Rapper Kanye West, who is forging a third-party run for president by attempting to get on the ballot in various states, is actually getting support from several Republican operatives, according to new reports.
West's links to them, including at least one GOP elector -- someone who would cast an electoral vote for a candidate who wins in a particular state -- have raised suspicion about his intentions by announcing his presidential run.
According to the New York Times, one of the operatives, Mark Jacoby works as an executive at a California-based organization called Let The Voters Decide, which West hired. It has collected signatures for West’s campaign in Ohio, West Virginia and Arkansas.
Jacoby pled guilty to misdemeanor charges when he was accused of voter fraud in 2008 while working for the California Republican Party. However, the firm he works for now, he says, is nonpartisan.
“We do not comment on any current clients, but like all Americans, anyone who is qualified to stand for election has the right to run,” Jacoby said in a statement.
West’s campaign reportedly has other links to the GOP as well. According to New York Magazine, another individual, Greg Keller, who once served as executive director of the American Conservative Union was listed as a contact for West’s campaign in Arkansas. He has also worked for other notable Republicans including Sen. Mitt Romney. The Times reported Keller is now a Republican strategist in Missouri and had been considered for a role as President Trump’s campaign manager in 2015.
New York Magazine also reported one of West’s electors in Vermont -- where he did file to get on the ballot -- Chuck Wilton, will also be a Republican delegate to the convention in Charlotte, N.C., for Trump. He was elected to that position in May. He confirmed on the magazine’s website that he was connected to the West campaign.
“Somebody said that Vermont needs electors for certain people and [it was] something I said that I’m more than willing to do,” Wilton said.
Finally, VICE News reported another Republican strategist in Wisconsin is helping West to get on the ballot there. A local news reporter from WISN, Matt Smith, tweeted a video of a woman identified as Lane Ruhland dropping off signatures that would make West qualify to appear on the Wisconsin ballot. Ruhland is a GOP election lawyer and had worked as a legal counsel for the state’s Republican Party, VICE said. She has also represented Trump in a lawsuit to force a Democratic super PAC to pull an anti-Trump ad off the air.
“I’m going to leave any comment about the petitions, the papers and what’s going on to the campaign itself,” she told VICE. “I appreciate your reaching out but I’ll let them comment.”
West would need to get on the ballot in enough states that would represent 270 electoral votes (also the number needed to win the presidency) in order to appear in a presidential debate, and would also need 15 percent approval in opinion polls, according to New York Magazine. Making the ballot in California would likely be his biggest hurdle since 200,000 signatures must be submitted there by Thursday.
All of this raises the question about whether or not this is a stunt being pulled by West, while others have questioned his mental health. West, who admittedly has never voted, announced his run for president via Twitter on July 4.
Trump’s critics have proposed that West, if successful, could have an impact similar to Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2016, whose candidacy was said to have taken away votes from Hillary Clinton in 2016, allowing Trump to win the election.
"I don't think there's any chance he's going to win but I think people need to understand the power of a protest vote," said University of Maryland African American Studies professor Jason Nichols told Fox News. He cited the dislike some voters had for both Clinton and Trump, driving them toward Stein. “I think it could very well happen with Kanye West, which will etch him into the history books, which I think is part of his purpose here."
Photo Credit: Angela Weiss / AFP