South Dakota ex-patriate Dave Chadwick—raised in Vermillion and Sioux Falls, now keeping democracy alive in Helena, Montana—digs into Governor Kristi Noem’s self-serving transgender bullying website and finds little tendrils suggesting her defense of Title IX is just another outgrowth of the Corey Lewandowski hate-marketing cancer:
Last week, Kristi Noem’s campaign twitter excitedly announced that her transkid-bullying “Defend Title IX” petition had drawn 45,000 signatures. It is telling this news came from her campaign twitter and not her official twitter.
When Noem announced the “Defend Title IX” coalition, she was eager to promote it with her taxpayer-funded official communication channels: multiple posts on her official twitter and official facebook as well as a press release on the Governor’s taxpayer-funded website.
When asked, Noem and her staff insisted that the coalition was not paid for with official funds. This defense is questionable at best: even if the website was privately-funded, her press conference and media appearances obviously involved a substantial amount of work on state time and the use of taxpayer-funded communication resources (like her press staff and of course her TV studio).
If we take Noem at her word that South Dakota taxpayers aren’t footing the bill—a big if— the next logical question is who is paying for this coalition? A slick website, press conference, and list-building database don’t just materialize out of thin air. Even at the very modest end, we’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars in expenses.
“P.O. Box 26141, Alexandria, VA 22313”
This is where things get curious. Why is an effort by South Dakota’s Governor based out of a P.O. Box in Virginia?
In fact, Noem’s new coalition isn’t the only occupant of this mailbox. It is used by a number of conservative political campaigns. One prominent occupant of the mailbox is the “Fight Back Now America Political Action Committee”: a committee founded at the end of December by former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to finance “America First, ‘Trump-like’ Candidates”.
A post office box isn’t all that Noem appears to be sharing with Lewandowski.
A lookup of the IP address associated with the Defendtitleixnow.com website finds that the site is hosted on Google cloud shared server space, along with Lewandowski’s PAC, a few dozen other websites for various conservative political campaigns, and the tantalizingly ambiguous KristiNoem.com.
You don’t have to look long to see a distinct resemblance across many of the sites hosted on this server: they all feature the same petition style, same layout, same font, same rounded corners on everything. It’s hard not to guess that they all share a common designer. Perhaps that would be Microtargeted Media, a Republican political consulting firm based in Florida whose website is also hosted on the same server. This firm is run by Christian Ziegler, a pro-Trump Republican party activist who is…another friend of Corey Lewandowski.
A Virginia mailbox, a Florida website, all linked to Noem’s new BFF Corey Lewandowski.
…That’s where I stopped going down the rabbit hole (for now). This whole chain suggests some important questions:
1. Is Noem’s Defend Title IX effort really an “initiative to defend fairness in women’s sports?” Or is it just another shallow stunt to get some Fox News interviews, fuel her Trumpian connections, and build the mailing list for her 2024 presidential campaign?
2. Was any of this effort was paid for with campaign dollars – the website, the mailbox in Virginia, the database holding the 45,000 signatures, or anything else? If one dollar of campaign funds went into this project, then it is a campaign expenditure and the Governor’s extensive promotion of the effort with taxpayer-funded channels is a potential violation of state law.
Noem needs to come clean on how she is paying for this astroturf campaign. It’s not enough to just assert that taxpayers aren’t footing the bill. We have a right to know who is.
Better yet, maybe she should just drop this ridiculous effort altogether. South Dakotans don’t want her to keep wasting time on this insincere pearl-clutching effort to persecute kids, ignore doctors, and harass transpeople [Dave Chadwick, essay to Dakota Free Press, April 2021].