Common Sense About the Richards Militia Controversy

Posted Nov 2, 1996

(c) 1996 by Paul de Armond

Q: What’s at the core of the controversy about state Senate candidate Skip Richards and the militias?

A: The current controversy boiled up when Mr. Richards and the Whatcom County Republican Party issued a press release on Friday October 25 demanding a correction to the Bellingham Herald‘s October 24 profile of Mr. Richards as a candidate for the 40th District Senate seat. According to the press release, the Bellingham Herald made a “false and potentially damaging assertion” when Herald Reporter Scott Ayers wrote Richards had “admitted that militia members have attended meetings of his land use coalition.”

In his public statement, Richards said “I have never met any of those persons who have been associated with militia activity in Whatcom County — or elsewhere. Further, it would be impossible for me to know if any such persons ever attended any of our meetings, since no one has ever come forward and identified themselves a members of militia groups or any similar organizations. We don’t do background checks or other such determinations on people, so we have no way of knowing who belongs to what organization.” The Bellingham Herald ran Richard’s statement verbatim in a “Clarification” box on page A2 of the Saturday, October 26 edition.

On Monday morning, October 28, John Servais (pronounced SIR-VAY) of NorthWest Citizen contacted this writer and requested information that would clarify the truth or falsity of Mr. Richards statement. Later, on Monday evening, Servais challenged this writer’s 1995 report, Wise Use in Northern Puget Sound (copyright 1995 by Whatcom Environmental Council) as not having specific enough detail to determine the truth or falsity of Mr. Richards’ denial.

On Tuesday morning, October 29, this writer issued a detailed factual report on the Public Good Project’s World Wide Web site. This report, “Skip Richards’ Years of Contact with Christian Patriot Militias, http://nwcitizen.com/publicgood/reports/richards.html shows that candidate Richards and CLUE have had a continuous collaboration with Christian Patriot militia organizers which began in early 1994 and continues to the present.

Based on this report, John Servais of NorthWest Citizen issued a press release on Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, October 30, both Servais and Richards were interviewed by both KVOS TV-12 and KGMI radio news. Reportedly, Mr. Richards threatened legal action for libel if knowingly false, malicious and defamatory information regarding his support for Christian Patriot militia organizing was published.

On Halloween morning, October 31, KVOS TV-12 aired a segment in which Richards admitted he had introduced the individuals named in Public Good’s factual report at a CLUE-hosted meeting. Both the Bellingham Herald and KGMI maintained silence on the controversy. Later that day, John Servais issued a press statement to local media and the World Wide Web. Servais’ stated candidate Richards’ new version of events had vindicated the NorthWest Citizen action in calling Richards a liar. Servais amplified his charges by accusing Richards of further mendacity in attempting to cover up and stonewall the facts by intimidating local media into spiking the story.

Since the Public Good factual report was issued, several broadcast and print media in Whatcom and Skagit counties have run the story. In this writer’s opinion, Gene Metrick’s story, “Militia ties haunt campaign,” in the Friday, November 1, Western Front is a concise and accurate account.
Q: Isn’t all this furor over an isolated incident making a mountain out of a mole hill? Now that Mr. Richards has admitted that he may have introduced militia organizers at one meeting, doesn’t that settle the issue?

A: The brief answer is: Mr. Richards’ activities were neither a single incident, nor isolated.

The factual record clearly shows that Richards has a continuous history — dating back to the very first incident of public militia organizing in Whatcom County in March 1994 — of active and substantial collaboration with Christian Patriots and that CLUE served as an organizing base for militia formation in Whatcom County. After Mr. Richards declared his candidacy for the state senate and after the arrest of Washington State Militia members on charges of conspiracy, violating explosives laws and possession of machine guns, he appealed to militia organizer Ben Hinkle and Hinkle’s Populist Party splinter group, Citizens for Liberty, for support in getting elected to office.

Only one month after the Oklahoma City bombing, Richards appeared at the Citizens for Liberty meeting at which Washington State Militia members confronted Sheriff Brandland. At this meeting, Richards clearly acknowledged that he was not ignorant of the Bellingham Herald‘s reporting of Ben Hinkle’s pro-militia activity.

Indeed, at this meeting, Mr. Richards characterized the Herald‘s reporting on Citizens for Liberty in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing as slanderous. Richards and his followers in CLUE have repeatedly used the tactic of characterizing their critics as slanderers and attempting to intimidate both the public and the media with frivolous threats of legal action for libel. Since libel is a criminal act in Washington state, a false and malicious accusation of libel is itself libelous. This poses the interesting question of whether these bullying tactics are themselves a criminal attempt to suppress the Constitutional freedoms of opinion and the press.

Meanwhile, back at the May 19, 1995 Citizens for Liberty meeting, events put the lie to both Richard’s claim of ignorance and his similarly self-serving claim to not have met any of the people involved in militias. At this meeting, John Pitner, Fred Fisher, and Gary Kuehnoel, all currently awaiting trial in federal court on militia-related charges, were present. When Mr. Richards requested that Citizens for Liberty members come and help him with a “set to” with county planning staff, John Pitner stood up and asked Richards to repeat the time and place of the planned confrontation. This exchange occurred only minutes after Pitner had made a veiled death threat against Sheriff Dale Brandland.

