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Extremism in the Defense of Stupidity Is a Vice, Part 2: Razing Arizona

Politicians putting their foot in the mouth is nothing new. But, interestingly, one of Arizona’s top lawmakers, House Speaker Andy Biggs, recently found himself in hot water after speaking at an event not for what he said. It’s what he didn’t say. Yes, a number of of eyebrows were raised when Andy Biggs spoke an event where Stewart Rhodes, the founder of the Oath Keepers, called for the trial and subsequent hanging of US Senator John McCain. And Biggs said nothing.

That Biggs’s lack of a response sparked controversy is not surprising. But what Biggs did say is arguably just as controversial since he was basically advocating a ‘Sovereign Citizen’/Oath Keeper/Bundy ranch-style showdown with the federal government at a statewide level. And, as we’ll see below, a majority of the Arizona GOP appears to agree with him. Now THAT’s controversial. Or at least it should be!

So let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at Arizona’s recent foray into ‘Sovereignty’.

But first, check out the, uh, bold leadership from the president of the Arizona Senate [1]:

12 News
Top AZ lawmaker doesn’t object to ‘Hang McCain’

Brahm Resnik, 12 News 7:58 p.m. MST May 12, 2015

Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs remained silent as a speaker at an event last week said fellow Republican Sen. John McCain should be hanged for treason.

“John Cain is a traitor to the Constitution,” said Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers [2], as he tripped on McCain’s name.

“He should be tried for treason before a jury of his peers,” Rhodes told a gathering of conservatives May 5 at the Thirsty Lion Pub in Tempe. “After we convict him, he should be hung by the neck until dead.”

When 12 News contacted Rhodes Tuesday to see if he stood by his comments, he said: “I think John McCain is every bit as nuts as Adolf Hitler was.”

Biggs, Rhodes and former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack, who has announced plans for a "constitutional takeover" [3] of Navajo County, were discussing the futility of calling a constitutional convention.

All three view themselves as constitutional conservatives fighting back against Washington.

“States need to take back their sovereignty,” Biggs said. “That’s the way we solve the problem.”

Biggs is seen smiling as Mack argues for passing “a law in Arizona to nullify the federal income tax.”

“That’s pretty shocking,” said Chris Herstam, a former state legislator and longtime Capitol insider. “To have the Senate president sitting there and not disagreeing causes pause.”

“People you associate with and the events you attend determine your political persona,” Herstam said.

Biggs isn’t just any politician, Herstam said. “Andy Biggs is the most powerful state legislator that we have.”

As Senate president this year, Biggs had enough clout to squeeze out $130 million more in cuts — including an additional $25 million in higher education cuts — from Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget proposal.

“He and Gov. Ducey crafted the budget deal that passed in March,” Herstam said.

Biggs, a Gilbert Republican, has long been aligned with such East Valley conservatives as former Senate President Russell Pearce, who was ousted from office in a 2011 recall vote. They view McCain as a sell-out on the key issues of illegal immigration.

In the past, Biggs wanted to blow up the state Medicaid program [4], which provides health care coverage for needy Arizonans. Biggs hasn’t had to work since winning a $10 million sweepstakes prize in the mid-’90s.

That’s right, Andy Biggs, the president of the Arizona Senate and most powerful legislator in the state, decided to give a talk about how “States need to take back their sovereignty…That’s the way we solve the problem.” And this was at a rally where Richard Mack – the former sheriff of Graham County Sheriff, an Oath Keeper board member [5], and major Cliven Bundy booster – advocated a “Constitutional Takeover” of Navajo county [3] and Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Sovereign-Citizen-esque Oath Keepers, called for US Senator John McCain to tried and hung. Classy.

So, putting aside for a moment the disturbing reality that Rhodes called for McCain to be hung and Andy Biggs apparently just sat there saying nothing, you have to wonder what exactly does Andy Biggs see as the “problem” that necessitates that states “take back their sovereignty”.

Well, given that Biggs was apparently smiling when Richard Mack, the former sheriff of Graham County Sheriff and current Oath Keeper/Cliven Bundy booster, advocated that for “a law in Arizona to nullify the federal income tax,” it would appear that “the problem” Andy Biggs see is federalism. Or, more precisely, the current balance of power between the federal and state governments.

Well, ok, people can disagree about such matters, but note that Biggs is a strong advocate against the use of constitutional conventions [6] for resolving these kinds of deep differences in how the United States should manage itself, an area that he apparently is in agreement with both Mack and Rhodes. In fact, Andy Biggs actually killed an attempt by ALEC to get Arizona’s legislature to call for a “con-con” just last year [7]:

Blog for Arizona
ALEC’s stealth constitutional convention derailed by Senate President Andy Biggs
Posted on April 27, 2014 by AZ BlueMeanie

Earlier this year I posted about ALEC’s stealth constitutional convention [8], purportedly to propose a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution that if it were ever actually adopted would wreak economic havoc on the U.S. economy. A Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment Threatens Great Economic Damage [9] (2011); Proposed Balanced Budget Amendment is Extreme by International Standards [10] (2013); and Ramesh Ponnuru, A Balanced Budget Amendment: Still a Terrible Idea – Bloomberg [11].

So naturally the Tea-Publicans in the Arizona House were all for it — hell yeah! Arizona House Tea-Publicans approved HCR 2017 [12] (.pdf), an Application for an Article V Convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution. Then they did it again in a strike everything amendment to Cap’n Al Melvin’s bill, SCR 1016 [13] (.pdf). House Tea-Publicans also approved the ALEC model legislation for the “limitation” provisions supposedly to prevent a runaway convention, HB 2104 [14] (.pdf), and HB 2397 [15] (.pdf).

