If you’ve followed Tea Party politics over the past few years you’ve probably heard the name Rick Shaftan.
In the wake of the 2014 Republican US Senate primary in Mississippi, it was Shaftan along with everyone’s favorite ginger headed blogger from California, Charles Johnson, who teamed up to hype an ill-fated election conspiracy theory while stirring hate and discontent among the GOP’s third party fringe.
Rick Shaftan is the media consultant with Neighborhood Research and Mountaintop Media. His company is the primary media group for the pro-Ted Cruz Courageous Conservatives PAC.
FEC filings through Open Secrets show the thousands of dollars the PAC is spending with Shaftan, primarily for radio and social media advertising attacking both Donald Trump and Marco Rubio.
This past week as voters in South Carolina were about to head to the polls it was this PAC who brought the Confederate flag into the debate, attempting to stir Southern pride by knocking Gov. Nikki Haley, who has endorsed Rubio, for its removal and Donald Trump for supporting it.
Here’s the audio of the robocall:
Note the robocall says “our flag,” “our values” in reference to the Confederate flag and differentiates between “New York values,” with the usual tag line of, “Let’s take our country back.”
It sounds a lot like another robocall dropped in South Carolina in July 2015:
Of this 2015 ad, Shaftan’s Neighborhood Research and Mountaintop Media wrote on a July 3, 2015 Facebook post:
“This is just the first salvo in the fight against the hateful bigots who want to destroy the Confederate Monument outside the State House and stuff it into a museum. #KeepItFlying”
This is not the first time Ted Cruz’s campaign has been in the center of such activity. The Cruz camp has been plagued of late with questionable campaign tactics, from sending fraudulent mailers in Iowa which drew the ire of the Hawkeye Secretary of State to spreading unsubstantiated rumors of Ben Carson’s exit from the race to just this weekend hyping a video dump the Cruz campaign’s communication director passed off as Marco Rubio downing the Bible.
That same Cruz communication director, Rick Tyler, issued an apology on Facebook just this morning.
As Mississippi saw in 2014, these Cruz media consultants like to throw a bomb, pass it around on social media to their most avid supporters to get their rabid buy in, and then quietly apologize or disavow it when their actions are called on the carpet on the validity of their claim.
There seems to be this “intentionally dense” relationship where these hangers-on are doing the dirty work of candidates. Shaftan appears to be playing the same role for Cruz that he played here in Mississippi in 2014.
Given the nature of the Cruz campaign’s leadership and the PACs supporting the campaign, one has to wonder if Mississippi will be the next stop on the Cruz-Shaftan tour even as the Legislature and the public here are embroiled in a battle over the Confederate emblem on our state flag. With the tactics Mississippi has already seen from this Cruz Crew over the past few years, it would not surprise any political observer if such red meat rhetoric and Southern pride hype is employed here once again to continue to stir emotion and discontent in hopes of success at the ballot box.