***Update — INSIDERLOUISVILLE GOP activist admits involvement in Ashley Miller attack site, declines to say who is behind it ***
Last week WFPL’s Phillip Bailey reported on an attack website, SubmergeKentucky.com, that featured ridiculously offensive smears of Ashley Miller, the Democrat running in the state’s 32nd House District. Miller’s opponent is Phil Moffett, the Tea Party Gubernatorial candidate who lost to David Williams in 2011 but who won the Republican Primary for this seat in May by defeating a former head of the Jefferson County Republican Party.
Moffett’s victory was one of the few bright spots for Kentucky’s Tea Party on primary night, although as B&P, WFPL and InsiderLouisville later reported there were some interesting donations to Moffett’s campaign from some of Mitch McConnell’s biggest boosters that helped get Moffett into the General. Moffett, unlike most other members of Kentucky’s Tea Party, remained silent in the Republican Senate primary, endorsing neither McConnell nor the Tea Party candidate Matt Bevin.
The SubmergeKentucky site is not currently available, directed instead to a GoDaddy.com holding page. As Bailey reported, the site was registered on August 4th of this year but the identity of the person or group who made the purchase and set up the site is not available.
Bailey reported on screenshots of the site which he’d been given:
Referring to the political newcomer as “Trashley Miller,” the page claims she is involved in providing “abortion referral services” for Planned Parenthood. It also slams Miller for appearing on a 2012 album cover by the Kentucky-based hip-hop group Nappy Roots.
“Nappy Roots is a popular gangster RAP group based in Bowling Green, Ky.,” the site said above two pictures of the album, which is titled “S—’s Beautiful.” The dual covers show Miller sitting in a bathroom stall. One version shows her sitting there with her underwear around her ankles.
“Ms. Miller is featured on the cover of their mixtape CD! But she ain’t just a model,” the site said. “(S)he’s a bad “MF” model!”
Should she be elected, as Bailey reported, Ashley Miller — who is a former Ms. Kentucky, a model, and an accomplished professional — would be the first African American elected to Kentucky’s State House in more than a decade. Phil Moffett told Bailey that he is not behind the site and does not know who is.
Some Googling around, however, may reveal the source of the site’s deeply offensive — and, frankly, racist and misogynistic — content.
The site is currently parked on a generic GoDaddy hosting page used by thousands of separate domains.
But if one searches for “trashley” and the site address, the following is returned:
If one searches only the site’s address, two more interesting details emerge (or, submerge). First, in the second result you can see that the Google index still has some of the site’s content:
“The Kentucky Democratic Party’s structured program to ruin the lives of liberal, white-collar young women across the Bluegrass!”
More interesting is that third result. It indicates that the domain’s IP is 188.8.131.52, and indeed if you punch that IP and that site’s address into Google, you see several sites have results the same information:
A site’s IP address indicates where it is hosted, and can be searched to find that site’s “neighbors.” At a given IP address, there will be many websites, and the fact they are served there does not necessarily mean they are connected. For example, B&P’s IP is apparently the same as JohnBoehner.com. Among the hundred or so domains at a particular address, you find the usual flotsam of the internet. However… often when multiple sites are being run out of the same account, they will be served from the same location.
If you search the IP neighbors of SubmergeKentucky’s apparent IP address, there are 90 or so sites being run on 184.108.40.206, and if you look through those sites, a few interesting neighbors show up:
Sarah Durand is a leader of the Louisville Tea Party. She was the spokeswoman for Matt Bevin’s campaign. A WhoIs search on SarahDurand.com shows that site is registered to a Sarah Durand in Louisville. Sarah Durand also is the registrar on record for KentuckyRise.com and GOPRoundtable.com.
What’s particularly interesting here is that KentuckyRise.com is the home of the Kentucky Rise PAC which belongs to Cathy Bailey. Bailey is widely expected to join the Republican field in the 2015 Governor’s race but has told press that right now she is focused on efforts to win the State House for the Republicans through her PAC, Kentucky Rise.
Bailey was the ambassador to Latvia under George W. Bush, and she and her husband Irv have strong ties to the Republican Party establishment, with both Cathy and, apparently, Irv serving on Mitch McConnell’s various campaign committees — and both Cathy and Irv have given generously to McConnell over the years.
Kentucky Rise PAC was formed earlier this year and it promptly have $2,600 to Mitch McConnell and another $2,600 to Andy Barr.
