At least four Republicans have been revealed to be playing an active role in helping to aid Kanye West’s 2020 presidential bid, as the rapper made the deadline to file as an independent candidate in Wisconsin on Tuesday.
West’s ties to the individuals has raised questions about the intentions of his White House bid and whether the campaign is a GOP-orchestrated ruse to help siphon votes from Joe Biden in vital swing-states to benefit President Trump.
Petitioning company Let The Voters Decide, which is headed by Mark Jacoby, has been helping the Grammy-winning artist secure signatures to run in three states: Ohio, West Virginia and Arkansas. Jacoby was arrested on charges of voter fraud in 2008 while working for the Republican Party in California.
In a statement to the New York Times, Jacoby said his organisation was non-partisan and refused to comment on his apparent ties with West. ‘Anyone who is qualified to stand for election has the right to run,’ he said.
West first announced his intentions to run for president in a tweet on July 4. Since then, the rapper-producer has filed paperwork to become the next White House occupant in seven states, including Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Vermont, West Virginia and now Wisconsin.
West’s nominating petitions were dropped off with state regulators in Madison by Lane Ruhland before Tuesday’s 5pm deadline. Ruhland, a top Republican lawyer and former general counsel for the state GOP, was filmed dropping off the signatures.
When asked if she’d been hired by West, Ruhland offered no comment but she didn’t deny the ties when contacted later by Vice News.
A state Republican Party official also seemed to confirm Ruhland’s involvement in West’s campaign.
‘It appears that Kanye West made a smart decision by hiring an experienced election attorney,’ said state GOP spokeswoman Alesha Guenther told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. ‘We welcome Kanye West and all other candidates who qualified for ballot access to the race.’
The Wisconsin Elections Commission staff will be reviewing the petitions in coming days to determine if there are enough valid signatures and if the candidates meet all qualifications to get on the ballot.
Two other operatives with Republican ties were identified by New York Magazine on Monday to be helping to pull the strings behind the scenes of West’s campaign.
One is Gregg Keller, the former executive director of the American Conservative Union, who has been listed as a contact for West’s campaign in Arkansas.
Keller, a Missouri-based strategist, was previously under consideration to become Donald Trump’s campaign manager in 2015, but lost out to Corey Lewandowski, the New York Times reported.
The fourth person with partisan ties linked to the West campaign is Chuck Wilton, from Vermont, who is listed as a convention delegate for Trump and as an elector with the West bid, who could potentially cast an Electoral College vote for the rapper if he were to win the state.
Wilton’s wife, Wendy, is a Trump appointee at the United States Department of Agriculture. She reportedly hung-up immediately when approached by the Times for comment.
Kanye West had, until recently, been a feverent public supporter of Trump, insisting he and the incumbent president shared a ‘dragon energy’.
However, in an interview with Forbes last month, West said he would be ‘taking the red hat off’ – a reference to Trump’s signature red MAGA caps – as his administration ‘looks like one big mess to me’.
‘One of the main reasons I wore the red hat as a protest to the segregation of votes in the Black community. … Also, other than the fact that I like Trump hotels and the saxophones in the lobby,’ the 43-year-old added.
A few days after West launched his bid, Trump retweeted a post that said West could siphon votes from Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
‘That shouldn’t be hard,’ Trump wrote in response. ‘Corrupt Joe has done nothing good for Black people!’
If West’s intentions are to disrupt the general election between Biden and Trump, his presence in swing states such as Wisconsin could be pivotal in deciding the race.
Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016, snapping a string of Democratic presidential candidates winning the state going back to 1988.
Running under the banner of The Birthday Party, West has pledged to lead the country with a Wakanda-link management approach, a reference to the Marvel film, Black Panther.
He’s named self-proclaimed ‘biblical life coach’ – and dentist office assistant – Michelle Tidball as his running mate, who once advocated that making beds and doing dishes was an effective method of treatment for mental health patients.
West has already missed deadlines to be on the ballot in a number of states, including South Carolina. A court in New Jersey also ruled on Tuesday that the signatures filed in the state to get his name on the ballot were invalid.
Election lawyer Scott Salmon had filed the challenge to West’s filing last week, accusing the rapper’s campaign of forging signatures.
‘Literally every single signature on there came from the same person,’ Salmon told Fox News. ‘Signatures that were clearly identical signatures where the signed name didn’t match the printed name, where there was a first name but no last name, where it included a street address but, no town.’
Adding to his woes, West also endured a disastrous campaign rally in South Carolina last month, where he broke down crying as he recalled the moment he allegedly stopped his wife, Kim Kardashian, from aborting their first child.
He also sensationally claimed that Harriet Tubman ‘never actually freed the slaves … She just had the slaves go work for other white people,’ stirring loud groans and heckles from those in the crowd.
West also received just two percent of the vote in a national poll last month.
While his campaign appears to be anything other than viable, it remains unclear why ballots are still being collected on West’s behalf.
During his presidential bid in 2016, Trump attempted to depress turnout among black voters after learning his favorability among African-Americans was fleeting.
The strategy of depressing turnout among Black voters has also been a favorite of Roger Stone, Mr. Trump’s longtime political adviser. Stone, whose prison sentence was commuted by Trump earlier this month, has also previously focused on third-party national candidates.
However, speaking to the Times, Stone insisted he was not involved in whatever Kanye West was doing.
‘I really like Kanye West — I like his Christianity, and I like his rejection of identity politics,’ Stone told the outlet, before adding that it’s ‘too late to launch either an independent or a third-party candidacy, because more than half the state deadlines have passed.’
Stone said that if West’s intentions were to ‘draw Black votes from Joe Biden, Joe Biden’s own role in the 1994 crime bill,’ would be enough to achieve that.
Many Democrats have also voiced suspicions of West’s candidacy, warning that he could play a role like that of Jill Stein, the 2016 Green Party candidate whom many blame for stealing vital votes away from Hilary Clinton.