Only Tea-Publicans voted in favor of this ALEC model legislation, including the “mythical moderate Republican” Ethan Orr (R-Tucson).

All of these ALEC model bills died in the Arizona Senate where Senate President Andy Biggs, who is no fan of Article V conventions, made certain that these bills never came up for a final vote. I guess we owe him a debt of gratitude for a rare moment of sanity.

And thank you, Andy Biggs — just this once.

Yep, Andy Biggs actually killed a Tea Party/ALEC fueled attempt to make Arizona one of the state’s calling for a “con-con”. And, for that, perhaps we should thank him. A Constitutional Convention, especially one that ALEC is calling for, really could destroy the country [16]. But in terms of fundamentally rebalancing the relationship between the states and federal government amending the US Constitution is the only game in town that doesn’t involve a series of Supreme Court decisions that reinterpret the existing Constitution.

That’s how it’s done. A constitutional convention isn’t the only way to amend the constitution (one amendment at a time is how it’s always been done) and easily the most dangerous way to do so since it could go haywire. But ther means of fundamentally and radically rebalancing the balance of power between state and federal government like just asserting that your state disagrees with the current prevailing interpretation of the Constitution are unconstitutional. And, by the way, 34 state legislatures have already passed bills calling for a constitutional conventional. 36 are needed to make it happen. The far-right really wants this to happen [17]. We should actually be thankful for Andy Biggs on that one.

But as we saw above, Andy Biggs talks about how “States need to take back their sovereignty…That’s the way we solve the problem,” but is also vehemently apposed to a constitutional convention. So just how does he proposes states take back their sovereignty.

Well, the “Constitutional Takeover” of Navajo county [3] Richard Mack called for sure would be an example of a state (or county in this case) simply ‘taking back their sovereignty’ by electing people at the local level that will ‘nullify’ all laws, local and federal, that they deem unconstitutional [18]. And while that may seem like a zany far right scheme, it also sounds a lot like what Andy Biggs was alluding to for the entire state of Arizona. Sounds unbelievable? Well, as we’ll see below, that’s exactly what the Arizona’s GOP legislators have been trying to do over and over in recent years.

I Thought They Were the Promise Keepers. *fingers crossed*
So, getting back to the calls for John McCain’s hanging, did Andy Biggs he have an explanation for why he didn’t say anything? Or how about why he was even at an Oath Keepers rally in the first place?

Well, as he puts it in the article below, he did have an explanation for not saying anything: The president of the Arizona Senate didn’t feel it was his place to speak ups. It’s an odd response considering that disagreeing with someone doesn’t exactly constitute a violation of their free speech rights, but that’s his explanation.

As for why he was there in the first place, he apparently had no idea who the Oath Keepers are. Also, he thought they were the Promise Keepers [19]. Uh huh…suuure Andy [20]:

The Arizona Republic
Pro-Constitution group founder: Hang McCain ‘until dead’
Dan Nowicki, The Republic | azcentral.com 11:14 a.m. MST May 15, 2015

At a Tempe event, the founder of the Oath Keepers organization called Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a traitor to the Constitution who should be tried, convicted and executed by hanging.

The founder of the pro-Constitution organization Oath Keepers last week said U.S. Sen. John McCain should be tried for treason, convicted and “hung by the neck until dead.”

Stewart Rhodes was recorded making the remarks about McCain, R-Ariz., in a video released by the liberal People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch project. Rhodes was speaking at the Arizona Liberty Caucus’ May 5 “Liberty On Tap” event at the Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill at Tempe Marketplace.

Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, was the featured speaker at the event, invited to discuss the “dangers of an Article V Constitutional Convention.” Former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack, a Second Amendment activist, also spoke.

In the video, Rhodes calls McCain a traitor to the Constitution.

“He would deny you the right for trial to jury, but we will give him a trial for jury, and then after we convict him, he should be hung by the neck until dead,” Rhodes said.

Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman, said McCain had no comment.

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.”

Huh, so Andy Biggs apparently has no idea who or what the Oath Keepers are, confusing them with the Promise Keepers and thinking he had just been invited to speak by “an Arizona liberty group”. And, to be fair, it’s certainly possible that he had no idea that an event hosted by “Arizona Liberty Caucus” [21] was also going to feature Oath Keeper big wigs like Rich Mack and Stewart Rhodes. But the idea that Biggs has no idea what who or what the Oath Keepers are?!?! Now that is just beyond absurd.

Keep in mind that this isn’t just an issue of whether or not a politician is fudging the truth. It’s an issue of a powerful politician playing dumb in order to hide the profound influence far-right extremist groups like the Oath Keepers are wielding in his state government under his watch. That’s why Andy Biggs’s little white lie about not knowing who the Oath Keepers are is such a big deal.

Let’s take a fun walk down memory lane…to the Bundy ranch
Part of makes Biggs’s denials of so amusingly implausible is the fact that Arizona’s legislature sent a delegation to Cliven Bundy’s ranch where the Oath Keepers were leading a stand off with the government [22]. And, at the time of that delegation, the far right blogosphere was in a tizzy with glee over how Andy Biggs apparently felt that Arizona should be involved in supporting CSPOA and Oath Keepers in going to Bunkerville, Nevada [23]:

The Common Sense Show
Sheriff Mack, CSPOA, Oathkeepers, State Legislators & America Stands with Cliven Bundy

Dave Hodges

April 11, 2014

I recently received an email from Sheriff Richard Mack updating me on the recent happenings with regard to the Bundy case and Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) have traveled to Nevada to stand with the Bundy family. Additionally, the Oathkeepers have done the same. An estimated 5,000 militia types from Western states have also made their way to the Bundy property as well.

