David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, and a favorite of Fox News and the right-wing media, will deliver the keynote address to a meeting of the New York chapter of the radical anti-government group Oath Keepers next month, according to an invitation on the group’s website.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the Oath Keepers as “a fiercely antigovernment, militaristic group” summarizing the group’s philosophy like this:
The core idea of the group is that its members vow to forever support the oaths they took on joining law enforcement or the military to defend the Constitution. But just as central is the group’s list of 10 “Orders We Will Not Obey,” a compendium of much-feared but entirely imaginary threats from the government — orders, for instance, to force Americans into concentration camps, confiscate their guns, or cooperate with foreign troops in the United States. These supposed threats are, in fact, part of the central conspiracy theory advocated by the antigovernment “Patriot” movement of which the Oath Keepers is a part — the baseless claim that the federal government plans to impose martial law, seize Americans’ weapons, force those who resist into concentration camps, and, ultimately, push the country into a one-world socialistic government known as the “New World Order.” In 2013, the group took on a more aggressive stance, announcing the planned formation of “Citizen Preservation” militias meant to defend Americans against the New World Order.
Speaking at a New York Oath Keepers event last year, Rhodes warned of a government plan to “cause chaos, and in the middle of all that chaos, spark a race war, and in the middle of that, unleash these ISIS cells that are now all over the country”:
Clarke has been embraced by Fox News, and even by politicians like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, in part because of his fiery dismissal of critiques of the criminal justice system and in particular of the Black Lives Matter movement. They are seemingly willing to ignore Clarke’s association with an extremist fringe movement.
The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, an association of county sheriffs who believe that they have the power to resist federal laws and arrest federal officials who they believe are violating the Constitution, is attempting to get more sheriffs who adhere to its ideology elected by launching a candidate survey that asks under what circumstances candidates for sheriff would be willing to buck the federal government.
In one survey question, CSPOA asks potential sheriffs what they would do if they were ordered to “cite or arrest” citizens who refuse to participate in “nationalized healthcare,” a question that appears to be based on the myth that those who refuse to buy a health insurance plan or pay a fee will be put in jail:
Congress has just recently passed nationalized healthcare. It appears that all citizens will be required by “law” to participate in this federal healthcare regulation. If citizens in your jurisdiction refuse to accept or use this federal program and you are ordered to cite or arrest such “troublemakers,” what will you do?
a. Warn my citizens ahead of time to make sure they all use federal healthcare to prevent any of them from going to jail for failure to comply.
b. Help federal agents serve warrants on anyone and everyone who might be found violating the healthcare laws in my county/parish.
c. I will serve any court order and enforce all laws, regardless of my personal feelings about such laws.
d. I will never enforce any such law or serve any warrants from any court to arrest citizens for refusing to participate in any federal program; not for healthcare or anything else. In fact, I will stand next to my constituents and put myself on the line to protect them from such abuse.
Another question asks what candidates would do if the federal government or the UN launched “door to door gun confiscation”:
If the Federal Government or the United Nations were to implement a policy of door to door gun confiscation in your jurisdiction, what would you do?
a. Help them confiscate the guns.
b. Interpose myself on behalf of the people to protect their right to keep and bear arms.
c. Not interfere one way or the other. A sheriff has no authority to stop the Federal Government from doing anything.
d. I don't worry about such a scenario as this would never happen in America
NPR is reporting that the armed antigovernment activists who have taken over a federal wildlife refuge building in Oregon, after promising to stay there "for years,” are now saying that they will call a meeting with the local community within a day and leave “if the county people tell us to leave."
It might have something to do with the fact that they were rapidly losing support among fellow members of the “Patriot” movement, many of whom have slammed the building takeover as stupid at best or a false-flag government plot to incite civil war at worst.
The event had obvious echoes of the 2014 standoff at the Bundys’ ranch in Nevada, where armed antigovernment activists gathered to face down the Bureau of Land Management. Unlike the Bundy family, however, the Hammonds never asked for an armed standoff.
As we reported yesterday, Stewart Rhodes, the head of the extremist Oath Keepers group, urged his followers to “stay out of” the Oregon standoff, saying his group “will not be involved in an armed standoffs that’s being manufactured by potheads who want a fight.” Even before the group took over the building, Rhodes warned that Ammon Bundy was “sending out confusing and contradictory messages” and that what was billed as a peaceful protest could become “some form of armed direct action.” Along with tactical concerns, Rhodes objected to taking part because the Hammonds had not asked for a confrontation.
