Someone is paying people to attend a campaign event this afternoon for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's lagging campaign. Or so claims a mysterious flyer that was allegedly circulated in Des Moines today.
The flyer, which was tweeted out by staffers for a rival campaign and super PAC on Monday, offers cash for individuals who show up to -- and sit through -- a Bush rally at an Embassy Suites in Des Moines, which began at noon Monday. Bush's campaign quickly denied on Twitter any connection to the flyer or the offer for cash, but did not respond to a VICE News request to discuss the incident Monday.
During the Bush event today, a heckler stood up and shouted: "We've been here for two and a half hours and haven't gotten paid yet! Where's that $50?"
The heckler was soon removed from the room, amid shouting from Bush supporters who began chanting: "Jeb! Jeb! Jeb!"
Bush himself responded to the heckler, saying: "Get outta here, man."
The flyer posted on Twitter Monday morning instructed interested Iowans to contact Dale Herbert, of Dale Herbert Events, for more information. A follow-up email from an individual identifying himself as Herbert, which appeared to be an automatic response, directed interested attendees to sign in with Dale at the rally and to follow a "smart casual" dress code. "Payment to be received upon exit," the email advised.
But Dale Herbert Events does not seem to exist in Des Moines, or anywhere, at least not online. And no Dale Herbert appears in the White Pages for Des Moines either. However, in a response email to an inquiry from VICE News, Herbert gave out a cell phone number with a Des Moines area code, and a voicemail on that phone identified it as belonging to Dale Herbert Events.
Matt Chisholm, who is running communications for Rand Paul's campaign in New Hampshire and directing the campaign in the caucus states -- including Iowa -- tweeted out a photo of the flyer this morning, but soon deleted his original tweet. Chisholm later tweeted: "re: paying event attendees. Bush campaign says it's not true."
A reporter for the Daily Mail wrote on Monday that he received one of the flyers from two young men at a Paul event earlier in the day. The men told her that they worked for Dale Herbert Events, not the Bush campaign.
Jeff Sadosky, who works for a super PAC supporting Sen. Marco Rubio, later tweeted out a photo of the flyer as well. Sadosky said in an email Monday afternoon that he had "no idea" who created the flyer, but posted it after seeing it on Twitter earlier in the day. "They're saying it was a hoax, I have no reason not to believe them," Sadosky said, before taking a swipe at the Bush campaign's finances: "[The hoax] would make sense especially given how tight money is because of their fundraising woes of late."
Bush campaign spokeswoman Kristy Campbell responded to Sadosky's tweet on Monday, implying that it amounted to Conservative Solutions PAC admitting responsibility for the flyers.
Sadosky called that "wishful thinking on her part".
All of this raises the question: Who would create a fake company to offer people cash for attending a Bush event? Bush's campaign says that they have no connection, Rubio's super PAC denies any involvement and Paul's campaign says they buy Bush's story. The Bush campaign is calling the incident a hoax, playing off of his poor polling numbers in the state ahead of today's caucuses. Bush came in last in the most recent Des Moines Register poll, tying for seventh place with Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee, John Kasich, Rick Santorum and "uncommitted."
Neither Herbert nor Bush's campaign responded to requests for comment from VICE News Monday.
Olivia Becker contributed reporting for this story from Des Moines, Iowa.