Last year, Frank Corder did a piece about HOME Mississippi. HOME ostensibly stands for Helping Ordinary Mississippians Everyday, and they were at the tip of the spear of extremely pointed criticism of Republican legislative policy under the guise of providing “balanced news”. We had tracked down the administration of the HOME site last year to a left leaning polling/advocacy firm in Fondren that has since disbanded.
After the legislative session in 2012, apparently helping ordinary Mississippians was apparently not necessary (or at least being funded). However, on January 8 of this year, HOME came out with an email to their old email list (with their original Fondren reply address from 2012). They had also registered a new domain (homems.org).
All that activity got me curious. First, I reached out to Brad Chism, former partner of Zata3 and now head of Chism Strategies. Since his former mailing address was on the most recent email, I thought he might have some new data to share. He in fact confirmed that his group had absolutely nothing to do with the new iteration of the site.
Then, I did a WHOIS lookup on the new domain. The site was registered to a Sandi Carroll with McArthur & Associates. Neither Carroll nor McArthur & Associates had have much of a Google trail at all. However, I was able to reach Ms. Carroll (based on the number on her WHOIS registration) and she told me she had registered the site at the behest of someone named Jennifer Johnson.
I tracked down Ms. Johnson on LinkedIn and reached out to her. She is from Jackson and is an attorney that has various interests on the public policy front in Mississippi, South Carolina and DC. Previously, she had been on staff for the Center for Responsible Lending , which opposes payday loans/predatory lending and was on staff at a respected Carolina-based law firm. She now does business in Mississippi under Bridgetown Strategies LLC. She confirmed that she in fact represented the group running HOMEMS, but politely declined to share any details about where HOME gets its funding or what organization is ultimately behind it.
On a hunch, I went back today and ran a WHOIS on the HomeMs.org domain. You guessed it. They are trying to take all the contact information down (I guess they
haven’t heard of private registration). They have now also switched their reply address on emails to P.O. Box 50, Ridgeland, MS 39158, which doesn’t seem to come back to anything either.
Whoever is behind HOMEMS is either embarrassed about the product or scared of being exposed publicly. They have gone through outrageously elaborate steps to stay in the shadows. Their reach is actually pretty minimal, and it really seemed to get its start on the PERS issue. This all seems to be done under the guise of “voter education” using untraceable soft money. They seemed really focused on public retirement, educational unions and workers comp – union stuff in general. That may be a clue to who is ultimately involved. Ms. Johnson right now is where the trail stops, but my sense is that there are more dots to be connected on this, and they’ll be tough to disguise.
YallPolitics, much to the chagrin of many users, made the decision years ago to get away from anonymous commenting. We did that for a reason. I just don’t think you should be able to anonymously lob bombs from the cheap seats. I think we are generally a better site for it. My mantra remains to put yourself and your agenda in context when you are trying to influence public opinion because that affects the ultimate message that users should be able to factor in. That’s why we will be watching HOME while they watch the legislature this session.