Richard Mack, the leader of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and a prominent figure at the Bundy ranch , was at the protest in Burns but, like Rhodes, backed away from Ammon Bundy’s splinter faction, writing in a press release that his group “does not support or condone the occupation” and urging Ammon Bundy and his allies to “immediately vacate the building and to go home to their families!”
Sam Bushman, a “Patriot” movement radio host who was also at the rally, complained in an interview with Pete Santilli, the extremist radio host who has acted as something of a spokesman for the militia group, that he felt like the rally was “almost a trap.” (Bushman rejects the “Patriot movement” label and insists that we instead call him an “American that believes in and wants to promote God, family and country and wants to protect life, liberty and property and believes and advocates that this nation shall endure.”)
“We all felt like we were going to a peaceful rally,” Bushman said, “and he’s almost undone a lot of the good we did there with this action. Most of us were not part of it, were not aware of it and we were kind of led into it almost like a trap. I’m not comfortable with that at all and that’s kind of my frustration there is that a lot of us feel like, hey, it was kind of a ruse to have this peaceful rally only for this other eclipsing agenda.”
Santilli told Bushman that he would “have to agree with that” but that because of Ammon’s action “now we are on to the next phase” and he considered it his duty to stop the FBI from using force to end the standoff.
Brandon Smith, who runs the far-right site Alt-Market, had a similar complaint, writing in an article that was reposted on the Oath Keepers website, “Obviously the goal was to lure as many protesters to Oregon as possible to the event in the hopes that they would jump on board with the stand-off plan once they were more personally involved. Numerous protesters were rightly enraged once they discovered the ultimate motives behind the event.”
Brandon Curtiss of the extremist group III% of Iowa told Bushman that his group had helped to organize the Burns rally but had nothing to do with Ammon Bundy’s side project, which he also portrayed as a tactical error. “This situation, even though we all agree, we all understand Ammon’s position, it’s really created a divide within the Patriot movement and it’s really unfortunate,” he said.
In a movement in which conspiracy theories thrive, it was no wonder that some began to wonder if the group occupying the wildlife refuge building was infiltrated by government “provocateurs” trying to pick a fight.
Mike Vanderboegh, the founder of the Three Percenters movement (named after the three percent of colonists whom he says were brave enough to fight the British crown) and an enthusiastic participant in the Bundy ranch showdown, wrote on his blog that the Oregon takeover was led by “federal provocateurs, sociopaths and idiots with a John Brown complex,” but that if a violent confrontation were to be started, he would have no choice but to join Ammon Bundy and his friends “in a ghastly civil war.”
Smith also feared that Bundy’s action could draw the “Patriot” movement into a civil war, with them at a tactical disadvantage. “What I do fear is that they are cannon fodder beckoning a nationwide government crackdown to which I and others will then be forced to personally respond to with equal f*cking measure,” he wrote. “And all of this on the worst possible terms and at a very inconvenient time (executive actions on gun control mere weeks from now).”
Radio conspiracy theorist Alex Jones similarly wondered if the group was infiltrated by government agents hoping to launch a “false flag” incident that would pave the way for the imposition of martial law.
As the Bundy ranch standoff showed, these activists are hardly pacifists. It’s just that when what they assume is the inevitable civil war comes, they want to be in the best position possible. And Ammon Bundy came in and messed it all up.
Richard Mack, the head of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), said last week that “every governor and sheriff and county commissioner” in the country should refuse to enforce the Supreme Court’s decision striking down bans on gay marriage.
Rob Schilling, host of a radio program on Virginia’s WINA, asked Mack, “I’ve wondered what would happen if let’s just say a Judge Roy Moore stood up and said, ‘We’re not abiding by this. We already have defined marriage in this state.’”
“Every governor and sheriff and county commissioner should all be saying that,” Mack responded.
“Is the federal government going to send troops into that state, are we going to have an armed conflict over this issue?” Schilling pressed.
“If it’s one person, they very well might,” Mack responded, “but if it’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds all across the country, there’s nothing they can do about it, so that’s what we should be doing.”
Mike Koeniger, the vice president of the state chapter of the Oath Keepers, was also on the line and interjected that it would only take a couple of hundred sheriffs, each backed up by thousands of armed civilian Oath Keepers, to defy the federal government on marriage.