Another $5,000 went to RAND PAC, the Rand Paul presumptive campaign for president. Cathy Bailey maintains very close ties to Rand Paul — in fact, Bailey has played a central role alongside Doug Stafford and others in building Rand Paul’s political network.
In a February 2013 op-ed published in the Courier Journal, Cathy Bailey wrote of her “dismay” with the Republican Party as it became clear in the wake of the 2012 elections that the GOP has a real and worsening relationship with women — and Cathy Bailey offered her guiding principles on how to close that gap and make more women relate to the Grand Ol’ Party:
When I talk with women in our state, these are the issues that they care about. To convince them to vote Republican, we have to stop viewing elections solely as referendums on our opponents’ records and ideas. Instead, we must present voters with a meaningful choice between two different sets of values, policies and programs. We must prove that our agenda can better solve the pressing problems that keep women awake at night.
Of course, it’s not just the message; it’s also the messenger. One of the best ways to attract women to the Republican Party is to change the face of the Republican Party.
The SubmergeKentucky attack site is a “spoof” (and really, that’s giving it far too much credit) of EmergeKentucky, the program that has produced a slew of wonderful and very able female candidates who are now running in races across the state. Ashley Miller is one such EmergeKentucky graduate, as is Elisabeth Jensen who is running for Congress in Central Kentucky against Andy Barr — who has taken money from Cathy Bailey’s Kentucky Rise PAC.
The fact that the SubmergeKentucky attack website is hosted at the same IP address as Bailey’s KentuckyRise.com could just be a coincidence — but it begins to stretch the bonds of ones imagination to see how.
Cathy Bailey, who hopes to be the Republican nominee for Governor and who started a PAC in the meantime to help win the State House for the state GOP, has a stated mission of countering the Democratic Party’s efforts to mobilize and empower women voters and women candidates.
SubmergeKentucky, which seeks to anonymously smear these politically active Democratic women via misogyny and, where possible, racist attack appears on the internet directly alongside the website for Bailey’s Kentucky Rise PAC.
And Bailey’s Kentucky Rise PAC has given $1,000 to Ashley Miller’s opponent, Phil Moffett. In fact, Bailey herself has also personally given $1,000 to Phil Moffett.
Among Kentucky Rise PAC’s biggest donors is Terry Forcht. Forcht runs Forcht Bank, the official bank of both Mitch McConnell’s campaign and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC which is deeply intertwined with the McConnell aligned Super PACs Kentuckians for Strong Leadership and the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition — which are currently spending millions of dollars each week to attack another female candidate, Alison Lundergan Grimes. Forcht and his associates at Forcht bank have given Moffett at least $6,000.
(In fact, many of the heavy donors — Jones, Brown, etc — to Kentucky Rise PAC are also big givers to the McConnell campaign and are also generous donors to Ashley Miller’s opponent, the Tea Party surprise of 2014, Phil Moffett.)
The website for Kentucky Rise PAC, as well as various other Kentucky campaign websites (Howland, Pate, etc), and a site called GOPRoundtable.com are all apparently hosted at the same IP address as SubmergeKentucky.com.
KentuckyRise.com and GOPRoundtable.com are both registered to Sarah Durand — and SarahDurand.com is also hosted at the same IP address as SubmergeKentucky.com.
And, to close this lovely circle, Sarah Durand is on the payroll of Cathy Bailey’s Kentucky Rise PAC:
While it is possible the racist, anti-woman website SubmergeKentucky.com just happened to be hosted at the exact same IP address as Cathy Bailey’s own Political Action Committee and Sarah Durand’s personal website it does seem that a coincidence here is wildly unlikely.
While Phil Moffett has gone on the record to explicitly claim that he does not know who put up this site, the available signs appear to point toward Kentucky Rise PAC, Cathy Bailey and her employee, Sarah Durand.
It could be happenstance that the McConnell-backing Rand Paul confidante Bailey employs the Bevin backing Tea Party leader Durand and that Bailey and the rest of the folks behind Bailey’s Kentucky Rise PAC are generous backers of Ashley Miller’s campaign and that all those parts just so happen to come to rest on the internet alongside this truly despicable anti-woman SubmergeKentucky website — but it could also not.
The funny thing about calling folks “trash” is that it can cut both ways. Sometimes the trashiest people are actually the ones who smell the rosiest.
Nappy Roots, play us out.