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ICYMI: ProPublica: Oath Keepers in the State House: How a Militia Movement Took Root in the Republican Mainstream

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WASHINGTON In a recent investigation, ProPublica identified ten current Republican state legislators as members of the Oath Keepers, one of the largest militant, anti-government organizations in the country. The investigation also found 37 other Republican local and state government officials on the membership list and 400 people who signed up for membership or newsletters using government, military or political campaign email addresses. The Oath Keepers have routinely confronted protesters at Black Lives Matter rallies, pushed misinformation during the pandemic, promoted the “Big Lie,” and were one of the most visible groups with members participating in the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. It’s clear that anti-government extremists are the heart of the Republican Party and no longer on the fringe.

Perhaps the most chilling revelation of the investigation reads: “Clampitt said he went to a few Oath Keepers meetings when he joined back in 2014, but the way he participates now is by being a state legislator.”

“It’s an undeniable national security risk for current lawmakers to be members of a militant, anti-government organization,” said DLCC President Jessica Post. “Being an Oath Keeper is antithetical to our American values and the pledge that all government officials take to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Sadly, it seems like pushing conspiracy theories and undermining our democracy has become a prerequisite for today’s Republican Party. The Republican State Leadership Committee should not tolerate extremism in its ranks any longer and must immediately pull their support and condemn every legislator who associates with this hateful, violent, right-wing organization.” 

The ten sitting Republican state legislators identified on the Oath Keepers membership list are:

ProPublica: Oath Keepers in the State House: How a Militia Movement Took Root in the Republican Mainstream

ProPublica identified [North Carolina state Representative Mike] Clampitt and 47 more state and local government officials on the list, all Republicans: 10 sitting state lawmakers; two former state representatives; one current state assembly candidate; a state legislative aide; a city council assistant; county commissioners in Indiana, Arizona and North Carolina; two town aldermen; sheriffs or constables in Montana, Texas and Kentucky; state investigators in Texas and Louisiana; and a New Jersey town’s public works director.

According to experts who monitor violent extremism, the Oath Keepers’ broadening membership provides the group with two crucial resources: money and, particularly when government officials get involved, legitimacy.

Clampitt said he went to a few Oath Keepers meetings when he joined back in 2014, but the way he participates now is by being a state legislator. He has co-sponsored a bill to allow elected officials to carry concealed guns in courthouses, schools and government buildings, and he supported legislation stiffening penalties for violent demonstrations in response to last year’s protests in Raleigh over George Floyd’s murder. Clampitt said he opposes violence but stood by his Oath Keepers affiliation, despite the dozens of members charged in the Capitol riot…

Among the current officeholders on the list is Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, who was already publicly identified with the Oath Keepers. Finchem was outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 but has said he did not enter the building or engage in violence, and he has disputed the characterization of the Oath Keepers as an anti-government group. He is currently running to be Arizona’s top elections official, and he won former President Donald Trump’s endorsement in September.

Serving with Clampitt in the North Carolina assembly, deputy majority whip Keith Kidwell appeared on the Oath Keepers list as an annual member in 2012. Kidwell declined to comment, calling the membership list “stolen information.” A spokesperson for the state house speaker declined to comment on Kidwell’s and Clampitt’s Oath Keepers affiliation.

The membership list also names Alaska state Rep. David Eastman as a life member and Indiana state Sen. Scott Baldwin and Georgia state Rep. Steve Tarvin as annual members. Eastman confirmed his membership and declined to answer further questions. Baldwin’s spokesperson said he was unavailable to comment.