Sheriff Mack and CSPOA are responding to the storm brewing between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the BLM. They have responded by stating that the all-too-frequent bullying of individual citizens by various militarized Federal agencies have usurped the Constitution and they have vowed that the forces of tyranny can be stopped. In fact, as CSPOA claims, it’s an epidemic that “must be stopped”.

I have learned that Sheriff Mack is leaving early Saturday morning for an emergency trip to Bunkerville, Nevada, along with other members of the CSPOA posse to stand with the Bundy’s and find a peaceful resolution to this conflict (i.e., the feds going home). The name is “Bunkerville”, is both ironic and appropriately named, don’t you think?

The Arizona Legislature Stands With Bundy

In a case of “I would never have believed this in a million years”, the Arizona State Senate President Andy Biggs and the Arizona House of Representatives Speaker Dave Livingston are both in agreement that Arizona should be involved in supporting CSPOA and Oath Keepers in going to Bunkerville, Nevada. These two leaders of the Arizona Legislature have vowed to support the Cliven Bundy family. This stunning development cannot be overstated, and yet, there is more. Additionally, State Senators Al Melvin, Chester Crandall, and Kelly Ward along with State Representatives Brenda Barton, Bob Thorpe, Kelly Townsend and Warren Peterson are all planning to be at the Bundy ranch by Sunday morning. All of these local government officials are planning to attend the Press Conference Monday afternoon with the CSPOA and Oath Keepers along with the Bundy’s and other sheriffs and public officials from across the country.

If you Google “Andy Biggs + delegation + Cliven Bundy”, that message from Richard Mack about Biggs’s support for the Bundy family is all over the internet. And, yes, it’s possible that Biggs never expressed such support and this was all bluster, but, at least last year, that’s what the Oath Keepers, militias, and the rest of the Bundy ranch supporters were celebrating at one point: that Andy Biggs, the president of Arizona’s Senate, vowed to support the Bundy family.

Also note that Dave Livingston, who actually led the Arizona delegation to the Bundy ranch, wasn’t the Speaker of the House in 2014 (that was Andy Tobin [24]). But he did become the House Majority Whip last November [25].

So, whether or not Andy Biggs is an Oath Keeper supporter or a repeated victim of inadvertent Oath Keeper incidents, given that Rep. David Livingston became the House Majority whip later in the year, it’s pretty clear that leading a delegation to the Bundy ranch doesn’t hurt your chances of obtaining the GOP leadership positions in Arizona [26]:

The Arizona Republic
Arizona legislators see Cliven Bundy as a hero?

Laurie Roberts, The Republic | azcentral.com 10:34 a.m. MST April 19, 2014

The Arizona Legislature faced something of a standoff this week, as one of our leaders waxed on and on and yes, on about his “life changing” experience standing with group that took up arms against the federal government last weekend.

Yeah, you just knew that some of Arizona’s leading lights would be among those flocking to Bundy Ranch in Nevada, where armed protesters and militia types decked out in camo faced off against federal law enforcement agents.

“This event was not about a ranch,” state Rep. David Livingston, R-Peoria, said on the House floor this week as legislators were trying to debate actual Arizona issues. “This event wasn’t about cattle. It wasn’t about the trail. It was all about power. It was all about showing who had the power.”

Actually, it was about obstructing federal agents who were attempting to enforce a lawful court order against a deadbeat rancher who for two decades has refused to pay his bills – a guy who doesn’t even recognize the existence of the federal government.

In other words, a hero for the ages. In the eyes of some, that is.

Our Legislature is filled with people who long for the good old days when states seceded from the union. Every year, we see bills declaring all EPA regulations null and void in Arizona and bills declaring federal gun laws null and void in Arizona and bills requiring federal agents to check in with county sheriffs before they try to enforce federal law in Arizona.

There’s the always-popular biennial effort to declare Arizona a sovereign state, which is code for we want control of federal land so we can eliminate all those vexing environmental regulations aimed at assuring clean water and clear air and such.

Arizona voters rejected that one by more than a 2-1 margin in 2012.

Then there are the bills to just flat-out ignore federal laws we don’t like. Look for that one on the ballot this fall.

So it’s no surprise that Livingston and company would make the trek to Mesquite, Nev., last weekend to stand with Cliven Bundy against the Bureau of Land Management.

Joining Livingston were Republican Reps. Kelly Townsend of Mesa and Bob Thorpe of Flagstaff and Sens. Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City and Judy Burges of Sun City West. U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar was also there.

“We don’t need the government to tell us what to eat, what to wear, what to drink (and) how to drive,” Ward told a Nevada TV station.

What that has to do with a federal land dispute escapes me. Still, I’m with Ward on the whole nanny state bit. Heck, I like a good fight against government tyranny as much as the next red-blooded American. But Cliven Bundy isn’t my idea of inspiration to jump up there on my high horse.

On Sunday, Livingston joined 100 or so protesters at a church service at the site of the standoff, declaring that the Bundy triumph would serve as the rallying call for state sovereignty.

“This,’ Livingston said, “was a major tipping point.”

It was indeed a tipping point.

But the only thing toppled was the rule of law.

First, note the names of Senators Kelli Ward and Judy Burges in the delegation. We’ll get back to them.

So, as state Rep. David Livingston put it at the time:

“This event was not about a ranch…This event wasn’t about cattle. It wasn’t about the trail. It was all about power. It was all about showing who had the power.”

