BUSINESS EXCHANGE: Did Mississippi's Blacks Get Paid?
William Reed | 7/16/2014, 3 p.m.
Are you one of those political yahoos claiming victory for your cause after Mississippi Black voters helped Sen. Thad Cochran survive an intense Republican primary runoff against insurgent conservative challenger Chris McDaniel? Before you count that “Magnolia State” chicanery as a political victory, pause and consider the words of Malcolm X: “Oh, I say it again, you’ve been had. You’ve been took. You’ve been hoodwinked. Bamboozled. Led astray. Run amok.”
Some got played in the Mississippi Republican primary runoff and some got paid. Cochran had a huge fundraising advantage so when the June 3 primary election was thrown into a runoff, the Cochran campaign began looking into ways to expand the electorate. That meant targeting and courting Mississippi’s overwhelmingly Democratic African-American population. The campaign deployed workers throughout the state’s Delta region, which has a concentrated Black population, and hired Black Democratic operatives to coordinate the ground game. The ploy worked: turnout in the Delta increased nearly 40 percent. Black voters helped Cochran win in the Republican Senate primary runoff by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin.
Mississippi Blacks got out of their lane due to a guy named “Barbour.” Not “Haley” Barbour, the legend among Republican voters. Haley Barbour is the former governor of Mississippi and former chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC). Instead, it was Haley’s nephew, Henry Barbour who helped the Thad Cochran campaign in the most divisive, hateful, and probably illegal GOP nomination campaigns in history.
Henry Barbour lives in Yazoo City and heads up the Capitol Resources lobbying operative in seven Southern states and Washington, D.C. Henry Barbour’s campaign tactics successfully smeared Chris McDaniel and the Tea Party. The Barbour-backed super PAC Mississippi Conservatives spent $2.23 million to support Cochran and attack McDaniel. It was Henry Barbour’s PAC that paid for phone calls that described candidate McDaniel as “a racist.” He solicited a number of Black Democrats to infiltrate the Republican Party primary runoff and save Cochran’s Senate seat. It’s widely reported that Henry Barbour handed out “walking around money” throughout heavily-Black Democratic precincts in Mississippi. His brand of “Black outreach” worked. Black voters helped Cochran raise his vote total by more than 38,000, from the 318,904 voters on June 3rd to the 375,000 voters on runoff day.
The daydream Black Mississippi voters created amounted to a mere 15 minutes of fame. However, that fame has quickly turned into infamy. The runoff, wrought with treachery, malfeasance and subterfuge should humiliate any clear-headed Democratic operative.
One of the keys to the Black turnout for Cochran turned out to be Atlanta-based political strategist, Mitzi Bickers. Bickers is pastor of Atlanta’s Emmanuel Baptist Church and a former president of the Atlanta school board. Organizations affiliated with Bickers, The Bickers Group and Pirouette Company, received $44,000 for get-out-the-vote “phone services.” Bishop Ronnie Crudup, Sr. was also instrumental in getting Black Democrats to vote in the Republican runoff. Senior pastor of Jackson’s New Horizon Church, Crudup’s All Citizens for Mississippi PAC spent "about $20,000" in media targeting Blacks. Alice Tisdale, publisher of the Jackson Advocate newspaper, said in a report that appeared in Richard Prince’s “Journal-isms” that the PAC spent $2,600 with her publication. The Advocate endorsed Cochran in the June 3 primary and again for the runoff. The Mississippi Link published an ad on behalf of Crudup’s PAC in late May.
Though the campaign provided the paradigm for successful outreach to Blacks, it proved to be deceptive. It now appears that thousands of Democratic voters cast ballots in both the Democratic primary and the Republican Senate runoff elections. Those votes are illegal. And they likely made the difference in the outcome of the election. Allegations of voter fraud abound and need to be investigated. All parties found to be involved in criminal conduct should be prosecuted.
While all this political trickery was taking place, Mississippi remains mired at the bottom of virtually every measure of economic well-being with the highest rate of poverty and the lowest median household income of all 50 states.
William Reed is publisher of “Who’s Who in Black Corporate America” and available for projects via the BaileyGroup.org.