Welcome to Popular Information, a newsletter with original research and fresh insight into the political news that matters most — written by me, Judd Legum.
Cindy Hyde-Smith strikes out
According to an FEC report filed on November 24, the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball PAC donated $5000, the legal maximum, to Mississippi Senator Hyde-Smith's campaign. The contribution was dated November 23. Earlier this month, Hyde-Smith told a crowd at a campaign event that she would be willing to attend a "public hanging."
The contribution was made in connection with an event that MLB lobbyists were asked to attend. MLB has requested that the contribution be returned.
MLB told the New York Times that "the donation was made earlier in the month at a political event by M.L.B. lobbyists who were unaware of her remarks." But this makes little sense. The contribution was reported almost two weeks after Hyde-Smith's controversial remarks were made public.
Over the past week, eight major corporations have asked Hyde-Smith to refund their contributions after their support for her campaign was reported in Popular Information.
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A Giant asterisk
MLB's reversal does not end the sport's association with Hyde-Smith's campaign.
Charles B. Johnson, the co-owner of the San Francisco Giants, recently donated $2700, the legal maximum to Hyde-Smith. Johnson's wife, Ann, also contributed the max. Johnson has not responded to questions about his contribution.
Johnson is also a donor to a PAC called "Black Americans for the President’s Agenda." (He is white.) In an email sent Sunday night that was obtained by Popular Information, the group accused Democrats of plotting to "steal the Mississippi Senate race."
"They will lie to them, they will throw slime, whatever they need to do to scare black folks into the voting booth," Vernon Robinson, a co-founder of the PAC, wrote.
Robinson touted his group's ability to suppress the black vote with a $36,000 radio buy. "[A]s black voters found out what kind of crazy policies Democrats support, large numbers did not go to the polls. The black vote in St Louis in 2018 was half of what it was in 2016 and 5% LOWER than when the Democrat was first elected in 2006… You can help us stop the spike again."
Accounting for $5000
Saturday's filing by Hyde-Smith also included a $5000 donation from Ernst & Young. The accounting firm touts its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
A little more than 24 hours after Popular Information first reported the contribution, Ernst & Young said it was requesting a refund.
The recent referenced comments by Senator Hyde-Smith are in direct conflict with our longstanding core values of respect, diversity and inclusion. The Ernst & Young PAC has requested a refund of its contribution.
Google goes dark
Hyde-Smith's campaign reported to the FEC that Google donated $5000 on November 13, two days after her "public hanging" comments became public. In response, Google said it wasn't aware of the comments when it sent the check and wouldn't have donated if it had known about the remarks.
This contribution was made on November 2nd before Senator Hyde-Smith's remarks became public on November 11th. While we support candidates who promote pro-growth policies for business and technology, we do not condone these remarks and would not have made such a contribution had we known about them.
But unlike Union Pacific, Boston Scientific, Walmart, AT&T, Pfizer, Amgen, Leidos, and MLB, Google has given no indication that it would ask for its money back.
I sent multiple emails to Google about their position last Tuesday but have not heard back.
The Jackson Free Press published an explosive article on Friday that revealed Cindy Hyde-Smith sent her daughter, who graduated last year, to a virtually all-white, segregated school.
Brookhaven Academy, from which Hyde-Smith’s daughter graduated in 2017, is almost all-white. In the 2015-2016 school year, Brookhaven Academy enrolled 386 white children, five Asian children, and just one black child, the National Center for Education Statistics shows. That’s despite the fact that Census statistics show Brookhaven is 55 percent black and 43 percent white, per 2016 Census estimates.
Hyde-Smith herself attended a similar all-white school, Lawrence County Academy. The schools, known as "segregation academies," were "set up so that white parents could avoid having to send their children to schools with black students." The Lawrence County Academy yearbook shows Hyde-Smith, along with other cheerleaders, posing in front of the mascot, who was "dressed in what appears to be an outfit designed to mimic that of a Confederate general, offer[ing] a salute as she holds up a large Confederate flag."
The school was set up the year after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in public schools. The Governor at the time, John Bell Williams, ordered public schools to integrate but "made it a priority to focus on private schools as an alternative for white students whose parents were not keen on their children sharing classrooms with black children." The legislature approved private school vouchers to make the new segregation academies more affordable.
Revisionist Civil War history
CNN reported Saturday that, in 2007, Hyde-Smith "promoted a measure that praised a Confederate soldier's effort to 'defend his homeland.'" She "cosponsored a resolution that honored then-92-year-old Effie Lucille Nicholson Pharr, calling her 'the last known living 'Real Daughter' of the Confederacy living in Mississippi.'" Pharr's father was a Confederate soldier under General Robert E. Lee.
The resolution said Pharr's father "fought to defend his homeland and contributed to the rebuilding of the country." It was approved by the Mississippi House and Senate.
One of Hyde-Smith's first pieces of legislation as a state senator was a bill to rename a state highway the "Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway." The Confederate general had "no known ties to her district."
In 2014, in a picture posted to her Facebook page, Hyde-Smith "donned a Confederate hat and posed with a rifle" and urged people to visit "the Jefferson Davis homestead in Biloxi." In the picture, Hyde-Smith appeared with a man named Greg Stewart.
Stewart was active in a group called "Free Mississippi," an organization devoted to keeping the Confederate symbol as part of the state flag. It was labeled a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Stewart is also active in the Mississippi chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. In 2011 that group "asked the state for a commemorative license plate that would include the portrait of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave-master millionaire before becoming a Confederate general and the first national leader of the Klu Klux Klan."
Trump in Tupelo
One person who isn't disturbed by Hyde-Smith's "public hanging" comment or anything else is Donald Trump. On Twitter, Trump underscored his continued support for Hyde-Smith, calling her an "outstanding person" and promoted his rallies with her today.
This is all you need to know about Hyde-Smith's strategy: ignore the controversy, wrap her arms around Trump and hope white Republicans show up to vote. In bright red Mississippi, it may work.
Still, while Mississippi Republicans believe that Hyde-Smith will ultimately prevail, Politico reports they are "on edge" and acknowledge that Democrat Mike Espy has momentum. Internal Republican polling over the last week has shown Hyde-Smith "with a lead ranging from the mid-single digits to the low double digits." All polls, however, make various assumptions about turnout.
In a few campaign appearances over the weekend, Hyde-Smith has plugged her rallies with Trump and then ducked out the back door to avoid questions from the press.
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