Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Operatives with GOP ties are helping Cornel West get on the ballot in a key state

By 37ci3 Jun7,2024



Cornel West’s independent presidential campaign broke. His former campaign manager says he knows nothing about ballot access. And he spent more more about graphic design than petition-raising in his latest campaign finance report.

But tens of thousands of signatures were collected on behalf of famous leftists academics in key states thanks to self-organized local volunteers — and some help from outside operatives affiliated with a Republican consulting firm.

Democrats fear West’s potential to steal votes from President Joe Biden where he is on the ballot in close elections, and some Republicans have criticized West and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and are openly discussing ways to boost other minor candidates like Jill from the Green Party. Stein with hope the disintegration of the anti-Donald Trump coalition.

For example, a prominent Republican activist in North Carolina appeared in front of a Trump rally in April collecting signatures for West and told rally attendees that he was “helping Joe Biden get their vote.”

Meanwhile, a new statewide party formed to get West on the ballot announced Monday that its “all-volunteer effort” has turned in more than 30,000 signatures, despite having virtually no oversight and not receiving “one cent” from West’s campaign.

“There’s no way we could have done it without this grassroots effort,” Drew Lischke, co-chair of North Carolina’s Justice for All Party, said at a news conference. “It was a very low, low, low budget operation.”

But internal emails, social media posts and other evidence obtained by NBC News suggest an outsider — though it’s unclear who or how much, if anything, they spent — tried to help get West on the ballot in North Carolina. local allies were not fully aware of this.

Emails from election officials obtained through a request under North Carolina’s Public Records Act show that the pro-Western All Justice Party has authorized three people to collect and release signatures for them across the state — and all three are current or former Colorado employees. A Republican political firm called Blitz Canvassing.

Blitz Canvassing has worked for numerous Republican House and Senate candidates accepted Paid more than 14.6 million dollars Works for Never Back Down, a major super PAC supporting former GOP presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to campaign finance reports.

“Just as Republicans have been quietly suppressing Green Party ballot access nationwide for years, there is evidence, not hearsay, of an organized Republican effort to get Cornel West on the ballot in North Carolina and other states, using Republican consultants and vendors that the West campaign did not pay for,” third-party candidates said Pete Kavanaugh, who founded Clear Choice Action, a new Democratic super PAC fighting .

Edwin DeJesus, a spokesman for the Western campaign, said the campaign was “not aware of these specific individuals’ affiliation with the Republican firm” and therefore had “no specific comment as we are not familiar with them or their affiliations.”

“But it’s important to note that our volunteer base spans a wide spectrum of political affiliations,” DeJesus said.

“We didn’t give them a penny”

On May 7, a top North Carolina State Board of Elections official emailed colleagues with some “important updates and reminders” about various upcoming deadlines and events, according to a redacted copy of the email shared with NBC News after it was obtained. . Through a public records request by Clear Choice.

The list also included an update on the petition efforts of the pro-Western Justice All Party. The email alerted other officials that the party “chairman has authorized the following representatives to drop off and pick up petitions across the state”: Jacob Smith, David Mills and Charisma Harris.

Smith is listed as the project manager on Blitz Canvassing’s website, and the cell phone number listed in the email matches the phone number listed for Smith in a Michigan GOP fundraising email that directs recipients to him if they have questions. Mills says this on LinkedIn he works full-time as a project manager for Blitz. Harris says this on LinkedIn he now runs his own research firm but served as Blitz’s regional political director until January. Before that he He was the campaign manager for Blitz, where he started in 2022.

Italo Medelius, co-chairman of the Justice for All Party and his A spokeswoman for election officials admitted to NBC News that she authorized the three to work on behalf of the campaign, saying she did so because they were familiar with the ins and outs of the filing process.

However, he did not know they worked for Blitz and said he had never heard of the company their names were included in a list of potential volunteers sent by West’s campaign they had experience collecting applications.

“I know Charisma, Jacob and David as volunteers” Medelius he said. “We haven’t paid them a single cent.”

