Public Good History

Public Good began as a 1993 investigation into stealth politics and political extremism in Whatcom County, Washington. The initial investigation very quickly opened up additional lines of research. The first six months of the initial fact-finding investigation showed that there was a political convergence of business interests, land speculators, right-wing extremists, racists and domestic terrorists who were actively attacking the foundations of our free and open society.

In 1994, Public Good opened investigations into the so-called “Wise Use” anti-environmentalist movement, right-wing paramilitary organizing, anti-Indian activities, public disclosure law violations by “Wise Use” groups, and the ties between right-wing paramilitary organizing and domestic terrorism.

During 1994, Public Good filed information with the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission on illegal activities by seven county seccession groups, organized the first national research conference on right-wing paramilitary activities, produced two articles for Eastsideweek magazine on county secession and Wise Use leader Alan Gottlieb, established a computer network for investigative researchers and assisted in the formation of the Whatcom County Human Rights Task Force.

Public Good provided investigative services in several major cases during 1994: the cross-burning and shotgun attack at a migrant labor camp in Whatcom County, the Public Disclosure Commission’s declaratory order on required financial disclosure by county secession groups, the John Salvi mass murder in Brookline, Massachusetts, and tracking the internet activity of right-wing paramilitary groups.

In January 1995, Public Good participated in the second national research conference on militias held by the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment. The summary report on this meeting is available in our archives. In February, Public Good attended the first Militia of Montana meeting in western Washington and wrote a seminal report on the ties between militias, property rights groups and white supremacists. In March, Public Good documented ties between Wise Use, militias and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s department.

In late March, Daniel Junas’ article, The Rise of the Citizen Militias, was published in CovertAction Quarterly with research credit to Public Good researcher Paul de Armond. This article was the first accurate treatment in a major publication of the so-called “militia movement.”

On April 19, 1995, Public Good was the first source quoted in world media to accurately assign responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombing to domestic terrorists. In June, we published The Anti-Democratic Movement in America: More than Militias, a historical report which outlined the historical roots of property rights and anti-government movements in John C. Calhoun’s doctrine of nullification. This report was cited by Loretta Ross in testimony before Rep. Charles Shumer’s congressional panel investigating right-wing terrorism in the Unitied States.

In August, Public Good researcher Paul de Armond’s comprehensive report, Wise Use in Northern Puget Sound, was published by the Whatcom Environmental Council. This detailed history of the rise of Wise Use stealth politics provides extensive information on the genesis of the political mainstreaming of Wise Use and its Christian-Patriot allies in the Puget Sound region.

In October, Public Good‘s investigation into far-right terrrorism in Snohomish County was featured in front page stories detailing the collaboration of Snohomish County Sheriff Pat Murphy with far-right militiants and white supremacists. November brought an attack on college students in Bellingham by neo-nazi skinheads. Public Good was first on the scene again. In December, working with the Whatcom Human Rights Task Force, Public Good helped organize and promote the national anti-hate crime drive, “Not In Our Town.” Bellingham’s “Not In Our Town” program was one of the most successful in the nation.

In January, Public Good continued the investigations into the Washington State Militia, the latest front group for anti-government white supremacists. This investigation would later lead to the federal indictment of Washington State Militia members on over 20 counts involving conspiracy, firearms and explosives charges. Also in January, Public Good began an investigation into the Fortuna Alliance. This fraud ring became the largest case ever handled by the Federal Trade Commission involving use of the internet.

Both of these investigations occupied most of the year. Public Good published several articles on the Christian-Patriot movement, including A Not So Distant Mirror, and Christian Patriots at War with the State.

In the fall of 1996, Public Good was asked to prepare a fact-finding report on the specific ties between Whatcom County “Wise Use” leader Skip Richards and militia organizing. Publication of this report has been credited by Richards for his loss by a landslide in his Washington State Senate race.

Editor’s Note:

Public Good was founded by research director Paul de Armond and communications director Jay Taber. Arvin Hill served as a correspondent from 2005-10. Holly Harwood and Alison Burek functioned as operatives in 2007-8. Mark Gould joined Public Good as media advisor and art director in 2007, followed by IC Magazine editor and publisher John Schertow in 2011, and investigative journalist Cory Morningstar in 2013. In 2014, Sandra Robson and Erin Stalnaker joined as correspondents.

Other noteworthy Public Good colleagues can be found in our Bookstore and Archives. Highlights of our work are listed under What’s New, and summarized in Just Us. Our network comprises two dozen correspondents and operatives in Atlanta, Austin, Seattle, San Francisco, Winnipeg, Toronto, Boston and New York.

If you are interested in our mentors, proteges and plans, we are always happy to hear from you, and invite you to contact us. If you would like to donate funds, let us know, and we will work with you on how best to do that. We receive no government or foundation funding, so even small donations make a big difference.