Cochran campaign staffer Amanda Shook was illegally reimbursed for over $40,000 cash in walking around money during the Republican primary, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings. The payments are described as “Reimbursed Expenses – Campaign Walkers.”
Regulation 11 CFR 116.5 expressly defines funds advanced by campaign staff for any reason other than travel or subsistence as a loan. It is illegal under FEC rules to loan money to a campaign in excess of the contribution limit of $2,600. “[I]f your loan exceeds the limits, it is an illegal contribution, even if it is later repaid in full,” notes the FEC website.
Shook was previously alleged to be one of the sources of street cash in an alleged vote-buying operation in a Gotnews.com report from the Reverend Stevie Fielder.
Shook is Director of Operations for the Thad Cochran campaign, where she works for campaign manager Kirk Sims, who was also mentioned by Fielder as someone he worked with on the Cochran campaign. Shook previously worked for Sims in the office of Governor Phil Bryant, where Sims was the governor’s chief of staff and Shook was his scheduler. Sims is U.S. Senator Roger Wicker’s son-in-law.
FEC reports list seven payments by Citizens for Cochran, the candidate’s official campaign committee, to Shook totaling $52,625. The bulk of these payments describe the purpose of the disbursement as “Reimbursed Expenses – Campaign Walkers.” It is unclear how 27 year-old Shook acquired such large sums of cash for the initial outlays. Requests for comment from Shook went unanswered at the time of this writing.
Amanda Shook, nee Mertz, is the same “Amanda” named by Reverend Stevie Fielder last week in the GotNews exclusive interview. Fielder identified an Amanda that he spoke with at the campaign office.
Rev. Fielder came forth to allege vote buying activities of Thad Cochran’s campaign staff. His story has been covered by subsequent reporters, including Matthew Boyle of Breitbart News.[envira-gallery id=”6698″]
According to FEC documents filed by Citizens for Cochran, Amanda Shook received seven separate payments from the PAC from May 1-June 3. However, most of the cash walking money, $41,500 was paid to Shook from May 29-June 3, just prior to the Republican Primary. “Walking around money” or street money is the practice of using cash for sometimes questionable purposes during campaigns.
Responding to previous Gotnews.com reporting, the Cochran campaign admitted to making cash payments of $25 in envelopes, not $15.
Spokesman Jordan Russell told the Clarion-Ledger: “Whether you’re a high school kid in northeast Jackson or a retired nurse in Greenwood, if you’re out working doors for us, you get paid in cash, in an envelope. Saleem asked the guy for names and addresses for (Federal Election Commission) filing purposes. Why would you ask a guy for names and addresses if you’re buying votes?”
While Russell claims the names were collected for FEC reporting purposes, the actual FEC reports show only large bulk-sum “reimbursements” to Amanda Shook.
Moreover, longtime campaign consultant Bill Pascoe tells Gotnews.com: “You’d ask for names and addresses to verify that the votes you bought were votes from people who are actually registered to vote, and to serve as a check on your vote buyers – to make sure they’re not just making up and handing in names to get the cash.”
Pascoe managed statewide campaigns in New Jersey, Illinois, and Louisiana, “where vote-buying operations are legendary.” Pascoe also executed Independent Expenditures for both Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund and Independent Women’s Voice in Mississippi.
Shook, along with Saleem Baird and campaign manager, Kirk Sims, were identified by Fielder as the Cochran staffers who refused to make good on a $16,000 promise to pay if Cochran won. Fielder claimed he was to receive the money for his part in recruiting “hundreds or even thousands” of blacks in an elaborate voter fraud scheme aimed at securing Thad Cochran’s win against Chris McDaniel.
Using cash for get out the vote operations is atypical of most campaigns, says Mississippi native and co-founder of the Indianapolis Tea Party Diana Hubbard . “I was the Statewide Grassroots Director for a major Senate campaign…never paid any vol[unteer] & certainly never would have with cash.”
The Cochran campaign also appears to have had different rates for low income blacks and white college students at Ole Miss. “Cochran was paying $100 to people – mostly college students, especially girls – to sign wave and knock doors. Per day. $25/shift is totally ludicrous,” writes one senior at Ole Miss who declined to be identified.
Gotnews.com will continue to provide evidence to the necessary authorities and will continue to cooperate with FEC and FBI investigations.
Gotnews.com has reached out to Shook through her Facebook account. She can also be reached through her Pinterest account through her username amshook
Citzens for Cochran paid out just $2,426 in payroll taxes to Mississippi Department of Revenue for time period from 4/16-5/15.
Shannon Knutsen contributed to this report.