And he was, indeed, correct. The Bundy ranch fiasco was about much more than cattle. It was about whether or not Cliven Bundy, the Oath Keepers, and everyone else is actually a ‘Sovereign Citizen’ [27] and the county sheriffs call the shots at all levels of government [28]:

TPM Muckraker
Why Bundy Ranch Thinks America’s Sheriffs Can Disarm The Feds

By Dylan Scott
Published April 15, 2014, 2:59 PM EDT

Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, whose dispute with the Bureau of Land Management spurred a tense standoff between armed anti-government activists and federal officials over the weekend, had some strikingly specific directions for sheriffs across the country Monday night.

“Disarm the federal bureaucrats,” Bundy said [29] in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity. He had been asked to respond to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s assertion that the Bundy Ranch standoff (as it is now officially known on Wikipedia [30]) was “not over.”

Bundy had already asked [31] his local sheriff to arrest the BLM officials who were rounding up his cattle, but he directed his new message to “every county sheriff in the United States.”

Bundy’s statement brought to the forefront a theory that some on the far right have held for decades: that local sheriffs are ordained with an immense amount of power, going beyond that of even federal authorities. In the Bundy Ranch dispute, that theory is the driving ideology of some of the groups that have rallied to the rancher’s side. Those include the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and the Oath Keepers, whose members are law enforcement officials and military who have pledged to defend the Constitution against government overreach.

It was Richard Mack, a former Arizona county sheriff and founder of the Constitutional Sheriffs, who had said Monday that the gathered self-described militia had considered using women as human shields if a gunfight with federal officials erupted. He elaborated on those comments Monday in an interview with radio host Ben Swann.

“It was a tactical plot that I was trying to get them to use,” Mack said in comments flagged [32] by The Raw Story. “If they’re going to start killing people, I’m sorry, but to show the world how ruthless these people are, women needed to be the first ones shot.”

“I’m sorry, that sounds horrible,” he continued. “I would have put my own wife or daughters there, and I would have been screaming bloody murder to watch them die. I would gone next, I would have been the next one to be killed. I’m not afraid to die here. I’m willing to die here.”

Some history helps explain these organizations’ interest in Bundy and their placement of his feud with BLM in a longer narrative.

A 2011 profile in the Arizona Daily Star [33] newspaper explained how Mack, who served as Graham County sheriff in the late 1980s and early ’90s, first earned national attention when he led the legal challenge against the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act in 1994. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually struck down one key part of the law, which had required state and local law enforcement to perform background checks on firearm purchases.

The sheriff, who cited a 1984 class with W. Cleon Skousen, who the Southern Poverty Law Center described [34] as “a leading light of right-wing radicalism, a theocrat who believed the decline of America began with passage of the 14th Amendment and its guarantee of equality for the former slaves and others,” as his ideological awakening, lays out his worldview on the Constitutional Sheriffs site [35]:

The county sheriff is the line in the sand. The county sheriff is the one who can say to the feds, “Beyond these bounds you shall not pass.” This is not only within the scope of the sheriff’s authority; it’s the sheriff’s sworn duty.

Mack did not respond to TPM’s request for comment on Tuesday.

Bundy’s rhetoric, urging county sheriffs to “disarm the federal bureaucrats,” certainly tracks with Mack’s history, Mark Pitcavage, director of investigative research at the Anti-Defamation League, told TPM. While it’s difficult to know how much influence, if any, Mack wielded once he got on the ground in Nevada, he and Bundy share an obvious ideological alliance.

Mack and the Oath Keepers, an allied “non-partisan association of current and formerly serving military, police, and first responders,” according to its website [36], appear to have helped organize the Bundy Ranch militia, which had grown to as many as 1,500 members by the weekend, Reuters estimated [37].

Both sent up digital calls for support. They posted the same [38] release [39] to their websites Thursday, announcing that Mack and the Oath Keepers members were joining a delegation heading to Bundy Ranch. The Oath Keepers also called on its 40,000 claimed members “to join the vigil at the Bundy ranch.” The group then outlined how it viewed the Bundy Ranch standoff as just one piece of a larger story:

This is not about cattle. This is about power, and the trampling of rights. It’s about a systemic power grab and abuse of power by the federal government as it runs roughshod over the rights of honest, hard-working rural Americans and over the rights of all the Western states. This is not an isolated incident. It is but the latest in a long train of abuses aimed at subjecting rural Americans to absolute despotism while destroying the property rights, economy, and independence of the rural West, in particular, and eventually wiping out all of rural America. This is an attack on all of the West, which is why patriotic legislators and lawmen from all over the West are answering the call to defend it.

“This is a full spectrum, frontal assault on the rural West,” it said. “This is truly a range war.”

As Richard Mack describes on his website, in ‘Sovereign Citizen’ [27] terms, this whole Oath Keeper/COSPA movement is about elevating the the country sheriff to the highest authority in the land:

The county sheriff is the line in the sand. The county sheriff is the one who can say to the feds, “Beyond these bounds you shall not pass.” This is not only within the scope of the sheriff’s authority; it’s the sheriff’s sworn duty.

That’s what the Bundy Ranch showdown was all about and why ‘Sovereign Citizen’ movements like the Oath Keepers were so enthusiastic about the showdown.

And, based on the extreme similarity in language between the way Rep. David Livingston described the Bundy ranch showdown and the Oath Keepers’ take on the situation, it’s pretty clear that Arizona’s delegation had a ‘Sovereign Citizen’-esque power struggle in mind too, which sounds awfully similar to Andy Biggs’s calls for states to simply “take back their sovereignty”.