“Imagine that we only had 200 sheriffs that stood in the gap, and behind every one of those sheriffs there were 2,000 Oath Keepers, being civilian or prior military or whatever, imagine the power of 200 sheriffs,” he said.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker further paved the way for his GOP presidential bid today, signing two bills weakening his state’s gun laws, just one week after a gun massacre left nine people dead at a church in South Carolina. Walker said that he went ahead with the planned signing despite the recent attack because if he had postponed it, “it would have given people the erroneous opinion that what we signed into law today had anything to do with what happened in Charleston.”
Clarke first emerged as a Tea Party hero in 2013, when he recorded a radio ad urging his constituents to arm themselves because “calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option.” This earned him the “Constitutional Sheriff of the Year” award from the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer’s Association, a far-right group that holds that county sheriffs have the power to defy federal laws that they believe are unconstitutional and arrest federal agents enforcing them. Accepting the award, Clarke called the group a “friend for life.”
Last year, Clarke joined conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ radio program to warn that a renewal of the federal assault weapons ban would lead to weapons confiscation and would spark “the second coming of the American Revolution, the likes of which would make the first revolution pale by comparison”:
This year, Clarke has burnished his Tea Party credentials by appearingrepeatedlyon Fox News to assure its viewers that racial disparities in the justice system are a myth and to attack President Obama for saying otherwise.
While the choice of Clarke’s office for the bill-signing may have seemed mundane to many observers, Walker was sending a clear signal to some of the most extreme elements of his party’s base.
Biggs told The Republic he was the first speaker on the program and spoke for 30 minutes to 35 minutes. A panel was invited to talk about the need for a constitutional convention and Biggs was invited because he has written a book outlining his objections to such a convention.
He said he didn't know who or what the Oath Keepers are, initially confusing them with "Promise Keepers," a ministry for men. He added that he did not know Rhodes, and thought he was being invited by "an Arizona liberty group."
Biggs said he doesn't agree with Rhodes' comments, but said he didn't feel it was his place to speak up and denounce him.
"Good grief! Stop it with your free-speech rights," he said, imagining what he could have said to Rhodes.
He said he wasn't sure when Rhodes made his inflammatory comments but, "Your ears perk up when someone says something like that."
Since then, former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, the head of a “constitutional sheriffs” organization, has volunteered to run for office in the project’s guinea pig county. Mack also spoke at the recent event with Biggs and Rhodes, where he suggested one thing that states and counties could do to resist federal authority is to “nullify” the federal income tax.
Below is the video of Rhodes' remarks. At the beginning, you can see Biggs sitting immediately to his left.
Richard Mack, the former Arizona sheriff who now heads a group that promotes “nullification” of federal laws at the state and county levels, suggested at an event in Tempe last week that states threaten to “nullify federal income tax” in order to stop money from going to the federal government. He added that he hoped the process of states “tak[ing] back” the 10th Amendment would remain “peaceful.”
Mack made the remarks at an event dedicated to opposing a proposed constitutional convention, which also featured Republican State Senate President Andy Biggs and Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who used the opportunity to call for Sen. John McCain to be hung for treason.
“There isn’t anything that’s going on in our country today that the states can’t stop,” Mack said, encouraging states and counties to refuse to take federal funds and refuse to direct money to the federal government.
“And even spending,” he said. “You want to balance the budget? Get the governors together and the state legislatures together and tell them, ‘This is how it’s going to be from now on, we’re not going to send you this and we’re not taking this, we’re not going to do this, and we might even tell the citizens, we might even pass a law in Arizona to nullify federal income tax.’ That would be courageous, wouldn’t that? It would also be a lot of fun.”
“Who asserts the 10th Amendment? Who has the constitutional and moral and ethical obligation to enforce the 10th Amendment? Is that the federal government’s job? They’re destroying it. Who’s going to stand and enforce and defend the 10th Amendment? It’s us,” he said later in his talk. “We retain everything else that’s not given to them. If we don’t hold onto it, and we’ve allowed them to take it, we have to take it back. And hopefully we have the courage and the smarts and the wherewithal to keep this process peaceful. And if we get a lot of people doing it, and a lot of states doing it, and a lot of governors doing it, and a lot of sheriffs doing it, and a lot of counties doing it, it will remain peaceful. And that’s why my whole thing has been, we take back America county by county and state by state.”
