The only good thing that ever happened on AstroTurf was the Bad News Bears 2 movie.
Over this past weekend, a new voice attempted to emerge in Mississippi politics. Many politicos around the state received this email from a faceless organization called Helping Ordinary Mississippians Everyday or HOME2012 for short. They have a website at http://www.home2012.org.
Their “commentary” is decidedly left-wing and extremely partisan in nature and their talking points are straight out of Mississippi Democratic political circles.
The fact that this group has just appeared from thin air with very much a pro-Democrat message is interesting in that it is one of several attempts to create a relatively faceless “bombthrower” that can say anything about public officials and policy with nowhere to trace it back to. There is no sign of who is funding or running the site and someone has taken great care to make it that way. The website domain is anonymized, the Facebook group page lists no contact information, and the website has no identification of who is involved or who is funding it. Someone or some group very much is trying not to be identified.
On Facebook, HOME2012 (again no individual attributed) stated that “HOME 2012 is a free service underwritten by a grant from a nonprofit organization.”
That invites lots of questions.
1. Which non-profit(s) are we talking about?
2. How are they accountable and to what mission(s) are they accountable?
3. Where does their money come from and how are they structured?
4. If they are a 501(c)3 or getting funding from one or several, are they engaging in prohibited types of political communication?
Context always matters. As the saying became famous in Watergate . . . “follow the money”. Or in this case, you might can follow where the checks are mailed to.
YallPolitics’ award winning Transparency Division began to look. All we had was an address on their outbound email blasts. It turns out, P.O. Box 5182 Jackson, MS 39216 led us several down several roads that all led to the same place.
The first thing we found were a couple of non profit entities registered to that address by Brad Chism, who is a longtime Democratic pollster and operative who is very close to many in the Mississippi Democratic party and particularly Democratic legislators. His company, Zata3 does a variety of grassroots advocacy and is almost exclusively involved in Democratic politics. Their street address matches that on the SOS’s website (603 Duling Ave, 39216).
For his part, Chism said that he did register a 501c3 and a 501c4 in June2011, but that they were not certified and active as of this time and hence were not funding HOME2012. Upon further questioning about the role that Zata3 might play in HOME2012, Chism did not comment further.
One of Zata3’s staffers, Evan McCarley lists in his portfolio that he managed “the Honor Your Promise Project, a multi-level online social media campaign to inform and mobilize Mississippi public employees and retirees”. Honor Your Promise was an AstroTurf effort organized almost identically to HOME2012 with the same website and email templates and the same P.O. Box 5182 address.
However, there’s still no indication of where the money to fund this effort is coming from.
So, who could be funding this behind the veil of secrecy? There are several possibilities.
1. It could be some offshoot effort of the State Democratic party.
2. It could be a former elected official trying to keep some relevance, possibly spending even leftover campaign funds.
3. It could be some financial service company or law firm that has a MAJOR financial stake in PERS and wants to organize against legislators not friendly to their cause.
4. It could be some sort of industry group or association backing it. Unions also come to mind here as a possibility.
5. It could be a more national organization like MoveOn or Organizing for America seeking to gain influence in a Presidential election year.
The truth of something is usually never as bad as the cover up. After YallPolitics started snooping around on Monday, HOME2012 issued a rather odd release saying basically that they’re REALLY REALLY non-partisan. If they’re as non-partisan as they claim to be, their funding sources and who is behind the group would likely reflect that, wouldn’t it? It will be interesting to see if the HOME2012 organization and/or the non-profits funding them come out from behind the shadows.
YallPolitics calls on HOME2012 to operate their own house with exactly the same sort of transparency they expect from legislators. As the old saying goes, he who has the gold makes the rules. Finding out where the “gold” is coming from will put everything in context. We also hope that YallPolitics readers will do their own research and listening to see if the source of the money can be found.
Their newly manufactured voice in the political arena is not nearly as newsworthy as exposing who they are and why they are going to such great lengths to stay so mysterious.