As can be seen in Margo Malone’s article in the June 1995 issue of Whatcom Watch, “Citizens for Liberty, Whatcom County’s Angry White Guys with Guns,” there was no doubt in the minds of observers that this meeting involved militia organizers and participants. Furthermore, as reported in an article in the High Country News by former Bellingham writer Dexter Van Zyle, Mr. Richards is an avid reader of the Whatcom Watch. Van Zyle’s article is accompanied by a Bellingham Herald photograph of Richards reading the Whatcom Watch.
Q: You keep using the phrase “Christian Patriot.” What’s wrong with being a Christian or a patriot? Are you anti-Christian?

A: There is nothing wrong with being a Christian or a patriot. I’m personally a Deist and do not acknowledge the divinity of Christ — like many of the founding fathers.

The term “Christian Patriot” is a term of self-identification adopted by many white supremacists to distinguish themselves from the neo-nazi/Klan white supremacists. The term originated with the Christian-Patriot Defense League, one of several racist paramilitary organizations which flourished in the 1960’s. The most widely known Christian Patriot organization was the Posse Comitatus. The current Christian Patriot movement is strongly rooted in the Posse and is the result of “mainstreaming” Posse ideology through groups like the Populist Party, the Liberty Lobby, the John Birch Society, Committee to Restore the Constitution, the Fully Informed Jury Association, Citizens for Liberty, Independence County, Pioneer County, the Wise Use movement, the county supremacy (aka “Catron,” “custom and culture” or “local control”) movement, the anti-gun control movement, the “Rescue” faction of the anti-abortion movement, anti-Indian groups like United Property Owners of Washington (UPOW), right-wing tax resistance and pseudo-legal “common law” court activity. The militias are the armed faction of the Christian Patriot movement.

The “mainstreamed” Patriot movement is comprised of the above-named groups and others. The so-called “militia movement” is another term for the Patriot movement. The Christian Patriots comprise the leadership faction of the larger Patriot movement and not all “Patriot” movement participants embrace the wilder claims of the Christian Patriots, such as the illegitimacy of the federal government, the position of county sheriffs as the highest elected official in legitimate government, or two classes of citizenship. According to Christian Patriots, only White, Christian, Anglo-Saxon, property-owning males are eligible for first-class citizenship. All other citizens have second-class status, which is referred to as “federal” or “14th Amendment” citizenship. Christian Patriots believe that first class “sovereign” citizens are exempt from taxes, licenses, interest payments, and any form of government regulation.
Q: I’ve read the report on Richard’s activities and I don’t see anything that he said which was objectionable.

A: It is not what he said, but rather what he has done, where he has done it and who he has done it with. What is at issue are constructive acts, not evasive and misleading statements.
Q: Mr. Richards has counter-charged that raising questions about his collaboration with the Christian Patriot movement is a last-minute smear attack to discredit him politically.

A: Any credit or discredit is due to Mr. Richards’ actions and he brought this upon himself by his over-reaching press release. The timing of making an issue out of his involvement with militia organizers was entirely Mr. Richards’ choice and responsibility.
Q: Aren’t the charges against Mr. Richards a form of guilt by association?

A: What is at issue is not his association, but rather his constructive acts. I myself have freely associated with militia organizers, Christian Patriots, tax resisters, con artists, liars, cheats and thieves in my role as an investigative journalist. However, unlike Mr. Richards, I have not given or requested aid, comfort and support to or from them. I have also exercised stringent self-imposed standards of due diligence and corrected any errors in my work as soon as I became aware of them.
Q: Mr. Richards says that CLUE always has a disclaimer that they don’t endorse the views of speakers at their meetings.

A: It is a very peculiar organization that hosts meetings and requests support from groups that are both completely unknown and with which there are serious differences of policy. CLUE’s disclaimers are meaningless mendacity and a clear example of misleading “credible deniability.” A more pertinent question would be: is a lying denial a denial or a lie?
Q: What constitutes being a member of a militia?

A: According to all notable Christian Patriot militia leaders, every citizen (see above for Christian Patriot notions of citizenship) not actively serving in the armed forces (the “organized militia”) is a member of the “unorganized militia.” The basis for this claim is a misreading of federal statute 10 USC 311. Thus, according to the militias, Mr. Richards is a militia member, but then so am I and so are you. Christian Patriot scholarship and legal theory is loaded with similar contradictions and paradoxes.
Q: If this is such a big story, why hasn’t it been covered by the local media?

A: This story has been covered extensively for a very considerable period of time. Aspects of it have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Village Voice, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angles Times, The Nation, CovertAction Quarterly, In These Times, The Progressive, Z Magazine, the Everett Herald, the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Bellevue Journal American, the Portland Oregonian, Whatcom Watch, Eastsideweek, the Seattle Weekly, The Stranger, High Country News, the Western Front and even the Bellingham Herald, to name a few. Some stories go back as far as the early 1980’s.

There are two full-length books which cover the connections between Wise Use groups like CLUE and SNOCO PRA and militias: A Force Upon the Plain by Ken Stern and The War Against the Greens by David Helvarg. Mr. Helvarg gave a reading from his book at Village Books last year and Mr. Stern may be coming to Bellingham in the next few months.

The Bellingham Herald and KGMI have not covered the full story, but they aren’t “the media” and they probably will run something once they get their courage screwed up tight enough. The decision to run stories lies with the editors and management of media outlets, not with the reporters and staff.

It would be interesting to see an editorial response from the Herald and KGMI explaining their policy and position on their decision not to run with the story.

 


For more information about this story, see http://nwcitizen.com on the World Wide Web.

For more information about militias, Wise Use, and Christian Patriotism, see http://nwcitizen.com/publicgood

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