyone with tortious intent to record calls without permission. Some courts or judges have followed the law of the state with the stricter law when these situations have been brought before the court. California requires that a person have permission to record conversations. Failure to get consent is a criminal offense as well as can result in a civil case being filed against the violator of this law. Johnson has admitted publicly that he tapes everyone. He never made me aware that he was recording me nor asked for my permission to be recorded. Considering he has used the information I gave him without permission, distorted it and used it in a way that is harmful to me, I could sue him and it puts him in violation of the MS and CA law.
Johnson’s deceptions along with the fact he knew Lee had a future court case and the damage it would cause him if Johnson reported anything that he said (hence why he stated off the record only), I believe it could easily be argued that Johnson had tortious intent. Johnson lied in the article, claiming Lee wanted to come clean. How could he say that when he was never given permission to be recorded or to go on the record or write any story nor did Lee think a crime had even been committed?!! Johnson wrote the story as though Lee wanted to come clean and had stated knowledge of all of the wrong doing which clearly never happened. The transcript doesn’t even match Johnson’s claims. Lee had NO desire to go on the record.
A good journalist NEVER reveals a source! A good journalist doesn’t write a distorted version of a story! He didn’t get Lee’s permission because he knew that Lee would NEVER support his version of the events!
When Lee finally agreed to call him, he stated he wanted it all off the record. It was more to verify what I had already told Johnson. The recording transcribed was not the complete conversation, is missing information and makes it appear as Lee was unintelligible for the conversation. It was not an accurate representation, although it was definitely not an incriminating one nor did it match the headline he gave it! The way he printed the transcribed conversation led to people accusing Lee of being drunk while speaking with Johnson. This was documented in comments sections on FB posts. Truth: Lee and his wife’s house flooded this summer. It was so bad that they had to move out of the house and into a hotel until it has been renovated. When Lee spoke with Johnson, they had all kinds of fans going to try to dry up the water in the house. The interview happened before the mold had been found and they were forced to move out of their house. Lee even stated in the conversation something about all of the fans going.
Part of the information discussed, it concerned Austin Barbour. Allegedly, Austin sent out an email to the campaign staff stating that vote buying was not allowed and people should be infuriated if anyone was doing it or at accusations they were doing it. Obviously, the campaign would not want names, addresses and documented information from people they were allegedly giving money to in exchange for their votes. They may not be smart but they also aren’t that stupid! Fielder’s texts document that the campaign wanted their information and it aligned with what they were doing here to pay volunteers.
Finally, as for the vote buying, I can only say that I find it interesting that Johnson accused another reporter of ethics violations for not admitting that Barbour gave the reporter a story. (See picture below). That is the exact same thing our side did. Stevie Fielder, according to campaign sources, shopped his story to the campaign. The staffer that took the call said NO! I think the Communications Director said YES! The story was given to Johnson by Fritsch. It was also stated that Fielder was a black preacher that had been jilted by Thad’s folks. Discussions led me to believe they knew he was not credible from the start. (A recent article in the paper confirmed that Fielder was trying to get in touch with the campaign in regards to his ‘info’). http://www.clarionledger.com/story/politicalledger/2014/08/12/rhodes-vote-buying-grand-jury/13955665/
Fielder had been used for GOTV! That is very different than vote buying. Fielder had been paid by previous candidates for the same thing…GOTV and putting out signs. That is all documented. http://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/politics/2014/07/01/cochran-campaign-denies-vote-buying/11911539/
Although, I have no doubt this vote buying practice goes on, I doubted the validity of this story from the start. Fielder contacting the Tea Party in an attempt to get ahold of the campaign to sell this story to them, it just doesn’t make the source credible. Johnson wrote that Fielder wanted to do the right thing because he felt he had been misled by the Cochran campaign. If true and understanding he was putting himself in the middle of a serious legal situation, WHY did everyone note that he was trying to ‘sell’ his story?!!! That’s not exactly the same thing as trying to do the right thing. That comes across as someone mad at the other side and wanting to make a quick buck and willing to say anything! Johnson admitted to helping Fielder find an attorney. Who is paying for Fielder’s attorney? And where is the money being spent that Johnson has raised? Why would a person trying to do the right thing, that knew he had done something criminally wrong, try to SELL his story instead of going to the authorities with his story and attempt to get out of possible charges being brought against him?!
