Paul de Armond and I started Public Good Project in 1994 to expose the fascist Wise Use Movement at that time running amok in Washington state. Public Good investigations into the Wise Use anti-environmentalist movement, right-wing paramilitary organizing, anti-Indian activities, and public disclosure law violations, revealed ties between land speculators and right-wing paramilitary organizing. In the mid-1990s, Public Good organized the first national research conference on right-wing paramilitary activities, established a computer network for investigative researchers, and wrote a seminal report on the ties between militias, property rights groups and white supremacists.
Public Good’s 1995 report Wise Use in Northern Puget Sound detailed the history of the rise of Wise Use stealth politics, and provides extensive information on the genesis of the political mainstreaming of Wise Use and its Christian Patriot movement allies in the Puget Sound region. This Public Good investigation into far-right terrorism was featured in front page stories detailing the collaboration of law enforcement with far-right militants and white supremacists. Public Good later helped organize and promote the national anti-hate crime drive, “Not In Our Town.”
Public Good investigations into the Washington State Militia–a front group for anti-government white supremacists–led to federal indictments on conspiracy, firearms and explosives charges.
In December 2005, Public Good co-sponsored On the Border, a national human rights conference to explore patterns of violence associated with hate campaigns, and to discuss the recurrence of vigilantes as a political pressure group.
Public Good was the first source quoted in world media to accurately assign responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombing to domestic terrorists. In June 1995, Public Good published The Anti-Democratic Movement in America: More than Militias, a report which outlined the historical roots of property rights and anti-government movements. This report was cited by Loretta Ross of the Center for Democratic Renewal in testimony before a congressional panel investigating right-wing terrorism in the United States.
When Melissa Farley of Prostitution Research and Education (PRE) was doing research in 2006 on domestic and international trafficking in the United States, the Public Good Project network assisted with her report to the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Office. In 2008, we helped PRE defeat an organized crime attempt to legalize prostitution, joining Mayor Newsom in his strong stand against sex-trafficking. As a co-sponsor of the July 2010 international protest against facilitating online trafficking of women and children, Public Good helped PRE in holding Craigslist accountable, which led to the removal of adult services from its website.
When Paul retired as Public Good Project research director in 2007 due to declining health, we began looking at how to mentor a new generation in the skills we knew they would need to carry on as we ourselves did fewer investigations and more teaching. Since Paul retired, he remained an advisor, and indeed three of our most noteworthy interventions and consults — two in California and one in Washington — happened since then.
As Paul’s partner at Public Good for eighteen years, I know he would have been very pleased with the kind and thoughtful remarks of his peers and colleagues on his untimely passing, but I also know the last thing he would have wanted is for those of us who remain to discontinue doing what needs to be done, just because he is no longer with us. Continuity and mentoring were, and are, top priorities for us, and passing on the lessons we’ve learned are part of why we maintain online archives of our special reports.
Defending democracy from bigotry, corruption, fraud and fascism requires monitoring and exposure. Citizen journalists who take up this thankless task deserve our recognition and respect.
Paul challenged us to collaboratively research a growing threat against democracy, thereby creating a space for collaboration that is still modeled today. With the convergence of Wise Use and the Tea Party, the Salish Sea region could once again be thrown into turmoil; preventing a repeat of the 1990s requires citizen journalists and good government groups like League of Women Voters working together against fascism and intolerance, and holding accountable local media like KGMI Radio that serve as platforms for promoting racism and bigotry.
As our colleague Sheila O’Donnell remarked, “There is no justice, just us.”