Mack is currently leading an effort to stage a political takeover of an Arizona county to implement his radical nullification agenda.
“I think this Supreme Court is bought and paid for, I think they’re just political hacks, most of them, and they will not use moral agency or tradition or biblical principle. They’re just going to do what they’re there for,” Mack told far-right “Patriot” movement radio program “ Liberty Roundtable.”
“Those people have been put there, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a very senile and evil person, she does not like America, she does not like our Constitution,” he said, adding that if President Obama “was capable of being embarrassed or having any shame” it would be in his nomination of “Helen Kagan.” (The program’s host, Sam Bushman, quickly pointed out that he meant Elena Kagan.)
Saying that Justices Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor should recuse themselves from the case because “one of the reasons they were put on the court was to promote this movement in America to destroy marriage,” Mack said, “We’ve got to do something in this country to save our families and marriage.”
But he was not optimistic. After a Supreme Court ruling, he said, “the states are going to have to even more so recuse themselves from the federal government and from the Supreme Court ruling. And it’s going to take some guts.”
He told Bushman that the federal government has “no purview” over marriage, to which Bushman replied, “the only skin in the game they have is to peddle perversion.”
Richard Mack, the former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, now runs the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group that promotes the idea that county sheriffs are the highest law officers in the country and thus have the power to arrest federal officials who are enforcing laws they believe are unconstitutional.
“If you were still sheriff in Graham County and Lois Lerner paid a visit to your county, would you lock her up?” Lutz asked.
“Well, I would in the sense that I would have to first investigate and prove that she had actually done something to somebody in my county. So, primarily I would conduct a proper investigation and if anyone had been abused, like many that testified before Congress, the Tea Party groups and others that had been abused not only by the IRS, but the IRS had complicity from the FBI,” Mack replied.
“So, if I could prove that they had done that to anybody in my county, if she stopped by, I most definitely would, and hopefully get the support of the county attorney to actually prosecute,” he said.
Richard Mack, the former sheriff of Graham County, Arizona, who now heads the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, told Steve Deace yesterday that although he is a “pacifist,” states and counties need to enforce their “sovereignty” in areas like marriage equality and gun control, or else “we will lose liberty in America, and we will not get it back unless there’s bloodshed.”
Mack, who argues that county sheriffs are not accountable to federal authority and so should not enforce laws that they believe violate the Constitution, told Deace that America has been losing liberty for a long time, but “it took a tyrant and communist in our own White House to wake a lot of people up.”
“And I will tell you this, if we do not, if the counties and cities and states do not exercise their proper constitutional authority, known as state sovereignty and the 10th Amendment, if they do not enforce their own state sovereignty and secure their state sovereignty, then America will die,” he said. “If we do not exercise the 10th Amendment and state sovereignty, we will lose liberty in America, and we will not get it back unless there’s bloodshed.”
“I’m proud of Judge Moore and I’m proud of the state supreme court in Texas,” he said, “and Gov. Perry and other governors across this nation and sheriffs and county commissioners and city councils must do likewise or we will lose.”
Later in the interview, Deace compared the Obama administration to Nazi Germany, saying that the National Parks employees who shut down monuments during the federal government shutdown in 2013 were “not too many steps” from “other people throughout history who have said similar things and committed far greater acts of man’s inhumanity to man and said ‘I’m just following orders.’”
“It is so scary how many similarities there are between Nazi Germany and the Obama administration,” Mack agreed.
Mack also agreed with Deace that Obama is a communist, saying, “You’d have be stupid not to know that he’s a Marxist.”
“We fought two world wars to stop communism in this country,” he said. “Look at all the men and women who died and gave their lives to stop the proliferation of communism throughout the world, and now we accept it here in our country because somebody said, ‘Well, vote for me if you believe in real change and we want to fundamentally change America, so come with me as we give everybody some money.’ And everybody wanted the money and Barack Obama keeps throwing it everybody like it’s growing on trees and it’s candy.”
“And I am so ashamed of the people who take this money from him, because you have to know it’s not his money to give, it’s not his to take, and it certainly is not ours to take,” he added.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has released a list of the witnesses who will testify at this week's hearings on the nomination of Loretta Lynch to be attorney general, and two of them signal the GOP’s intention to tie Lynch to their criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder’s efforts to combat racial discrimination in voting rights and law enforcement.
