Political Toolbox

In general, the Patriot movement seems to operate with an “inside/outside” strategy: some parts of the movement work inside of established government structures to change them, while at the same time other parts work outside the system to undermine it. The most dangerous elements of their political toolbox involve an obsession with armed political action and threatening their political opponents.

Armed Politics

The establishment of armed camps, when movement supporters are in conflict with the federal government, is the most visible tactic. However, movement activists have also brandished weapons at many other political events which otherwise would be familiar to the political mainstream.

The movement holds armed marches, including many “open carry” marches to publicly exercise their legal rights to brandish firearms in public. (In the movement’s jargon these are called “2A” events, after the Second Amendment of the Constitution.) As already mentioned, in July 2015, the Oath Keepers called for their armed followers to “guard” military recruiting stations around the country, including several in Oregon. The Oath Keepers also had people in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 and 2015. They also offered to guard Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis; she refused the offer, however. The Patriot movement’s armed demonstrations outside mosques have become more frequent, and the movement is involved with vigilante border patrols, especially in Arizona.

Threats & Intimidation

The heavily armed Patriot movement is well-known for threatening its opponents. This was also a feature of the Posse Comitatus and militia movements. Oregonians have been flooded with threats from movement members; targets include Rural Organizing Project staff and board, environmentalists, the Harney County sheriff and his family, other law enforcement officials, federal employees, a Native American leader, Oregon legislators that support gun laws, and the Oregon Governor.

The threats come in the context of wild calls for armed resistance against looming tyranny. A combination of accessible video recording on smart phones, services like YouTube and Facebook that can host video, and distribution via social media helps facilitate these violent calls, which often originate from grassroots activists who are under less pressure than top leaders to constrain their rhetoric. One example is a video of a man with an assault rifle—filmed at night and shared over 2,000 times on Facebook—who calls President Obama a Nazi and a traitor, and says, “I openly advocate armed, deadly and, lethal force against any future national gun confiscation.”(1)James J Stachowiak, Facebook post, October 7, 2015, www.facebook.com/freedomfighterradio.net/videos/428643073992803 (private settings), screenshot in possession of author. Also online at: “A warning to all politicians We the People will not disarm,” YouTube video, 15:36, posted by “Johnny Infidel,“ July 22, 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=taKvec7eEo8

These recent threats follow a broader trend of violent threats and acts against employees of federal agencies which handle public lands in the West, including the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service. They average 214 incidents a year across agencies, with 359 incidents reported in 2015 alone.(2)Gloria Flora, “Former Forest Supervisor: Why I Resigned Over a Public Land Dispute,” Time, January 13, 2016, http://time.com/4172653/oregon-standoff-public-lands; “Rising Tide of Violence,” Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, www.peer.org/campaigns/whistleblowers-scientists/violence-vs.-employees/rising-tide-of-violence.html. The High Country News series “Defuse the West”—based on records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act—includes many examples of the violent attacks against federal employees. They include two instances of shots being firing at Forest Service employees. Several other documented incidents occurred in Oregon.(3)Ray Ring and Marshall Swearingen, “Defuse the West,” High Country News, October 7, 2014, www.hcn.org/issues/46.18/defuse-the-west; Ray Ring and Marshall Swearingen, “Reports from the frontlines,” High Country News, October 27, 2014, www.hcn.org/issues/46.18/reports-from-the-front-lines

The Rural Organizing Project’s Co-Director Jessica Campbell was the focus of a multiple-month campaign of threats and harassment from the movement. After she joined community members at a Josephine County press conference denouncing the Patriot movement’s armed camps around Sugar Pine Mine in spring 2015, and then facilitated a community meeting to respond to a militia recruitment flyer dropped in Eugene in summer 2015, Patriot activists distributed her home address in their political circles. She was tailed while driving her car on multiple occasions, stalked in restaurants and coffee shops, and people came to her house in the middle of the night. Patriot movement activists have threatened to attempt to gain entry and/or to disrupt internal Rural Organizing Project meetings on multiple occasions.(4)Discussions with Rural Organizing Project staff in 2015 and 2016. See also “Stand with ROP against threats and intimidation,” Rural Organizing Project, December 15, 2015, www.rop.org/stand-with-rop-against-threats-and-intimidation; “Temperatures are Rising,” August 11, 2016, Rural Organizing Project, www.rop.org/temperatures-are-rising.