In the words of the Oath Keepers:

This is not about cattle. This is about power, and the trampling of rights. It’s about a systemic power grab and abuse of power by the federal government as it runs roughshod over the rights of honest, hard-working rural Americans and over the rights of all the Western states. This is not an isolated incident. It is but the latest in a long train of abuses aimed at subjecting rural Americans to absolute despotism while destroying the property rights, economy, and independence of the rural West, in particular, and eventually wiping out all of rural America. This is an attack on all of the West, which is why patriotic legislators and lawmen from all over the West are answering the call to defend it.

And in the words of Rep. David Livingston (who is now the Arizona House Majority Whip) on the floor of the Arizona House of Representatives upon returning from his trip to the Bundy ranch:

“This event was not about a ranch…This event wasn’t about cattle. It wasn’t about the trail. It was all about power. It was all about showing who had the power.”

Great minds think alike! But as we can see, it can happen to non-great minds too.

Memory Lane Includes an Oath Keeper Legislator That Now Happens to be the Speaker of the House
Of course, once Cliven Bundy began to publicly wax longingly about the days of slavery [40], the Bundy ranch wasn’t exactly the best place to make a stand about the balance of power [41]. No, at that point, the Bundy ranch experience was something most supporters just kind of forgot about.

Could that be what happened to poor Andy Biggs’s memory? Slavery-comments-induced memory loss just wiped away anything Bundy-related including all of the bizarre Oath Keepers/Sovereign Citizen rhetoric and actions coming from his fellow Repubicans in the Arizone state legislature?

Hmmm…well, if so, that’s got to complicate Andy Biggs’s working relationship with all of his Oath Keeper-leaning colleagues in the legislature. Especially the new Speaker of the Arizona House, Rep. David Gowan [42], since Gowan was listed as an Oath Keeper member back in 2012 [43]:

Think Progress
AZ Lawmaker Tied To Radical ‘Oath Keepers’ Pushes Unconstitutional Bill Restricting Federal Law Enforcement

by Ian Millhiser
Posted on March 16, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Arizona’s county sherriff’s are not exactly known for setting the standard for effective law enforcement and loyalty to the Constitution — indeed, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is currently under federal investigation for widespread mistreatment of Latinos and other violations of the law [44]. Nevertheless, an Arizona senate committee just approved a unconstitutional bill [45] which would require federal law enforcement officers to provide advance notice to Arpaio and his fellow sheriffs before taking action in their counties:

A Senate panel voted Thursday to fire a warning shot of sorts over the heads of federal law enforcement agencies: Don’t come around here unless you get local OK.

The legislation, crafted by Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, would require employees of those agencies to first notify the sheriff of the county “before taking any official law enforcement action in a county in this state.”.

The only exception would be if the notification would impede the federal officer’s duties. But even then, HB 2434 has a requirement to notify the sheriff “as soon as practicable after taking the action.”

The Constitution simply does not allow states to order federal officials to do anything. Under our Constitution, federal law is “the supreme law of the land [46],” so when Congress enacts an otherwise valid federal law and empowers federal officers to enforce it, the states have no power whatsoever to limit that enforcement or place conditions on it.

Disturbingly, the bill may also be connected to a radical anti-government group known as the “Oath Keepers.” The Oath Keepers is a right-wing group that pushes local law enforcement to defy federal “orders” the Oath Keepers believe are unconstitutional [47]. Their website is riddled with paranoid rhetoric [48] about government officials “disarm[ing] the American people,” “confiscat[ing] the property of the American people, including food and other essential supplies,” and “blockad[ing] American cities, thus turning them into giant concentration camps.” In early 2008, the Oath Keepers’ founder warned that a “dominatrix-in-chief” named “Hitlery Clinton” would impose a police state on America and shoot all resisters [49]. After Democratic primary voters chose President Obama over Clinton, the Oath Keepers simply rewrote their paranoid fantasy to include a taller, African-American lead. Rep. Gowan, the lead sponsor of this bill, is listed as a member of the Tucson Oath Keepers on their Meetup page [50].

So, while merely notifying local law enforcement of federal actions may seem like a minor imposition, the bill makes sense in the context of a broader Oath Keeper agenda, because it gives local sherriffs advance notice of which federal actions they wish to defy.

Yes, the current Speaker of the Arizona House was as an Oath Keeper member. At least that’s what the Oath Keepers meetup page was claiming in 2012.

But there’s no other record of Gowan, himself, identifying as an Oath Keeper, so could this be another instance of a politician involuntarily getting associated with the Oath Keepers without his knowledge? Like what Biggs claimed? Well, if so, you can hardly blame the Oath Keepers if the incorrectly labeled Rep. Gowan a member. And neither could you blame them if they did the same, for most of the rest of the Arizona legislative GOP caucus, considering that that Rep. Gowan’s 2012 bill, and a similar one in the Senate, was passed by the legislature and had to be vetoed by the governor [51].

The same bill came up again in 2014. This time is was sponsored by Judy Burges who, as we saw above, was one of the members of the Bundy ranch delegation (and is also a supporter of Mack’s ‘Constitution county’ plans [3]).

So if the Oath Keepers mistake Arizona’s GOP for being a hotbed of fellow Oath Keepers, and maybe think the now Speaker of the Arizona House is a Oath Keeper member himself, could you blame them? [52]

Blog for Arizona
Neo-Confederate anti-government sedition in Arizona
Posted on April 16, 2014 by AZ BlueMeanie

The Arizona Republic finally got around to doing an investigative reporting piece on the sovereign citizen movement over the weekend, and it fell woefully short. This lengthy report failed to mention those who are members and sympathizers in Arizona, as has been reported here over the years. Sovereign citizens challenge authority of law [53]:

The Republic contacted more than a dozen people who had identified themselves as sovereign in Phoenix and other cities across the state, including people who claimed affiliation with sovereign groups called the “Republic for the united States of America” and the “Republic for Arizona.” Some had served in the military. Others mentioned college degrees.