Among them is Catherine Engelbrecht, a Tea Party activist who founded the group True the Vote to promote the myth of widespread voter fraud and who has clashed with Holder over his defense of voting rights, or what she calls his “radical, racialist assault on voters' rights across America.”
Also included is David Clarke, the sheriff of Milwaukee county, who has become a Tea Party hero for his criticism of protests of racial inequality in the justice system following a series of police killings of unarmed black men.
Both have become prominent Tea Party figures by voicing the line that racial inequality no longer exists in the U.S. and that the Justice Department’s efforts to stop voter suppression laws and combat discrimination in the criminal justice system are themselves racist. The Right cast Holder as the primary villain in this narrative, and prominent Holder critics such as the Heritage Foundation’s Hans von Spakovsky are using some of the same arguments to attack Lynch.
Engelbrecht’s attitude toward voting rights protections was perhaps most clearly illustrated with her reaction to a bipartisan bill meant to restore the Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court gutted it in 2013.
In an email to supporters, Engelbrecht claimed that the effort to restore the Voting Rights Act — one of the great achievements of the Civil Rights Movement — was in fact a “terrible race based bill” that would “exclude millions of Americans from full protection of the law — based solely on the color of their skin.” She fumed that restoring federal voting rights oversight to areas with a history of racial discrimination in election laws should be called the “Voting Rights Segregation Act.”
Sheriff Clarke, meanwhile, has been a leading conservative voice against protests against police brutality and racial inequalities in the criminal justice system, and has expressed outrage that President Obama and Holder have expressed some support for the protests. Clarke, who is African American, went on Fox News in November to accuse the president of fueling “racial animosity between people” by supporting the protests and even suggested that Obama was encouraging protesters to riot “with a wink and a nod."
He also contended that Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager who was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, was a “coconspirator in his own demise” because he “chose thug life.”
Other witnesses signal the intention of Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to focus on what they argue are constitutional oversteps by Holder. Engelbrecht claims that the IRS has targeted her since she started her political activism and fellow witness Sharyl Attkinson claims that Holder’s Justice Department hacked into her personal computer. (A computer security expert reviewing Attkinson’s evidence for Media Matters said it looked more like a malfunction caused by a frozen backspace key.)
Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes told a gathering of “constitutional sheriffs” last month — which also featured Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas — that federal officials eventually backed down in the standoff at the Bundy Ranch earlier this because they knew that if they didn't the U.S. military would turn against the federal government, igniting a second civil war.
Noting that a number of military veterans joined the armed anti-government protest at the Nevada ranch, Rhodes said that “the politicians and the would-be dictators in Washington, D.C…have to worry if they go too hard, if they drop the hammer too blatantly on Americans like at Bundy Ranch, that the Marine Corps would flip on them. And I think it would. And same goes for the tip of the spear in the Army, Army Airborne, special forces, your Navy Seals, all of those groups out there, the more hardcore they are as warriors, the more likely they are to look at something like that and say, ‘that’s it, I’m done’ and join the resistance.”
“And so that’s why [federal officials] are careful about what they do,” he added. “It’s not out of charity or concern for your lives that the don’t drop the hammer.”
Citing a Washington Times report that the Obama administration “considered but rejected deploying military force” against the armed groups trying to stop the Bureau of Land Management from collecting decades of grazing fees from Cliven Bundy, Rhodes said, “Thankfully they did not, because if they had, that would have kicked off a civil war in this country. It would have.”
The only way to avoid a civil war, he said, was for sheriffs and other officials like those in the audience to refuse to be "the muscle for idiots like Cuomo or Obama or Holder who don't understand warfare."
"Do not open the door on U.S. soil for sheepdog and sheepdog violence," he warned.
Mack said that he would be moving to Navajo County, Arizona, to run as the county sheriff in 2016 and told the members of the Tea Party group in his audience, “I need some backup and I wouldn’t mind if you went there, too.”
He wasn’t joking. In fact, Mack is the most prominent recruit of a group that is seeking to stage a political takeover of the sprawling rural county as an experiment in creating a local government that will ignore and “nullify” federal laws — such as federal lands restrictions and gun regulations — that its leaders believe to be unconstitutional.
Mack explained the plan in a speech to this weekend’s “I Won’t Comply” demonstration in Olympia, Washington, which gathered anti-government activists from around the country to protest a new state law requiring background checks on most gun purchases.