He said he has known Harris for years and worked with him on the 2020 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, but said he only became aware of Smith and Mills after they appeared on West’s campaign volunteer list.

“We talked about the possibility of infiltrators trying to get into the campaign from the beginning of this operation,” Medelius said. “If there were infiltrators or whatever, it might be true, I suppose, but I never got a tip from those people.”

Smith, Mills and Harris did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Alyssa Zambrano, Blitz’s manager, said in a brief interview with NBC News that she had “no idea” why the three were working on behalf of the Justice for All campaign, and that her firm had done nothing for West.

“We have nothing to do with it,” Zambrano said he said. “We don’t work for them.”

Follow-up emails and text messages from Blitz seeking further clarification went unanswered.

‘Out of Fish’

Before the consultants’ roles were known, the geography of the Justice for All signatures set off alarm bells among local Democrats.

The pro-Western party received large numbers of signatures from Republican states such as Brunswick and New Hanover, while a proportionally lower number than expected from more Democratic states and those with large progressive and pro-Western campuses.Palestinian messages are likely to resonate.

Doug Hale, a Democratic strategist from North Carolina, said: “It’s not a stretch. “Most likely these are Republican signatures on the ballot asking Cornelius West to help Trump.”

Separately, a high-profile Republican activist focused on early voting was collecting signatures for West outside a planned rally for former Trump in Wilmington, North Carolina, in April.

“It’s helping get Joe Biden votes,” Scott Pressler told one rally-goer. video posted By a Washington Post reporter. “We’re helping the Trump team trying to get him there,” said a woman nearby. Later, the rally was canceled due to bad weather.

Documents obtained by NBC News show that this was not just a stunt or empty talk.

Dozens of signatures have been recorded on hundreds of pages of petitions submitted by the Justice for All Party and obtained through a public records request. Republicans signed a petition to get the pro-Western party on the ballot on the same day and in the same county as Trump’s rally.

On social media platform X, where Presler has 1.5 million followers, he make a call Ahead of North Carolina’s ballot deadline, “We Dr. We are working to get Cornel West on the ballot in North Carolina. If anyone is interested in helping, let me know.”

A week later he reposted to say that it has already “sent over 40 people to our North Carolina organizer, but is still looking for more.”

Asked about Pressler on CNN in April, West said he had never heard of the right-wing influencer and did not seek his help.

“No, no, if it’s just manipulation, I don’t think so,” West said. “If people are only going to use this candidate for X and Y, no, not at all.”

The Western campaign is struggling

These efforts are taking place on the sidelines of a campaign that is struggling with its own efforts.

Getting on the ballot is the biggest challenge for any independent or third-party candidate — and one with a history of meddling by outside forces — but West’s campaign has stumbled trying to meet the challenge.

The latest in the West campaign finance report It showed that he entered the month of May with only $18,000 in cash and over $28,000 in debt. Campaign finance expert Rob Pierce noted The report showed that the West campaign spent more in April on graphic design than it did on referral services to get on the ballot.

By comparison, Kennedy spent more than $2 million on a company specializing in ballot access for his independent campaign. own FEC report covers the same period.

“There’s a Kennedy presence in North Carolina. “There is no Western presence here,” Hale said.

In late April and early May, West’s campaign listed 70 volunteer events across the country, but none in North Carolina.

Before running As an independent, West was on track to claim the Green Party nomination could use existing infrastructure and ballots. But West abruptly left the party last fall, surprising Green Party officials like Jill Stein, who managed his campaign and is expected to run again in his absence.

“The first time you pitch, you can’t get a ballot,” Stein said Left-wing podcast host Briahna Joy Gray said final interview. “He’s talking about running in Texas, but he doesn’t know that Texas won’t count the votes! And this is the case in many states.”

West and Stein argued after accusing him of “dependenceran for president and said he had lost “all respect” for him.

Stein said West refused to discuss the issue with him or explain why he left the Green Party, adding that he was a “political novice” and “difficult to advise him” on the mechanics of getting on the ballot and campaigning.

“There is no way forward for Dr. West,” Stein said.

Nevertheless, some people are working to pave its way.





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By 37ci3

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