Empower Mississippi

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Empower Mississippi (EM) is a right-wing, Mississippi-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization.

EM manages the Empower Mississippi Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and Empower PAC, a state political action committee.[1]

EM is an associate member of the State Policy Network, a group of rightwing think tanks and other politically-active nonprofits.

News and Controversies

Empower PAC Spent Over $100,000 Challenging Republican State Representatives Who Opposed Charter Schools

In the Mississippi primary election held on August 4, 2015, Empower PAC spent close to $110,000 to help unseat four state Republican representatives who supported public education and opposed charter schools. Empower PAC contributed to the "campaigns of Dana Criswell, Dan Eubanks, Ashley Henley and Steve Hopkins to defeat several incumbents: Wanda Jennings, Forrest Hamilton, Pat Nelson and Gene Alday."[2]

After losing his seat, Rep. Forrest Hamilton (R-Olive Branch) said "Empower Mississippi is a front for some organizations out there which are dangerous. The number one target is our public school system. That's why we are the target."[3]

Ties to the State Policy Network

Empower Mississippi is an associate member of the State Policy Network. SPN is a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom. As of January 2021, SPN's membership totals 163. Today's SPN is the tip of the spear of far-right, nationally funded policy agenda in the states that undergirds extremists in the Republican Party. SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told the Wall Street Journal in 2017 that the revenue of the combined groups was some $80 million, but a 2019 analysis of SPN's main members IRS filings by the Center for Media and Democracy shows that the combined revenue is over $120 million.[4] Although SPN's member organizations claim to be nonpartisan and independent, the Center for Media and Democracy's in-depth investigation, "EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government," reveals that SPN and its member think tanks are major drivers of the right-wing, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)-backed corporate agenda in state houses nationwide, with deep ties to the Koch brothers and the national right-wing network of funders.[5]

In response to CMD's report, SPN Executive Director Tracie Sharp told national and statehouse reporters that SPN affiliates are "fiercely independent." Later the same week, however, The New Yorker's Jane Mayer caught Sharp in a contradiction. In her article, "Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?," the Pulitzer-nominated reporter revealed that, in a recent meeting behind closed doors with the heads of SPN affiliates around the country, Sharp "compared the organization’s model to that of the giant global chain IKEA." She reportedly said that SPN "would provide 'the raw materials,' along with the 'services' needed to assemble the products. Rather than acting like passive customers who buy finished products, she wanted each state group to show the enterprise and creativity needed to assemble the parts in their home states. 'Pick what you need,' she said, 'and customize it for what works best for you.'" Not only that, but Sharp "also acknowledged privately to the members that the organization's often anonymous donors frequently shape the agenda. 'The grants are driven by donor intent,' she told the gathered think-tank heads. She added that, often, 'the donors have a very specific idea of what they want to happen.'"[6]

A set of coordinated fundraising proposals obtained and released by The Guardian in early December 2013 confirm many of these SPN members' intent to change state laws and policies, referring to "advancing model legislation" and "candidate briefings." These activities "arguably cross the line into lobbying," The Guardian notes.[7]

Funding (Empower Mississippi Foundation)

The Empower Mississippi Foundation is not required to disclose its funders but major foundation supporters can be found through their IRS filings. Here are some known contributors:

  • Alliance for School Choice: $255,000 (2016-2018)
  • American Federation for Children: $259,000 (2014-2017)
  • Community Foundation of Greater Jackson: $180,000 (2014-2017)
  • DonorsTrust: $89,816 (2015-2019)
  • Donors Capital Fund: $46,250 (2015, 2016)
  • EdChoice: $115,000 (2015, 2019)
  • Fidelity Investments Charitable Gift Fund: $25,000 (2017, 2019)
  • FWDUS Education Fund: $74,333 (2018)
  • Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund: $7,500 (2019)
  • Hardy Poindexter Graham Foundation: $10,000 (2014-2016)
  • National Christian Charitable Fund: $12,500 (2016-2017)
  • Roe Foundation: $25,000 (2016, 2018)
  • Sam E and Burnice C Wittel Foundation: $8,500 (2014, 2016-2017)
  • Van Devender Family Foundation: $16,000 (2014, 2017-2018)
  • Walker Foundation: $100,000 (2014-2017)

Core Finances

Empower Mississippi

2018[8]

  • Total Revenue: $228,808
  • Total Expenses: $226,574
  • Net Assets: $179,351

2017[9]