“I want you to carefully, prayerfully consider moving there with me, and I’m serious. You want to live in a free county? You want to live by constitutional law? You want to not be worried about federal government coming in and ruining your lives and families and hauling you off at midnight? Come live with us there,” he said.
He said that the establishment of “constitutional counties” was the last “peaceful” option for the movement to “regain our constitution and freedom in America.”
“If we’re going to take back freedom, we have one opportunity to keep it peaceful, and that is the enforcement of state sovereignty by our sheriffs and by our state and county legislatures,” he said.
The former sheriff explained how a group called the Constitutional County Project had approached him and asked him to join their first experiment in creating a “constitutional county,” what Mack said would be a “blueprint for freedom” that could then be replicated across the country.
In an interview with the radio show “Liberty Roundtable” in June, Mack discussed early negotiations on the project. Although he didn’t say that he had committed to run for office, he hinted at it, saying "we have got to be able to sacrifice and move to where we can be united and take over a county politically."
Mack told the Washington rally that he planned to move to the county in the spring of 2015 to prepare for a 2016 run for office.
The Constitutional County Project's website says that once it achieves its political takeover of Navajo County, its allied elected officials get to work repealing "local and county laws and regulations which are unrelated to protecting individual rights," enforcing environmental regulations at the "county level," cutting taxes and regulations and using "legal and political means to protect the county’s residents against any attempt to un-Constitutionally interfere with peaceable living and enterprise."
A 2012 Southern Poverty Law Center report on Mack explained his growing influence in the “Patriot” movement and the source of his ideology in Posse Comitatus movement of the 1970s and 1980s, which provided some of the ideological foundation for the militia movement:
An inductee in the National Rifle Association’s Hall of Fame whose stardom dimmed by the turn of the century, Mack is once again riding high in the saddle as a patron saint of the resurgent antigovernment “Patriot” movement and a meticulously coiffed darling of the Tea Party set. For the past two years, the former public relations director for the Gun Owners of America has zigzagged across the country spreading dark fears and conspiracy theories about the federal government, hawking his self-published books about guns and God, and encouraging sheriffs to join his new organization, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), and be a “line in the sand” against government agents. He recently bragged that he had spoken at 120 Tea Party events across the country (his website says 70), in addition to the many law enforcement gatherings, local political fundraisers, John Birch Society (JBS) meetings, and other events where he is treated as a hero.
Whether he’s speaking to local chapters of the JBS or appearing on far-right radio shows like James Edwards’ white nationalist program “The Political Cesspool,” Mack’s central message is that the federal government has far overstepped its constitutional bounds and that county sheriffs have the rightful authority — and duty — to protect citizens from what he believes are its unlawful incursions. This idea that sheriffs have supremacy over other law enforcement agencies and even the federal government was born and gained traction in the 1970s and 1980s when it was pushed by the explicitly racist, anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus (Latin for “power of the county”), which capitalized on the Midwestern farm crisis of the era to promote an extreme antigovernment ideology. The Posse’s founding tract, the so-called Blue Book written by white supremacist Henry Lamont Beach, asserted the county was “the highest authority of government in our Republic.”
Mack, a board member of the Oath Keepers, was a prominent presence earlier this year at the Bundy ranch in Nevada, where armed “Patriot” and militia groups resisted the Bureau of Land Management’s effort to collect more than a million dollars in grazing fees that rancher Cliven Bundy had refused to pay for 20 years of using federal lands. Mack compared the stand of the anti-government groups at the Bundy ranch to Rosa Parks’ resistance to segregation.
An acolyte of “New World Order” alarmist Cleon Skousen, Mack shares his movement’s taste for conspiracy theories. Mack believes that President Obama fabricated his birth certificate and is threatening those who know about it to keep them from coming forward, has speculated that the 1995 Waco siege was a federal government setup to rustle up more ATF funding, and said this year that he had “no doubt” the federal government might stage a false flag attack on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Still in its early days, the Constitutional County Project has the backing of the chairman of the Navajo County GOP and the Republican chairmen of Maricopa and Pinal counties, as well as the leaders of the Arizona chapters of the John Birch Society and the Tenth Amendment Center. The project had its official launch in October immediately after a "Prepperfest" in Scottsdale.
Mack said in his speech in Olympia that moving with him to Navajo County would be a perfect project for retirees. But for those who still need employment, the Constitutional County Project’s Facebook page is advertising job openings in the county for those who are looking to move.