Burns Paiute tribal chair Charlotte Roderique said she was texted, emailed, and mailed threats during the Malheur occupation. “If it has a Colorado prefix,” she said, “I can be sure it’s one of the militia people here on their cell phone.”(5)Jacqueline Keeler, “‘It’s So Disgusting’ Malheur Militia Dug Latrine Trenches Among Sacred Artifacts,” Indian Country Today Media Network, February 17, 2016, http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/02/17/its-so-disgusting-malheur-militia-dug-latrine-trenches-among-sacred-artifacts-163454.

In May 2014, before the Sugar Pine Mine occupation, local miners threatened members of an Oregon environmental group. They had clashed over a proposed new law which would ban suction dredge mining. “Wanted” posters with pictures of the environmental group’s employees—at least one included a home address—were put up at a gold show and in a store in Applegate Valley, and also circulated online. Kerby Jackson, an apparent Sovereign Citizen who at the time was the spokesperson for the mining district which included Sugar Pine Mine, also circulated the posters on Facebook.(6)Jackson was the recorder for the Galice Mining District (which Sugar Pine Mine is in) and later headed the Jefferson Mining District—although he has now stepped down. Court documents show that Jackson has signed his name using telltale Sovereign Citizen markings. See John Darling, “KS Wild employee becomes target of online threats,” Mail Tribune (Medford, OR), March 16, 2014, mailtribune.com/article/20140316/NEWS/403160328; Jim Kouri, “Josephine County Oath Keepers and Militias React to Obama’s BLM ‘Claim Jumpers’,” News With Views, April 20, 2015, www.newswithviews.com/NWV-News/news438.htm; “News,” Jefferson Mining District, http://ooglah.net/News.html; District Court of the U.S, District of Eugene “Galice Mining District,” DeathAndTaxes.com, filed April 23, 2013, http://deathandtaxes.com/galicemining1.pdf

At the start of the Sugar Pine Mine armed camps, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employees were apparently flooded with threats, prompting one of the mine’s co-owners, Rick Barclay, to make a public call to “Please stop calling the BLM and threatening their personnel.” But it apparently was so bad that, “One BLM staffer, who received anonymous email threats and believes he was followed home once, temporarily moved his family out of their home.”(7)Thomas Moriarty, “Sugar Pine Mine co-owner: ‘Please stop calling the BLM and threatening their personnel’,” Mail Tribune (Medford, OR), April 15 (updated April 16), 2015, www.mailtribune.com/article/20150415/NEWS/150419667; Tay Wiles, “Sugar Pine Mine, the other standoff,” High Country News, February 2, 2016, www.hcn.org/issues/48.2/showdown-at-sugar-pine-mine

The threats reached their high point with the Malheur occupation. Threats against the Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward started in November 2015, after he met with some future Malheur occupiers and refused their request to protect the Hammond family from being taken to prison by federal authorities. Patriot movement activists conducted surveillance on police and their families, as well as refugee employees, and harassed them at their homes. Ward received death threats over email. Additionally, the Guardian reported that, “his wife had left town for her safety after strangers followed her home one night and someone slit her car tire. He said he had received anonymous letters with numerous misspellings that included death threats. Worse still, the sheriff said, strangers had come to town to harass his elderly parents.”(8)Dave Ward, “Sheriff’s Report—Dave Ward OR Standoff: Part II,” Spokane Talks Online, podcast audio, www.spokanetalksonline.com/sheriffs-report-dave-ward-or-standoff-part-ii. See around 3:00 and 9:00; John M. Glionna, “Oregon sheriff has received numerous death threats since militia takeover,” Guardian, January 7, 2016, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jan/07/oregon-residents-say-its-time-for-the-militia-to-pack-it-up-and-go

