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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].