Johnson has been attempting to author a book about Obama. After the birther situation, I assume his book is dead in the water. I assume this Senate race is the possible next subject for a book he may author. (Should be noted that Johnson and Gilbert registered GotNews 5-28-2014 and CCJ Strategies 6-24-2014 on Run Off day)! You can’t author a book about the Senate race without sensational and dramatic stories! And people seem to forget that even diehard supporters will not continue donating money to the GoFundMe journalist if he doesn’t have a story to sell. The truth is rarely as theatric as presented!
As for the other discussions about the personal lives of candidates and elected officials, I will not discuss the details of any of that. My beef with Johnson in respect to that is simply this.
Johnson has taken to heavy self promotion and BIG ACCUSATIONS on Twitter! He has accused certain state leaders of affairs and made statements that are not truthful and lots of mostly exaggerated information. My point to him is that rumors circulate about EVERYONE! If he is unbiased and not hired by the campaign, as he stated to me, he should not cast stones at one without reporting on ALL of the accusations being put out there. And for the record, it never really matters whether or not a rumor is true. If widely spread, it ONLY matters what public perception is and especially when running for office or in a leadership position. Best to leave that talk out of business that concerns the welfare and work for the people all together!
While I supported Chris and gave a year of my life to the campaign as a volunteer, I will not lie or put out things that are false to make the other side look bad! I was disappointed about the actions and behaviors of both sides of this campaign. I feel that both sides have made a circus out of this race and it needs to stop. While I whole heartedly believe there are certain people that HAVE to go! I also feel that using lies, distortions and undisclosed relationships to make the other side look bad is no better than the opposition! You then stoop to a level that makes you every bit as bad and guilty as those you oppose!
Most people on our side and those on Cochran’s side that know me, have all praised the way that I conducted myself throughout. I relayed what I believed Chris’s message to be and in a way that was not offensive, untruthful or closed minded! My relationships have been maintained and I have had no hard feelings or fences to mend since the campaign ended…..until now! Unfortunately, it is my own team that has crucified me, doubted me and portrayed me now in a false way !
If we accuse the establishment of forcing their way upon us, how is beating up our own people any different when one doesn’t agree with every single issue, person or topic?!!!!! I have been beat up more by this team than I ever was the opposing team! And for the record, I have never been known as a fence rider or a good ole boy! Somehow, some now say that! Maybe those people can pass that message along to Kuykendall and gang so they will now think I am on their team. (Insert sarcasm)!
Charles Johnson says anything and everything he wants to and constantly attacks others with the most ludicrous accusations I have ever heard! You can’t win anything like that! There was no sign stealing and vandalism the way Johnson reported. There were no large sums of money missing as referenced in his story and Stevie Fielder was looking to make some money! None of this was presented as it was but rather as some wanted it to be! That is the problem I have with Johnson.
To see a complete list of CJ’s donors, click on the link, scroll down to the bottom and then click on recent donors. http://www.gofundme.com/charlescjohnsonresearch
As for the campaign, if staff could get word to a blogger they did not know and have a video taken down within 2 hours, how come they won’t put a stop to Charles Johnson and others that they know are being less than truthful about things. If this ‘Fear Theory’ they believe in is continued, we will have ZERO people wanting to participate in politics or it’s process!
In the meantime, some people are wasting their time and money on a blogger that will be gone as soon as another BIGGER controversy comes up and on a legal process to overturn an election that they already know will NEVER happen! State and local elections for next year are being forgotten in some cases and overly fought in other cases. No one trusts anyone! At the first sign of doubt, questions or disagreement by some on the same side, the doubter is tossed into the lion’s den! No one is safe from becoming the subject of possible enemy status!! Newcomers to politics, now all believe they know everything or are the next campaign manager or they all want to be elected officials now! Everyone is on high alert with a take no prisoners command! The circus has grown to epic proportions! If wrong doing did in fact happen, a lot of people no longer care! They are just ready for the madness to end!
I pray that everyone will quit casting stones and start by changing their own selves and their own actions!! There can be NO exceptions to this! No more paying out of town people to write a biased or untruthful story! Fight with the truth and facts because they will win every time! Lies and distortions will only sink the ship! I pray God can guide us ALL through this mess. I pray he will guide me because I have NEVER wanted out of this state as much as I do right now.
(The previous version of this story did not have all of the pictures and website links that are now included as references. There were 2 paragraphs that are not included in this version of my story due to a pending legal case that has not yet gone to court. That is why I took the story down and have now edited out those paragraphs, as asked by the individual involved with the case. It has already been noted that Lee Blair was charged with destruction of a sign).