The situation was especially dire for the 16 employees of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. On December 30, 2015, refuge workers were told not to come to work “until further notice.” Because of threats, the refuge manager left Burns under police escort shortly after the occupation began; soon the others were told to leave town, as well. The situation intensified when the occupiers broke into the computer files at the refuge, accessing employees’ personal information.(9)Les Zaitz, “Oregon standoff: Refuge workers had ‘a sense’ about visitors before takeover,” Oregonian/OregonLive, March 2, 2016, www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/03/oregon_standoff_refuge_workers.html; Conrad Wilson, “Refuge Employees Break Silence on Armed Occupation,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, January 20, 2016, www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/refuge-employees-break-their-silence-on-armed-occupation; Amanda Peacher, “Malheur Refuge Manager: ‘It’s 1 Big Mess’,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, March 2, 2016, http://www.opb.org/news/article/malheur-refuge-manager-its-one-big-mess-/. Additionally, Malheur was not the only refuge threatened; 13 other wildlife refuges reported vandalism or threatening behavior during the period of the occupation.(10)Les Zaitz, “Oregon standoff: Incidents reported at 13 other refuges during Oregon occupation,” Oregonian/OregonLive, April 5, 2016, www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/04/oregon_standoff_incidents_repo.html#incart_river_home

A heavily armed man stands in a snowy landscape, holding an automatic rifle
Many were armed at the occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016. (Photo: Shawn Records)

Ten days into the occupation, more than a dozen Burns residents filed police reports about harassment, including being followed in their vehicles. They included a pastor, the wife of a local police officer, high school students, and Bureau of Land Management employees and their families.(11)Les Zaitz, “‘Every gun in house is loaded — scare tactics rattle residents near Oregon occupation,” Oregonian/OregonLive, January 12, 2016, www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/01/residents_near_oregon_occupati.html Threats deluged Oregon Governor Kate Brown—as well as law enforcement—after the death of LaVoy Finicum, and then again when officials announced the details of his killing. These included death threats against the governor, state police, and FBI agents, and an Oregon state trooper’s house was vandalized.(12)Ryan Haas, “LaVoy Finicum Supporters Threatened To Burn Qurans, Kill Police And Oregon Governor,” Oregon Public Broadcasting, March 25, 2016, www.opb.org/news/series/burns-oregon-standoff-bundy-militia-news-updates/finicum-supporters-threaten-to-kill-cops-because-they-are-cops; Les Zaitz, “Threats continue against troopers, governor, others after LaVoy Finicum Shooting,” Oregonian/OregonLive, March 25, 2016, www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/03/threats_continue_against_troop.html The Department of Homeland Security went so far as to issue a national advisory to “law enforcement and security personnel” after Finicum was killed, warning of potential retaliatory attacks.(13)U.S Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation, “Joint Intelligence Bulletin: Law Enforcement Arrests Domestic Extremists for Illegal Occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge,” Public Intelligence, January 29, 2016, https://info.publicintelligence.net/DHS-FBI-OregonOccupation.pdf The threats against Governor Brown, which included but are not limited to the those related to the Malheur occupation, have forced her office to be secretive about her movements, and to beef up her security detail.(14)Dana Tims, “Threats spark heightened security for Gov. Kate Brown,” Oregonian/OregonLive, July 29, 2016, www.oregonlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/07/post_181.html.

Dual Power

The Patriot movement deploys a variety of structures which mimic the role of government and/or which take its place. These include courts and judges, local government structures, border patrols, and emergency services. They all are aimed at dislodging the governmental authority the movement thinks is illegitimate, and perhaps even to create institutions that will be in operation when it succeeds in dismantling federal power. They challenge the structures created out of the U.S. Constitution in the name of defending the Constitution.

Fake Courts and Judges

Often, threats against law enforcement and judges come from Sovereign Citizens, who do not acknowledge most legal authority. Sovereign Citizens are known to harass judges, sheriffs, and other officials with false liens, and in a number of cases have killed law enforcement in shootouts. Another tactic involves establishing their own, parallel legal system of citizens’ juries and self-appointed judges. These kangaroo courts can “try” law enforcement, actual judges, government employees, or others who are claimed to be acting “unconstitutionally.” A conviction by one of their courts can be threatening given the movement’s violence. During the Malheur occupation at least two fake grand juries were initiated.

These fake courts—as well as other tactics that mimic legal filings and governmental structures, such as Sovereign Citizen legal filings and Committees of Safety—frequently perplex observers. It is not clear how much the participants themselves believe in them. They may feel they are engaged in clever hacks exploiting backdoors in the normal legal structures. They may be consciously creating a reality on the ground, with the hope that when enough people support it, it will achieve legitimacy or legality. Or they may be intentionally misleading people, hoping to con them into joining the movement with false promises. Or it may be some combination of all three.(15)Thanks to Kristian Williams for this observation.