Only one agreed to speak in person and on the record.

Rockney Willard Martineau was in a Maricopa County jail.

* * *

Over the course of 2013, The Republic polled sheriff’s and recorder’s offices across Arizona about their interactions with sovereign citizens. The results showed a mixed picture of the belief’s prominence in the state.

Some law-enforcement officials said they had not seen much activity in several years, while others said sovereigns in their jurisdictions are well-known. Recorders in several counties rarely see a filing, while others report three to 10 a week, although some of those arrive from other states.

The FBI is keeping a close watch.

Seriously? Perhaps the problem is how this reporter defined “sovereign citizen,” disregarding the numerous far-right anti-government organizations to which these extremists belong. If The Republic polled sheriff’s offices, how is it possible that they missed these guys?

I previously posted about Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio’s anti-government extremism [54] [fixed link here [55]]:

Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio is a favorite of far-right extremist groups like former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack’s conspiratorial Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association [56] and the Oath Keepers [57], made up of former and current law enforcement officers and military personnel who believe it is their duty to defy what they deem to be unconstitutional orders. These anti-government extremists are a law unto themselves.

Hence this bit of anti-government extremism from Crazy Uncle Joe Arpaio on Wednesday. Joe Arpaio Says He May Not Enforce New Gun Laws (AUDIO) [58].

Not to be outdone for media attention, “Joe, Jr.,” Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, penned a letter to President Obama last week saying that he too would not enforce any federal laws that he deems to be unconstitutional orders. Has anyone investigated his connections to far-right extremist groups like Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association [56] and the Oath Keepers [57]?

Talking Points Memo reports Arizona Sheriff Tells Obama He Won’t Enforce Federal Gun Laws [59]:

“Mr. President, if you attempt to carry through with your proposal, it will hinder the ability of good citizens to defend and protect themselves and others against those who wish to cause them harm through the use of deadly force,” Babeu, the sheriff of Pinal County, Ariz., wrote. “Your actions would turn many good citizens, who wish to maintain their God given Constitutional Rights to bear arms, into criminals. I am writing you this letter today to inform you that any “law” or regulation created by an executive order of your office which is contrary to what the Constitution of the United States of America says, shall be deemed as unlawful and shall not be carried out by myself or my office.”

And how can The Republic purportedly do an investigative journalism report without ever mentioning Arizona’s most notorious far-right anti-government icon, former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack, and his conspiratorial Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association [56], and the Oath Keepers [57], made up of former and current law enforcement officers and military personnel who believe it is their duty to defy what they deem to be unconstitutional orders. Here is a profile of Mack from the Southern Poverty Law Center. ‘Army’ of Sheriffs to Resist Federal Authority [60].

Former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack traveled to Nevada this weekend to join rancher Cliven Bundy’s armed standoff with the Bureau of Land Management . In an interview with Iowa talk show host Steve Deace on Monday, Sheriff Richard Mack Compared Armed Nevada Ranch Protesters To Rosa Parks [61]. (I find that deeply insulting).

This radical extremist has frequently testified at the invitation of Tea-Publicans at the Arizona Legislature in favor of Tenth Amendment Center model legislation for nullification of federal gun laws, and for his far-right “constitutional sheriffs” bill.

In 2012, wingnut Rep. David Gowan (R-Sierra Vista), who has now been promoted to House Majority Leader., sponsored HB 2434 which would have required employees of federal agencies to first notify the sheriff of the county “before taking any official law enforcement action in a county in this state.” HB 2434 was actually approved by the Arizona legislature. It took a veto by Governor Jan Brewer to restore sanity.

The sponsor of this year’s version of the “constitutional sheriffs” bill, SB 1290 [62] (.pdf). was the “Birther Queen,” Rep. Judy Burges (R-Sun City West.)

Then there is “Tenther” Sen. Kelli Ward (R- Lake Havasu City) and her model bills from the Tenth Amendment Center (which expressly declares its mission is the nullification of federal laws):

Sen. Ward told the Capitol Times the latest iteration of her 2nd Amendment Protection Act, modeled after legislation promoted by the constitutional-rights organization the Tenth Amendment Center and gun-rights advocates, remains similar in its goal to prevent Arizona from actively working to enforce certain federal gun laws.

Note that, as we saw earlier, “Tenther” [63] Senator Kelli Ward was a member of the Bundy ranch delegation. More on her below.


SB 1112 would have banned the enforcement of federal laws limiting semiautomatic weapons and high-capacity magazines.

This Republic reporter could find only one “sovereign citizen” sitting in a jail cell? Geezus, take a walk over to 1700 W. Washington Street and you will find a building filled with them.

The editorial board of The Arizona Republic editorializes today, Arizona lawmakers pointlessly charge Bunkerville Hill [64]:

If Cliven Bundy had not existed, would the Arizona Legislature have to invent him?

It is worth contemplating. Once our lawmakers come back from Bunkerville Hill, anyway.

* * *

[Bundy] also has become the patron saint of a substantial portion of the Arizona Legislature. A great many conservative members of the Legislature have long shown an obsession with the idea of resisting the federal behemoth. Now, we know they see it as Job One.

It ranks higher than tedious stuff like funding K-12 education or protecting children, none of which they can bother with because West Washington Street now is all about Bundy, 24/7.

Their true priorities are made clear. The top priority at the capitol this entire session has not been about doing the state’s business, but about striking utterly meaningless blows at the feds. Like trying to pass pointless legislation forbidding state workers from interacting with federal employees. Or as in past sessions, attempting to wrest federal forest land to state control.

