It's been fascinating, in a train-wreck kind of way, watching the rift in the ranks of the Minutemen, which began growing by leaps and bounds after the Minuteman movement itself was largely proven a scam, rumble on under its own momentum down the canyon and over the cliff.
You can hear the wails echoing now, as the Minutemen in descent begin rapidly turning on each other in the kind of cannibalization that is all too common among the extremist right, especially when the poop hits the deck:
- The Minutemen, the anti-immigrant vigilante force set up two years ago to patrol the US-Mexican border, is in danger of imploding in a row over finances.
The group was formed in 2005 in response to concern over illegal immigration, mainly Hispanic. It has been accused of attracting racists, a charge it denies. The group, which split within months of its formation in a row over funds, has now fragmented again. A breakaway group, the Patriots' Border Alliance, is being set up and has established a website.
One of the leaders of the new group, Bob Wright, acknowledged the risk of the whole movement falling apart. "I think this absolutely unjustified farce has a good chance of tearing this organisation apart, which would be a damn shame," he said.
As it often does, the split has arisen over the ostensibly good intentions of the movement followers and the not-so-noble actions of its leaders:
- Before the split, Mr Wright was deputy leader of the biggest of the Minuteman groups, the Minuteman Civil Defence Corps, which claims a membership of up to 8,000. The split came after he and other senior members invited the leader, Chris Simcox, to a meeting in Arizona to account for funds. Mr Simcox accused them of arranging an unauthorised meeting and purged Mr Wright and other senior leaders, and about a dozen state organisers.
Mr Wright said: "We asked for a meeting and this insanity is the result of that ... We were worried that the standard operating practice was not being followed as religiously as should have been." Hundreds of members were now leaving, he said.
As the East Valley Tribune reports, Simcox is wasting no time filling the slots with more pliable True Believers:
- Some members of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps have questioned Simcox, claiming promised funds have not been delivered to state chapters and border watch volunteers. Part of the problem appears to come from Simcox's penchant for exaggerating his successes. In mid-2006, Simcox told volunteers and journalists the group had raised $1.6 million in donations and private grants. But the group's 2005 tax filing in November revealed only $450,000 in revenues.
Some chapters have left the group and state leaders have quit, while Simcox has thrown out others for challenging his authority. Just last month, the Washington Times reported, Simcox stripped titles from four national leaders and the Arizona state director.
On Thursday, Simcox announced he had replaced the four national leaders and is seeking to hire 11 more people.
"Trust me, you will see big changes in how we operate, all concerns will be addressed, problems will be solved and we will continue to lead the nation in this fight to secure our borders," Simcox says in a message on his group's Web site.
As both the stories note, another sign of the discontent is the lawsuit filed by another supporter over the absurd fence the Minutemen erected along a short portion of the Mexico border:
- A man who mortgaged his home in order to help the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps build border fencing on private land in Cochise County is suing the group and its president, Chris Simcox, for fraud and breach of contract.
In a complaint filed May 22 in Maricopa County Superior Court, Jim Campbell, a retired homebuilder and Air Force veteran from Fountain Hills, accused Simcox and the MCDC of falsely promising to build a multi-layered Israeli-style security barrier on the Palominas ranch of John and Jack Ladd.
Campbell alleges that, after hearing the MCDC publicize the plan in April 2006, he had three telephone conversations with Peter Kunz, project manager for the effort, in which Kunz promised the Israeli-style barrier would be built along 10 miles of the Ladd ranch.
Encouraged by the plan, Campbell says he took out a loan on his home and donated $100,000 to the project on May 22, 2006, with the stipulation that it be used to purchase steel tubing for the Ladds’ fence. However, by the May 27, 2006, groundbreaking, the Ladds had rejected the double-layered, 14-foot barrier in favor of a traditional range fence. “To date, MCDC has not constructed any ‘Israeli-style’ border fencing on the property where the groundbreaking ceremony took place, in breach of agreement between it and Campbell,” the complaint states.
Campbell says he asked for his donation back, but Simcox told him the money would be used to build an Israeli-style barrier along 9/10 mile of Richard Hodges’ border-front ranch in Bisbee Junction.
Instead, Campbell alleges, the money was diverted to other MCDC projects and affiliated groups, while work on Hodges’ fence languished.
Campbell is asking for a total of $1,220,845 in damages and reimbursements from Simcox, the MCDC and Kunz. His suit also names Diener Consultants, a Chicago-based fund-raising organization that has played a central role in the fence-building campaign, and the MCDC-affiliated Declaration Alliance, a Virginia-based charity founded by conservative activist Alan Keyes.
As these lawsuits work their way through the courts, we'll be finding out a whole lot more about how these right-wing scam artists bilked millions of people into sending them their hard-earned dollars. It's the same old story with a new cast, but watching how it plays out is always instructive.