Friday, November 09, 2007

The Minutemen's fence scam

-- by Dave

We've been reporting for quite awhile now about how the Minutemen have devolved into a moneymaking scam, fueled in no small part by Chris simcox's PR makeover, which brought about a rift withing the movement once it became clear the money being donated was not being spent as promised, and eventually has resulted in an outright implosion.

Indeed, where is it being spent? That's the remaining mystery.

Well, the mainstream media are finally beginning to catch up. Yesterday CNN aired this report, which you can watch above. It's a bit too sympathetic to the Minutemen's proclaimed "cause" for my tastes, but it does get down to the real issue:
Many Minuteman state and national leaders said that the fence proposal was a complete surprise to them.

"All of a sudden we hear, 'We are going to build a fence if the government doesn't build it!' We all looked at each other and said, 'What!'" said David Jones, a former Minuteman member.

Donations started flowing in. One man actually mortgaged his home and contributed more than $100,000. And on Memorial Day of last year, there was a groundbreaking ceremony on John Ladd's Arizona ranch. But what the Minutemen were building was not a tall, Israeli-style fence.

Former member Bob Wright said, "It wasn't until they actually started the ceremony that it became clear. It was gonna be a cow fence!"

It was a five-strand barbed wire fence that would keep Ladd's cattle in and keep Mexican cattle out. Ladd said he is happy with the fence. But some Minuteman leaders were stunned. In their first-ever interview, these former Simcox lieutenants told CNN they believed that the groundbreaking was a ploy by Simcox to raise even more money.

As a group, these leaders started to question Simcox about how donations were being spent. They wanted to him to provide specifics as to how much money was being raised and how it was being used.

"To this day, we still don't know how much the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps has raised. We don't have a clue, not a clue," Wright said.

They said they wanted to know why the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps was not spending money to help volunteers patrol the borders.

"We needed equipment, and we were not getting equipment," Jones said.

They demanded that Simcox meet them in person to address their concerns and answer their questions. They say he refused to meet with them and subsequently fired them.

Simcox now says that he never promised to build the high-tech security fence on Ladd's ranch. And he insists the barbed-wire fence really does protect the country.

Then what exactly was all the hoo-hah about when they announced the kickoff for the project?

You've gotta love how Simcox refused to meet with any CNN reporters and claimed the whole thing was a big smear. Rrrrrrighhhht.

I had to pause thinking about the donor who mortgaged his home and donated $100,000 to the fence. As much as it might be tempting to dismiss it as a harsh lesson well deserved, it's still disturbing -- a lot of these people are earnest and well-meaning ordinary people who think they're doing the right thing, misguided as that may be. But now they've learned: These guys have no shame.

But we knew that already. One would like to think these disappointed Minutemen might apply what they've learned to a reconsideration of the whole project, but I'm not holding my breath.

[Raw Story version here.]

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