So many Arizona lawmakers have run off to Bunkerville or gotten their heads full of Bundy-worship that the business of Arizona government has been impeded. On Tuesday, lawmakers were requesting time for floor speeches, then using that time not to explain their votes on any bills, but to extoll Bundy-ism.

Let’s be clear about old Cliven: He refused to pay grazing fees for his use of federal land for his cattle operation — the fees every rancher in Arizona with a federal lease dutifully pays. That means he broke the law. He has lost every court case on the issue.

His argument that the land is state-owned, not federally owned, is unsupportable and convenient. Bundy’s position has no legal legs under it.

* * *

The fact that he has been rendered a modern-day saint and is being celebrated by so many Arizona lawmakers that their idol-worshiping has interfered with the business of the state is just obscene.

You had your temper tantrum, folks. You charged up Bunkerville Hill. Great. Now get back to work.

Sorry, editors, but no. You do not get to so breezily dismiss sedition and insurrection against the U.S. government as a mere “temper tantrum.” This is seriously effed up crazy shit. You should be demanding that these Arizona elected officials resign their offices for violating their oath of office. Period. End of discussion.

As I have said many times before, it is not enough for Arizona’s elite political media to simply report on crazy bills. They have an obligation to report on the far-right extremists groups who are behind these bills and on our legislators’ relationships to these far-right extremist groups. The voters have a right to know whether our legislators are members or supporters of far-right extremist groups.

The dismissive attitude of news organizations like The Arizona Republic has allowed these radical extremist groups to flourish in Arizona, to the point of being a majority caucus in the Arizona Legislature. This is an epic failure of the media.

Yes, if the Oath Keepers assume the Arizona legislature is filled with fellow travelers, it sure would be hard to blame them.

Memory Lane Also Includes Richard Mack Testifying Before the Senate Public Safety Committee
Now, it possible that Andy Biggs never really heard about how David Gowan, the current Speaker of the Arizona House, was allegedly an Oath Keeper back in 2012 even though the Arizona legislature keeping passing Oath Keeper-friendly laws. But you have to wonder if he was out sick on the day that Richard Mack was invited to testify before the Senate Public Safety Committee to advocate for the passage of a law. Specifically, Judy Burges’s SB1290 bill, which gives the county sheriff the right to veto the actions of federal law enforcement officers for any reason at all [65]

Feds should get permission to enforce the law, says bill in Arizona Senate

February 13, 2014 12:00 am • By Howard Fischer Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX — Warning of federal “atrocities,” former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack talked a Senate panel into making it a crime for federal agents to operate in Arizona without first getting written approval from the county sheriff.

Mack told members of the Senate Public Safety Committee on Wednesday that county sheriffs are the only elected law enforcement officers in the country. That, he said, means they answer to — and are responsible for protecting — the people.

“And then we allow bureaucrats from Washington, D.C., to come in and supersede his authority, and to do whatever they want in his county, and they (the sheriffs) can say nothing about it?” Mack said.

SB 1290, sponsored by Sen. Judy Burges, R-Sun City West, says a federal employee who is not a state-certified peace officer cannot make an arrest, or conduct a search or a seizure in Arizona without written consent of the sheriff. And it says the sheriff can withhold that permission “for any reason.”

There are exceptions, such as when a federal employee witnesses certain crimes. And none of this would interfere with the work of customs or border patrol officers.

“We’re asking that the federal government do something they should already be doing: verifying their work and what they’re doing with the sheriff as a check and balance so that atrocities committed in the 1990s especially by the federal government at Ruby Ridge and Waco and other places” do not happen here, Mack said.

Ruby Ridge was the site of a 1992 Idaho confrontation between federal agents and Randy Weaver that left Weaver’s wife and son dead. The 51-day standoff at Waco in 1993 ended with an assault on the compound occupied by the Branch Davidians and leader David Koresh by federal agents, with the resulting fire killing 76.

Note that Richard Mack actually co-authored a book [66] with Randy Weaver [67] about the Ruby Ridge incident.


“This will be normal activity and will continue if we don’t have somebody locally telling the federal government, ‘You can’t do that,’” Mack said.

Sen. Andrea Dalessandro, D-Green Valley, said some parts of the bill make no sense. For example, one provision requires a county attorney to prosecute a federal employee who doesn’t get permission — and making that county attorney subject to prosecution himself or herself for refusing to do that.

“You can’t demand the county attorney, who also is an elected official, to do something,” she said.

Again, Richard Mack, an Oath Keeper board member that’s also one of the movement’s highest profile advocates, was testifying before an Arizona Senate committee, just months before the Bundy ranch episode. And yet Senate president Andy Biggs apparently had no idea who these Oath Keepers are and what they’re about while attending an event with Richard Mack and Oath Keeper founder Stewart Rhodes.

Memory Lane Also Includes the Very Recent Memory of Senator Kelli Ward Attending the “Hang McCain” Event Too. And Her Announcement That She Might Run Against Him.
So, let’s assume Andy Biggs was telling the truth *snicker*, perhaps the take away message from all this is that state legislator need to communicate more effectively with each other. Maybe Biggs’s lack of awareness was all due to a profound lack of communication! After all, Andy Biggs wasn’t the only elected official at the event. State Senator Kelli Ward was there too. And as we saw above, Senator Ward was not only a member of the Bundy ranch delegation, but she also sponsored a bill last year advocated by the 10th Amendment Center that would have blocked the state from enforcement federal gun laws. Oh, and by the way, the bill was brought up again this year with a similar one in the Arizona House. Both passed [68].