  • Total Revenue: $77,105
  • Total Expenses: $60,265
  • Net Assets: $177,117

2016[10]

  • Total Revenue: $153,225
  • Total Expenses: $78,319
  • Net Assets: $160,280

2015[11]

  • Total Revenue: $158,748
  • Total Expenses: $212,008
  • Net Assets: $85,375

2014[12]

  • Total Revenue: $172,686
  • Total Expenses: $58,993
  • Net Assets: $138,635

Empower Mississippi Foundation

2018[13]

  • Total Revenue: $580,930
  • Total Expenses: $566,914
  • Net Assets: $39,998

2017[14]

  • Total Revenue: $398,811
  • Total Expenses: $443,499
  • Net Assets: $25,982

2016[15]

  • Total Revenue: $375,195
  • Total Expenses: $418,489
  • Net Assets: $70,668

2015[16]

  • Total Revenue: $236,723
  • Total Expenses: $189,597
  • Net Assets: $113,963

2014[17]

  • Total Revenue: $212,809
  • Total Expenses: $145,972
  • Net Assets: $66,837

Personnel

As of January 2021:[1]

Staff

  • Grant Callen, Founder and CEO
  • Russ Latino, President
  • Elyse Marcellino, Vice President for Education
  • Steven Randle, Director of Justice and Work
  • Brett Kittredge, Vice President of Marketing and Communications
  • Joanna Holbert, Director of Outreach
  • Gina Metzger, Office Administrator
  • Katie Elliott, Executive Assistant to the CEO, Development Manager

Contributing Fellows

  • J. Robertson, Fellow on Criminal Justice Reform
  • Christopher Koopman, Fellow on Regulation and Innovation
  • Conor Norris, Fellow on Entrepreneurship

Former Staff

  • Anna Beth Houston, Community Outreach Coordinator
  • James Robertson, Director of Employability and Criminal Justice Reform
  • Constance White, Community Outreach Coordinator

Board of Directors

As of November 2018:[8]

  • Gerard Gilbert, Chairman
  • Elyse Marcellino, Vice President
  • Scott Noblitt, Treasurer
  • Joey Havens
  • Nancy Collins
  • Phillip Holmes
  • Grant Callen
  • George Williams

Former Directors

  • Bill Billingsley, Treasurer
  • Roman Galey
  • Francis C. Lee
  • Tim Mask, Secretary

Contact Information

Empower Mississippi
P.O. Box 4028
Madison, MS 39130
Phone: (601) 980-1897
Web: http://empowerms.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EmpowerMississippi/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/empowerms

Articles and Resources

Related SourceWatch Articles

IRS Form 990 Filings

Empower Mississippi

2018

2017

2016

2015

Empower Mississippi Foundation

2018

2017

2016

2015

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Empower Mississippi, About, organizational website, accessed February 3, 2021.
  2. Arielle Dreher, "‘Empower’ PAC Helps Oust Anti-Charter Republicans", Jackson Free Press, August 12, 2015, accessed February 3, 2021.
  3. Robert Lee Long, Empower PAC targets races, Desoto Times-Tribune, July 17, 2015.
  4. David Armiak, Revenue for State Policy Network and State Affiliates Tops $120 Million, ExposedbyCMD, November 13, 2019.
  5. Rebekah Wilce, Center for Media and Democracy, EXPOSED: The State Policy Network -- The Powerful Right-Wing Network Helping to Hijack State Politics and Government, organizational report, November 13, 2013.
  6. Jane Mayer, Is IKEA the New Model for the Conservative Movement?, The New Yorker, November 15, 2013.
  7. Ed Pilkington and Suzanne Goldenberg, State conservative groups plan US-wide assault on education, health and tax, The Guardian, December 5, 2013.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Empower Mississippi, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 14, 2019.
  9. Empower Mississippi, 2017 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, date censored.
  10. Empower Mississippi, 2016 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, date censored.
  11. Empower Mississippi, 2015 IRS 990, Empower Mississippi, November 15, 2016.
  12. Empower Mississippi, 2014 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 16, 2015.
  13. Empower Mississippi Foundation, 2018 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 14, 2019.
  14. Empower Mississippi Foundation, 2017 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, September 4, 2019.
  15. Empower Mississippi Foundation, 2016 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 2, 2016.
  16. Empower Mississippi Foundation. 2015 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 2, 2016.
  17. Empower Mississippi Foundation, 2014 IRS Form 990, organizational tax filing, November 16, 2015.