Committees of Safety

Since the conflict in Harney County, the idea of the Committee of Safety has suddenly gained traction. At a December 15, 2015 public meeting in Burns, Ammon Bundy and Ryan Payne helped establish the Harney County Committee of Safety. Like the movement’s fake courts and militias, the Committee of Safety mimics a real governmental form, even though it is vague and loosely defined.

Payne described the Committee as an “executive branch” which is “formed directly from the people, in the same manner that you elect county commissioners, the sheriff, you elect members to the Committee of Safety.”(16)A link to the PowerPoint that Payne used is available online; see Gary Hunt, “Burns Chronicles No 4—Stand Up; Stand Down,” Outpost of Freedom, February 7, 2016, http://outpost-of-freedom.com/blog/?p=1338. See also “Harney County Town Hall #2 Dec 15, 2015,” YouTube video, 1:16:35, posted by “Crooked River Currents View,” December 17, 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF2c6UYRdE0&feature=youtu.be; around 53:00. He allied it to the committees formed by rebellious colonists in the period leading up to the American Revolution—while British rule was still in place—and pointedly said that “from these Committees, greater government structures can be formed.” He also said they had (and, by implication, still have) the power to imprison a governor, force judges to resign, and call a Congress of the States.(17)Ibid, around 23:00. They are also useful in a natural disaster situation, or if a “foreign country or the UN were to invade the United States.”(18)Ibid, around 28:40.

During the December 2015 meeting, Ammon Bundy was more concerned with the Committee’s immediate utility. There appears to be a series of steps Patriot movement activists take to give these structures legitimacy, in their eyes. The first was to file a redress of grievance, present it to the (real) sheriff, then form a Committee—which could “call in the militia”—and set up a common law grand jury, before making arrests.(19)JJ MacNab says these are the steps that Michael Emry suggested to Ammon Bundy in order to “avoid a civil war.” See JJ MacNab, Twitter post, June 27, 2016, 10:13 a.m., https://twitter.com/jjmacnab/status/747477890728525825. Ammon Bundy said the Committee is an elected local body that “is in charge of those that will come in and assist from across the country in defending the rights of this people and enforcing the rights of this Constitution. And I’m not going to dance around what we’re talking about, we’re talking about removing these unconstitutional agencies from Harney County. And freeing the people back up to go ranching, logging, or whatever else.”(20)“Harney County Town Hall #2 Dec 15, 2015,” YouTube video, 1:16:35, posted by “Crooked River Currents View,” December 17, 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF2c6UYRdE0&feature=youtu.be; around 38:00. Payne also says the Committee can challenge the Constitutional right of federal courts to sentence the Hammonds by establishing an “evidentiary review board,” and that,

the Committee of Safety, as the executive, can call forth people to defend this county form any foreign incursion. So you can empower yourselves to order to defend against any retribution which is taken against yourselves or the Hammonds, preliminarily. And what that means is to provide a sanctuary for the Hammonds…and for yourselves as you go about this process of an evidentiary review board and deciding to free yourselves.(21)Ibid, around 1:07.

These statements show that it was Bundy and Payne’s clear intention to set up a  dual power structure: a community-based government vested with authority over judicial and military matters

It is unclear what powers the Committee itself thought it possessed either before or after the occupation.(22)The Harney County Committee of Safety did not answer email inquiries regarding this. Josephine Oath Keeper Joseph Rice has forwarded a different vision of the Committees; he has said that they are quasi-governmental bodies, like school boards or fire districts, serving as a mediator between individual citizens and county governments. Like these structures, he believes they can also invoke coordination, which to him means the federal government would have to agree with their land use wishes.(23)Joseph Rice, telephone interview with author, July 17, 2016. Rice said: “The Committee of Safety doesn’t set up dual power. What the Committee of Safety does is it establishes a group that the government must interface and talk with. A Committee of Safety is no different than a mining district or a school district. They hold the same authority. But they’re not a dual power structure. You wouldn’t say the school board was a dual power structure within Josephine County. You wouldn’t say that the mining districts, which we have three or four in Josephine County, were dual power structures. They’re just individual entities that coordinate and their mandate. Same thing with a fire district. It gives an avenue to coordinate with a government authority or entity, as you will, have your voice heard.”