So, while Andy Biggs might be just so politically clueless that he has no idea who the Oath Keepers or folks like Richard Mack are even though they are influential enough to get their pet legislation passed in both chambers of the legislature, what about Kelli Ward? Does she have any thoughts on the proposal to try and hang John McCain? Considering that Ward formed an exploratory committee to look into running against McCain in 2016 [69] (McCain already announced he’s running again [70]), her thoughts on the ‘hang the Senators that don’t adhere to Oath Keeper sentiments’ would be really interesting to hear [71]:

The Arizona Republic
Did Ward hear McCain hanging remark?
Dan Nowicki, The Republic | azcentral.com 1:14 p.m. MST May 15, 2015

Photos indicate state Sen. Kelli Ward, who might run against U.S. Sen. John McCain, was at the “Liberty On Tap” event in which a speaker called for McCain’s trial and execution for treason.

State Sen. Kelli Ward, who is considering a primary challenge against U.S. Sen. John McCain, was at the Tempe event where the founder of the Oath Keepers group called for McCain to be tried for treason and executed by hanging [20].

Ward, a Lake Havasu City Republican, did not respond to The Arizona Republic‘s questions and requests for comment, sent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, about her attendance at the May 5 “Liberty On Tap” gathering at which Stewart Rhodes of the pro-Constitution Oath Keepers made the comments about McCain, R-Ariz.

However, a series of photos taken at the event [72] and posted on Facebook included shots of Ward with Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, who spoke at the event.

Biggs was invited to speak to the group about his book in which he argues against the states calling a constitutional convention. In the photos from the event, Ward is holding Biggs’ book, “The Con of the Con-Con.” Other photos show Biggs, Rhodes and former Graham County Sheriff Richard Mack addressing the event, which was organized by the Arizona Liberty Caucus.

In a video released by the liberal group People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch project, Rhodes called McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, a traitor to the Constitution.

“He would deny you the right for trial to jury, but we will give him a trial for jury, and then after we convict him, he should be hung by the neck until dead,” Rhodes says in the video.

In a Friday morning interview on Phoenix radio station KFYI-AM (550), McCain was asked about Rhodes’ remarks.

“I’m not so much offended as sad that people in a free and open society, where we’re free to agree and disagree, … to say that someone should be hung and killed,” McCain said. “By the way, my family has spent a lot of time serving this country. My father, my grandfather, in fact, all the way back to the Revolutionary War. I’m proud to have one son in the Navy and I’m not ashamed to tell you now that my other son just returned from Afghanistan a couple of days ago, serving over there.

“So I just have to say to that man, ‘Let’s show some respect for each other. We can disagree, but I don’t understand that depth, that you would want someone to be killed, because we disagree on issues.'”

Former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, a longtime ally of McCain’s, issued a written statement condemning Rhodes’ comments.

“That kind of rhetoric is shameful and offensive to all of us who have served our nation in uniform,” Romley said. “The fact that two Arizona state senators were in the room at the time and said nothing is highly disappointing.”

Biggs told The Republic on Tuesday that he wasn’t familiar with the Oath Keepers organization and didn’t know Rhodes. Biggs said he disagreed with Rhodes’ remarks about McCain, but didn’t think it was his place to interfere with Rhodes’ “free-speech rights.”

Yep, Senator Kelli Ward’s office didn’t have any qualms about posting pictures of both Richard Mack and the guy that called for McCain’s hanging, Stewart Rhodes, on her Facebook page. But when asked for a response to Rhodes’s “hang McCain” comments, she doesn’t appear to have an answer. That sure is some bold leadership from a wannabe US Senator!

So, to summarize the current state of the Oath Keeper/’Sovereign Citizen’ takeover of the Arizona state legislature:
1. The current Speaker of the House, David Gowan, was listed as an Oath Keeper member in 2012 and sponsored a bill calling for a state-wide refusal for implement federal gun control laws. The bill passed both houses in 2014.

2. The current president of the Senate, Andy Biggs, may or may have vowed to support the Bundy ranch showdown in 2014, but he seems to be pretty keen on some sort of “take back of sovereignty” in 2015 without a constitutional convention which would be required for the fundamental rebalancing of the state vs federal balance of power he’s talking about. Also, 34 of the 36 required states have already passed bills calling for the constitutional convention [16](imagine that [73]).

3. House Majority Whip Dave Livingston led the delegation to the Bundy ranch and returned to the House floor echoing the Oath Keepers with things like “This event was not about a ranch…This event wasn’t about cattle. It wasn’t about the trail. It was all about power. It was all about showing who had the power.”

4. And Kelli Ward, the likely primary opponent against John McCain, is a big fan of the “Tenther” movement [74] and didn’t appear to have any problem with attending an event where the head of the Oath Keepers calls for the hanging of her 2016 primary opponent and then posting about it on Facebook.

And that just those four fine folks. As we’ve seen, they appear to be pretty representative of the rest of the Arizona GOP.

Oh, but we can’t forget John McCain. He’s presumably not super excited about seeing his state turn into a ‘Sovereign Citizen’ legislative paradise since the ‘sovereigns’ want to hang him.

Although you have to wonder how keen folks like Kelli Ward really are about all this too. After all, if she wins McCain’s Senate seat, guess who’s next in line for the gallows if she can’t keep pleasing her Oath Keeper backers. Sure, Senator Ward might like to think that they could never turn on a far-right darling like her once she becomes a US senator. But is that really realistic? Isn’t it the case that almost all GOPers, when first elected, pledge to be some sort of beacon of pure conservatism and then and up getting loathed by the base the moment they start compromising?

Does Kelli Ward really think she can please these folks as a US senator? She must [75].