As Brian has written about quite a bit, there is some strifein the ranksof birthers over the potential presidential candidacy of Texas senator and Tea Party hero Ted Cruz.
Birthers believe (falsely) that President Obama was born overseas to one parent who was an American citizen and one who was not, and so, they claim, is not a “natural born citizen” eligible for the presidency. But many prominent birthers have made clear that they would be absolutely fine with the presidential candidacy of Cruz, who was actually born overseas to one parent who was an American citizen and one who was not.
Most mainstream legal observers hold that Cruz is still eligible to be president — just as Obama would have been even if he had concocted an elaborate scheme to lie about his place of birth — but the case highlights the hypocricy of the anti-Obama birther movement.
One prominent birther has at least decided to stay consistent. Richard Mack, a former Arizona sheriff who now heads the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association — a guild of officers who believe the county sheriff has the authority to defy and arrest federal officials — said in a recent Blog Talk Radio interview that he believes Cruz is ineligible for the presidency.
In response to a caller who argued that the Constitution bars the Canadian-born Cruz from being president, Mack said, “That is correct, I try to say that to a lot of people. Ted Cruz cannot run for president of the United States.”
“I like Ted, I’ve met him several times and he’s kind of a friend of mine, but he can’t run for president,” he continued.
Earlier in the program, Mack discussed the president’s birth certificate, saying that it was “real easy to determine that that was a fake and a fraud,” and alleged that the people “who helped fabricate all of these things and people who know about” aren’t coming forward because they’re “all fearing for their lives.”
“I know the person who has done this, they’re all fearing for their lives, obviously, but it’s time to come forward,” he pleaded. “The more light you shed on this, the less likely you are to be killed or hurt or put away.”
Arizona sheriff and right-wing political activist Richard Mack said last month that he had “no doubt” the Obama administration might stage a “false flag” attack on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in an effort to “get us more under their control.”
He then went on to explain that “corrupt regimes” like Hitler’s have staged such attacks “and right now, I will say we have the most corrupt regime in American history.”
Mack added that the health care crisis addressed by the Affordable Care Act was, in fact, a “problem that didn’t exist” and a false flag allowing the president to “destroy liberty.”
“So they are willing to blatantly destroy liberty, blatantly destroy our Constitution, and so then we’re supposed to wonder if they would do a false flag attack to get us further, more under their control? No, I do not doubt that they would do such a thing,” he concluded
The protests in Ferguson, Missouri, this month presented a dilemma for the anti-government Right. The activists and elected officials who spent the spring fawning over lawless Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s stand against what they saw as an overbearing federal government changed their tune or just went silent when a police force armed with military weapons cracked down on mostly peaceful protesters in Ferguson.
We will NOT obey any order to blockade American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.
We will NOT obey any orders to confiscate the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies.
We will NOT obey any orders which infringe on the right of the people to free speech, to peaceably assemble, and to petition their government for a redress of grievances.
As Weinstein notes, the Missouri chapter of the Oath Keepers has sent a “letter of warning” to Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon in opposition to police tactics against the protesters. But the Oath Keepers’ opposition seems to be based less on principle than on strategy — in a separate blog post, the national group objects to the police failure to stop looting while it took aim at peaceful protesters. The blog post also notes that Oath Keepers on the scene in Ferguson were “talking consensus for the benefit of the police and the people equally.” This role of self-appointed mediator is in sharp contrast to the group’s show of force at the Bundy ranch.
Ferguson has exposed some common ground between the anti-government Right and mainstream civil liberties groups — for instance, both the extreme right-wing Gun Owners of America and the American Civil Liberties Union have signed on to a plan to end the program that sends discount military equipment to local police departments.
Sheriff Richard Mack, the founder of a group that believes that county sheriffs are the highest law enforcement officers in the land, has also been strangely silent on Ferguson, despite having spent time rallying against the federal government at the Bundy ranch with armed militia groups that he compared to Rosa Parks.
Yes, the relative silence of the anti-government Right on Ferguson is inconsistent, but so is their view of the Ferguson protests: In the view of many right-wing activists, the protesters in Ferguson weren’t standing up to the government, they were themselves tools of the government.
There is aschoolofthought among right-wing commentators that the protests in Ferguson were orchestrated — or at the very least encouraged — by Attorney General Eric Holder and the Obama administration in order to stir up racial resentments and increase Democratic chances in the 2014 midterm elections.