Ammon Bundy stands in a restaurant in front of a large white board, addressing a crowd of seated listeners.
During the Malheur occupation, Ammon Bundy tried to spread his messages to loccal ranchers during a meeting in Crane, Oregon. (Photo: Peter Walker)

During the Malheur occupation, the one job that was actually floated by the Harney County Committee of Safety was to research the deeds of those who owned the land right before it was made into the refuge (some occupiers wanted these families to resume ownership). The Malheur occupiers were on the way to Grant County to help set up another Committee there, when they were arrested. Idaho’s Koontai County Committee of Safety was formed in February 2016, and was promoted by Sovereign Citizen Lee Arthur Rice II, who had gone to the Malheur occupation. More recently, the National Liberty Alliance, a Sovereign Citizen-like organization, has two Oregon organizers setting up Committees; as of August 2016, meetings for one are being held in Cave Junction, in southern Josephine County.(24)Les Zaitz, “Oregon standoff: Grant County sheriff urges release of Hammonds,” Oregonian/OregonLive, January 24 (updated February 22), 2016, www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/01/post_2.html; “Public Announcement by the Kootenai County Committee of Safety,” Redoubt News, http://redoubtnews.com/event/kootenai-county-committee-safety; “Committee of Safety Registry,” National Liberty Alliance, www.nationallibertyalliance.org/committee-safety-registry; “Neighborhood Watch Leadership/Captains Meeting—Fire Season / form Committee Of Safety,” event on June 13, 2016, Nextdoor, https://nextdoor.com/events/or/cave-junction/neighborhood-watch-leadershipcaptains-meeting-fire-season-form-committee-of-safety-683181?i=xxxqpstkkwjqzsxemfyf&utm_campaign=events&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=u-web.

Border Patrols

The Patriot movement is closely tied with vigilante border patrols, especially in Arizona. These patrols have been around for decades. For example, in 1977, then-Klan leader David Duke held one in southern California.(25)“Ku Klux Klan Plans Border Patrol To Help Fight Illegal Alien Problem,” New York Times, originally published October 18, 1977, www.nytimes.com/1977/10/18/archives/ku-klux-klan-plans-border-patrol-to-help-fight-illegal-alien.html. However the Minuteman Project, founded in 2004, revitalized the patrols. Today there are many independent vigilante border patrols; in the Phoenix area they are part of a loosely organized armed Hard Right milieu that mixes together armed carry marches, Islamophobic and anti-immigrant organizing, and vigilante border patrols. Several of the Malheur occupiers came from this scene, including Jon Ritzheimer, Blaine Cooper, and Joe O’Shaughnessy.(26)On O’Shaughnessy, see David Neiwart, “Border Militiamen Complicate An Already Volatile Situation Along The Border,” Southern Poverty Law Center, September 3, 2014, www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2014/09/03/border-militiamen-complicate-already-volatile-situation-along-border; on Ritzheimer, see Dennis Wagner, “Arizona militia figure Ritzheimer knew he faced arrest,” AZ Central, January 27, 2016, www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/peoria/breaking/2016/01/27/arizona-militia-figure-knew-he-faced-arrest/79414576; on Blaine Cooper, see Travis Gettys, “‘This is not Bundy Ranch’: Oregon miners beg militia nuts to stop threatening federal agents,” Raw Story, April 17, 2015, www.rawstory.com/2015/04/this-is-not-bundy-ranch-oregon-miners-beg-militia-nuts-to-stop-threatening-federal-agents.

Emergency Services

In rural Oregon, some areas lack local emergency services. In their place, Patriot movement activists have offered their own militias to do this service, and/or have helped militarize community watch groups—providing an entry point into the movement’s political orbit.
In Josephine County, former Sheriff Gil Gilbertson (now a member of the Oath Keepers) cultivated community watches to take the place of sheriff’s deputies, as the county did not provide funding for 24-hour dispatch.

The Oath Keepers also encourage it members to form Community Preparedness Teams; these are volunteer disaster response teams which are instructed to include armed members. This, in particular, is a popular outreach tactic. The Oath Keepers mobilize people’s natural desires to engage in volunteer mutual aid in rural areas that lack services, and harness them to their political project. They also see it as part of the political image they want to project. One Idaho Oath Keeper, for example, complained that media did not report on their support for firefighters, running security for churches, and educational programs on canning, sustainable living, and wilderness survival.(27)Harrison Berry, “Paradise Lost: Parsing the Patriot Movement,” Boise Weekly, October 7, 2015, www.boiseweekly.com/boise/paradise-lost/Content?oid=3616577.

