The Case of Jeb! and the Dirty Trick
Hours before the caucuses a mysterious flyer showed up at a Des Moines grocery store advertising cash for those willing to fill seats at a Jeb event. It was a fake—but who is responsible?
DES MOINES, Iowa — Last-minute campaign chicanery has cast a pall of mystery over the final hours before the Iowa caucuses.
It’s a thrilling whodunit, featuring shady millennials, power-hungry politicos, and a dramatic showdown at a Waukee grocery store with few answers to be found.
Here’s what we know: According to a Rand Paul staffer, two clean-cut millennial-aged men showed up at the Kentucky senator’s first campaign stop of the day, at the Hy-Vee grocery store in Waukee, Iowa (one Yelp reviewer describes it as “easy to maneuver” and having “a nice temperature”). While Paul was politicking, these mysterious youths started handing out flyers promising cash to anyone who would go to a Jeb Bush event.
Dylan Powell, a Ted Cruz supporter from Pensacola who came to Des Moines to see the hubbub, told The Daily Beast that the guys handing out the flyers wanted attendees to sit in their seats silently—refusing to clap or cheer and killing the mood. Devious!
This is what the flyers said:
$$$ EARN FAST CASH TODAY! $$$
Seat fillers neded TODAY (Feb. 1) at 12pm for campaign event. $25/hr, 2 hours max. Bring your friends! First come/first served. Please be prompt.
Embassy Suites by Hilton—Central Atrium
101 East Locust Street, Des Moines, IA, 50309
For more information contact: email@example.com
Report to Dale at the entrance to the Jeb Bush Rally.
Anyway, a Paul staffer told The Daily Beast that their team asked the Hy-Vee staff to tell the mystery millennials to either stop handing out these flyers or GTFO. The staffer said the men left.
Pictures of the fliers circulated Twitter—tweeted out (and then deleted) by a Rand Paul staffer who wasn’t present at the event, and then later tweeted by Jeff Sadosky, the spokesman for pro-Rubio super PAC.
Kristy Campbell, a staffer for Bush’s campaign, immediately suggested the pro-Rubio super PAC was responsible for the flyers, which she said were a hoax.
But Sadosky denied culpability.
Sadosky fired back that the Bush campaign has so little money it would not be able to afford to pay people to fill seats.
The hijinks continued at Jeb’s event.
A few minutes after Bush started speaking—an event with a diverse, young, standing-room-only turnout—two young millennial-looking men sitting in chairs behind where he was speaking stood up and hollered that they wanted to get paid.
“We’ve been here for over two hours, we haven’t gotten paid for our time,” said one, interrupting Bush’s speech.
A second asked for $50.
“That is such—get outta here, man,” Bush retorted.
The crowd summarily booed and then started chanting “Jeb! Jeb! Jeb!” And the two men were removed from the building.
Before your correspondent could chase them down, the pair vanished into the wilds of Des Moines.
In their absence, a flurry of theories have emerged—some sources, speaking anonymously, point fingers at Rubio allies. And Tim Miller, a spokesman for Bush’s campaign, didn’t rule it out—but also didn’t take it too seriously.
“People usually tweet things they are proud of,” he told The Daily Beast today. “I honestly have no idea and don’t really care though. It’s more telling how many reporters fell for such an obvious prank.”
An obvious prank, indeed. But also a riveting mystery. If you have any information, please email cub detective Betsy.Woodruff@thedailybeast.com.