The Ferguson protests exposed a key fault line in the anti-government "Patriot" movement: they are against government overreach, but their definition of what counts as government never seems to be quite clear.
Stephen Lemons at the Phoenix New Times has come across an intriguing Facebook invitation for an event tomorrow in Scottsdale, featuring nullificationist sheriff Richard Mack, anti-government rancher Cliven Bundy’s son Ammon….and Arizona’s current attorney general, Tom Horne.
Horne’s staff has confirmed to the New Times that the attorney general will be attending the “Liberty on Tap” event, so we can move on to questioning why Arizona’s top law enforcement officer will be attending an event that appears to promote the radical belief that the county sheriff is the highest law enforcement officer in the nation and has the power to ignore federal laws that he thinks are unconstitutional and to arrest federal law enforcement officers.
The invitation for the event notes that Horne will “talk on the concept of the Constitutional County Project.” This project seems to be a small effort to get nullificationists to take over one county in each state to run a system that ignores federal and state laws that they deem to be unconstitutional. The project is honing in on Navajo County, Arizona, which they hope to turn into “a self-sustainable county dedicated to advancing the proper role of Constitutional government, free market principles, and the defense of ‘life, liberty, and property.’”
In a radio interview in June, Mack discussed the Constitutional County Project, whose leaders he said he had met with, saying, "we have got to be able to sacrifice and move to where we can be united and take over a county politically."
Mack was a prominent presence at the Bundy ranch during the militia standoff with the Bureau of Land Management in April and is a regular at anti-government events. He leads the Constitutional Sheriff and Peace Officers Association, which promotes the idea of the sheriffs as the supreme law enforcement officers.
Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt is a big fan of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, a group of Tenther county sheriffs who have declared that they answer directly to the Constitution (or their interpretation of it), rather than to the federal government. Unsurprisingly, the organization and the movement it represents have grown substantially during the presidency of Barack Obama.
Pratt often praises the Constitutional Sheriffs in his speeches, and was a guest of honor at their annual convention last week, where he presented the “High Noon Award” to the Milwaukee County Sheriff who took out an ad urging people to arm themselves rather than calling 911. Pratt also presented the “Nullifier of the Year” award to Sheriff Denny Peyman of Jackson County, Kentucky, who has announced that he will not enforce federal gun laws in his county, warning that there would be a “bloodbath in our community when they come in to take guns.”
Pratt himself summed up the gist of the Constitutional Sheriffs movement when he told WND:
There is a misconception in our time that the court somehow is the arbiter of what is constitutional; that’s not true! Every official that raises their right hand and says they’re going to adhere to the constitution, seek to protect it to the best of their ability, ‘so help me God’ – that’s something that they’re all obligated to do.
The nullification movement is growing in popularity in conservative state legislatures – for instance, Kansas has passed a law declaring that "Any act, law, treaty, order, rule or regulation of the government of the United States which violates the second amendment to the constitution of the United States is null, void and unenforceable in the state of Kansas."
The nullification concept dates back to South Carolina Sen. John C. Calhoun, who argued that if the federal government did not allow a southern states to “nullify” an 1828 tariff act, they would be within their rights to secede from the Union. Historian Cody Carlson explains, “The unspoken fear, of course, was that if the federal government could levy a tariff to profoundly alter the economy of the South, was the institution of slavery safe from federal interference? Could not the North, in the guise of instituting new economic policies, virtually prohibit slavery?”
David Gans of the Constitutional Accountability Center, via Steve Benen, explains why nullification has long been discredited:
Nullification was a 19th century theory, identified most closely with South Carolina Senator John C. Calhoun, based on the notion that the states created the Constitution and retained the power to determine whether the federal government complied with limitations on its power. This theory has been universally rejected throughout the course of American history by the courts as inconsistent with the Constitution. As the Constitution's preamble makes clear, 'We the People,' not the states, 'ordain[ed] and establish[ed] th[e] Constitution.'
The Constitution's Supremacy Clause provides that federal law is the 'supreme Law of the Land,' and Article III of the Constitution gives to the federal judiciary the power to decide "all cases arising under the Constitution.' States, thus, cannot simply declare that the acts of the federal government are null and void. But, despite the rock-solid arguments against nullification, state governments continue to press the idea that they have the power to treat certain federal laws as null and void. These arguments, while not new, have no basis in the Constitution."