Political Education

The Patriot movement offers an array of courses, training, videos, and websites which indoctrinate movement members into their ideology. The Oath Keepers in particular seem to be structured in a classical vanguard model utilized by many Communist parties. They have a secretive leadership core (in Communist parlance, a central committee), who are driven by a particular ideological perspective. They disseminate their theoretical positions using media under their direct control (the Oath Keepers website), and they attempt to use high-profile issues to gain attention and recruits for their organization—for example by trying to recruit from Occupy Wall Street and guarding stores in Ferguson.

They stress ideological training, and the Oath Keepers’ website even has its own “school” one can attend. The Sovereign Citizen movement, as well, is based on many educational videos, readings, and courses. Patriot movement activists famously hand out “Pocket Constitutions”; they will then point out passages and explain how the text supports their specific political position. The movement also has many travelling ideological speakers. During and after the Malheur occupation, may of them traveled to Burns, Prineville, and other Oregon small towns. Speakers included lawyer and author KrisAnne Hall, former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack (an Oath Keeper who also helped found the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association), and broadcaster Gavin Seim.

Influencing Elected Officials

KrisAnne Hall is the best-known Patriot movement propagandist about the movement’s views on the Constitution. She spoke in Burns, Oregon during the occupation.
KrisAnne Hall is the best-known Patriot movement propagandist about the movement’s views on the Constitution. She spoke in Burns, Oregon during the occupation.

Despite the Patriot movement’s threatening and oppositional tactics, many issues that traditionally were the province of the Hard Right are now found in the mainstream of the Republican Party. However, it can be difficult to determine where the Patriot movement has exerted an influence. One Newsweek article during the summer of 2015 showed that state and national Republican officials had tapped into conspiracy theories like Agenda 21 and Operation Jade Helm, and made attempts at nullification of gun laws, the National Security Agency, Common Core, environmental standards, drug laws, and tracking license plates.(28)Nina Burleigh, “How Timothy McVeigh’s Ideals Entered the Mainstream,” Newsweek, June 1, 2015, www.newsweek.com/2015/06/12/extremist-ideas-take-hold-republican-party-337913.html.

However, a number of direct links are visible. Texas Senator Ted Cruz appeared in front of Oath Keepers flags at a Tea Party rally at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. during the October 2013 budget crisis.(29)Lacey Donohue, “Ted Cruz & Co. Rally in DC, Tell Obama to ‘Put the Quran Down’,” Gawker, October 13, 2013, http://gawker.com/that-oath-keepers-thing-looks-out-right-evil-it-has-a-1444740659. He made guardedly sympathetic comments about the Malheur occupation, and during the 2016 Nevada Republican presidential primary ran a TV ad nodding to the occupation and calling for lands to be taken out of federal hands.(30)Matt Lee-Ashley, “Ted Cruz Vows To Sell Off or Give Away Nevada’s Public Lands,” Climate Progress, February 19, 2016, http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/02/19/3751233/ted-cruz-public-lands-ad Cruz has also praised the Gun Owners of America (GOA), whose founder Larry Pratt was involved in the inception of the militia movement and has worked openly with White separatists; he continues to be involved with the Patriot movement today.(31)Miranda Blue, “Ted Cruz Boasts Of Endorsement From Radical Gun Group Submitted,” Right Wing Watch, September 17, 2015, www.rightwingwatch.org/content/ted-cruz-boasts-endorsement-radical-gun-group

Ahead of the Nevada Republican presidential primary, Trump said that “faceless, nameless bureaucrats” were part of the “draconian rule of the BLM (Bureau of Land Management)” that is “damaging the economy, lowering the standard of living and inhibiting natural economic growth.” However, elsewhere Trump said public lands should remain in federal hands.(32)Donald J. Trump, “Trump: Nevada, US need a president who obeys rule of law,” Reno Gazette-Journal, January 28, 2016, www.rgj.com/story/opinion/voices/2016/01/07/trump-nevada-us-need-president-who-obeys-rule-law/78422530; “Q&A: Donald Trump on Guns, Hunting, and Conservation,” by Anthony Lieata, Field & Stream, January 21, 2016, www.fieldandstream.com/articles/hunting/2016/01/qa-donald-trump-on-guns-hunting-and-conservation. (The New Hampshire “Veterans for Trump” co-chair, Gerald DeLemus, went to the Malheur occupation, and was later arrested for his participation in the 2014 Bundy Ranch standoff.)(33)Katherine Krueger, Get To Know The Fringe-y Activists Who Made It Onto Trump’s Delegate Lists,” Talking Points Memo, May 13, 2016, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/william-johnson-guy-st-onge-gerald-delemus-trump-delegates.

Meanwhile, in 2013 Maine Governor Paul LePage had multiple meetings with a group of Sovereign Citizens. LePage was apparently entranced by the idea of using their tactics against his political opponents. Allegedly, the Sovereign Citizens suggested that Democratic Party lawmakers could be charged with treason and executed with the help of the county sheriff.(34)Abby Scher, “Paul LePage: Maine’s Embarrassment,” Progressive, October 29, 2014, www.progressive.org/news/2014/10/187901/paul-lepage-maine%E2%80%99s-embarrassment; Mike Tipping, “Why Did Maine’s Governor Conspire With ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Extremists?,” Talking Points Memo, June 30, 2014, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/lepage-maine-sovereign-citizen.

In Oregon’s state capitol, State Representatives Mike Nearman and Bill Post, and State Senator Kim Thatcher spoke on the same podium as the Oath Keepers’ Stewart Rhodes and Three Percenters’ Mike Vanderboegh, in opposition to SB 941, a state bill which requires background checks for private gun sales. On the stage at this “I Will Not Comply” rally on May 30, 2015, Vanderboegh openly called for the state government to be overthrown through a revolutionary uprising. (That same month, Rhodes—while speaking to a crowd that included the Arizona State Senate president—called for Arizona Senator John McCain to be tried for treason and executed.)

The land use issue has gotten the movement the most traction with ties long predating the Malheur occupation. In Montana, John Trochmann, one of the main leaders of the 1990s militia movement, is now involved in a land use group which includes Montana State Senator Jennifer Fielder, who leads the American Lands Council. She replaced Utah State Representative Ken Ivory, who became director of the Koch Brothers-funded Federalism in Action.(35)Brian Maffly, “Utah’s Ken Ivory recruiting ‘leaders’ to launch grass-roots lands-transfer movement,” Salt Lake Tribune, February 3, 2016, www.sltrib.com/news/3495055-155/utahs-ken-ivory-recruiting-leaders-to. In 2014, both Ivory and Fielder discussed land transfer with Texas Senator Ted Cruz.(36)Center for Western Priorities, Going to Extremes: The Anti-government Extremists Behind the Growing Movement to Seize America’s Public Lands, Center for Western Priorities, August 10, 2015 (updated July 2016), http://westernpriorities.org/2015/08/10/going-to-extremes Most recently, just weeks after the Malheur occupation ended, Congressional representatives submitted two bills in committee to transfer federal lands to state hands.(37)Eric Galatas, “Public Land Grabs Move from State to Congress,” Public News Service, February 24, 2016, www.publicnewsservice.org/2016-02-24/public-lands-wilderness/public-land-grabs-move-from-states-to-congress/a50536-1 In March 2016, a bill was introduced in Congress which would strip the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service of law enforcement functions, instead giving block grants to states. The bill designates county law enforcement as one of the agencies which will enforce the laws—a classic Patriot movement position of usurping federal law enforcement.(38)House Committee on Natural Resources: Agriculture, “Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act of 2016, H.R. Rep. 4751, 114th Congress (2015–2016),” Congress.gov, www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/475 The 2016 national Republican Party platform, adopted in July, also advocates land transfer.

Candidates in 2016 elections

As we will see in the next section, many Patriot movement activists and sympathizers ran in the May 2016 GOP primaries in Oregon, and a few will be candidates in the November 2016 general election. After the election, many Patriot movement members entered into the Oregon Republican Party apparatus itself. While having their own people in office will give them greater power—especially if a CSPOA sheriff or other law enforcement officers are in their county—this will create tension with the more radical elements of their movement.