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Profile: Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller

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Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller was a participant or observer in the following events:

Mark Williams, speaking on Anderson Cooper’s CNN broadcast.Mark Williams, speaking on Anderson Cooper’s CNN broadcast. [Source: TPM Muckraker]Mark Williams, a conservative talk radio host in Sacramento and a prominent spokesman for the nationally based Tea Party Express (TPE), appears on a CNN panel during that network’s Anderson Cooper 360° and, while defending his organization against charges of racism, himself uses racist allegations against President Obama. Williams denounces those who carry openly racist signs against Obama during tea party events (see June 30, 2009, July 28, 2009, August 4, 2009, August 11, 2009, August 11, 2009, September 11, 2010), and September 12, 2010), calling them “no more part of the mainstream of America than the hippies who wear nipple clips and feather boas in San Francisco streets during so-called peace demonstrations.” Cooper informs Williams, “What you’re saying makes sense to me here when I’m hearing what you say but then I read on your blog, you say, you call the president an Indonesian Muslim turned welfare thug and a racist in chief.” Williams shrugs and answers, “Yeah, that’s the way he’s behaving.” Cooper asks Williams if he really believes Obama is an Indonesian Muslim and a welfare thug, to which Williams responds: “He’s certainly acting like it. Until he embraces the whole country what else can I conclude.” [Huffington Post, 9/15/2009] TPE is one of the most “establishment” of the various tea party organizations. It was founded and run by Republican operatives and lobbyists, in a similar fashion to the Washington conservative lobbying firm FreedomWorks (see April 14, 2009). Williams is a key element in making TPE a large and influential organization, and has publicly associated the organization with conservative Republican 2010 candidates such as Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle and Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller. [TPM Muckraker, 7/19/2010]

Entity Tags: Sharron Angle, Mark Williams (radio host), Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, FreedomWorks, Tea Party Express, Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Supporters of Joe Miller march while carrying assault weapons. Supporters of Joe Miller march while carrying assault weapons. [Source: Bob Moore / TPMDC]Supporters of Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller (R-AK), who has the support of former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) and the Tea Party Express against Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), march in the streets of Anchorage brandishing assault weapons. Miller later explains the event on ABC News: “You know, guns are a pretty big thing up here in Alaska. In fact, per capita, we probably have the highest rate of gun ownership in the nation. The Second Amendment’s very important to people up here in Alaska. So you know, it’s not unusual to walk into a Wal-Mart, or to walk into a gas station, and see people carrying guns. Frankly, I wasn’t in that Hummer [the large SUV accompanying the marchers]. I was out there walking, shaking hands. But you know, it’s not unusual in political rallies, it’s not unusual in parades, to see that type of thing. Probably though, in the lower 48, it does raise some eyebrows.” [TPMDC, 7/19/2010; ABC News, 7/19/2010] The supporters shown in a video of the march are later identified as members of the Anchorage Second Amendment Task Force, a gun rights group. The organization endorsed Miller after he showed up at a forum over the summer that Murkowski declined to attend. Task Force leader Chuck Green later tells a reporter that his members “like[d] Miller’s straight forward answers to questions.… [S]ome of the guys in the forum decided to attend the parade supporting Miller. It’s… as simple as that.” [Salon, 7/23/2010] Miller says that he welcomes the support of the Tea Party Express even after its spokesman, Mark Williams, was ejected from the National Tea Party Federation for making explicitly racist comments (see July 17-18, 2010 and July 19-23, 2010). Miller says his campaign does not endorse such views: “I think it’s appropriate for us to make an unequivocal statement that this campaign is not, in any way, racist,” he says. “In fact, we judge people by their character, rather than the color of their skin. We have a number of minorities that are assisting us in this campaign. My perspective of it is that we will embrace, though, the help that’s brought to this campaign by those that are really supportive of constitutional limited government. And I think that’s the direction this country’s gotta go to rescue it from the financial insolvency that it’s in right now.” [ABC News, 7/19/2010] Miller will later be shown to have extensive ties to Alaska’s right-wing militia movement (see July 23, 2010 and October 18, 2010). Many of those militia organizations espouse racist beliefs.

Entity Tags: National Tea Party Federation, Mark Williams, Lisa Murkowski, Tea Party Express, Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller, Chuck Green, Sarah Palin, Anchorage Second Amendment Task Force

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Joe Miller.Joe Miller. [Source: Mad As Hell And ... (.com)]Salon reporter and columnist Justin Elliot warns that if Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller (R-AK) is elected, the militia movement in that state will have a staunch supporter in the US Senate. Elliot writes his column shortly after a controversial video of a recent Miller rally makes national news, showing Miller supporters openly brandishing assault rifles during a march (see July 19, 2010). Norm Olson of the Alaska Citizens Militia (see April 1994, March 25 - April 1, 1996, and Summer 1996 - June 1997) tells Elliot: “It’s safe to say that Joe Miller is a friend of patriots. His beliefs and platform favor Second Amendment rights as well as the power of nullification when the federal government intrudes into the private lives of Alaskans.” Olson claims his Alaska Militia has several hundred members and supporters; the organization accuses the federal government of committing 17 “acts of war” against the US population, including “firearms restrictions or other disarmament,” “mandatory medical anything,” “federal patrols,” “taking control of children under duress or threat,” “federalization of law enforcement,” and “surrender powers to a corporation or foreign government.” Miller advocates interpreting the Tenth Amendment to “get the government out of our lives,” an interpretation classed by critics as “tentherism,” which many on the right, including militia organizations, say should be used to force the federal government to cede vast powers to the states and even local authorities. The “tenthers” often focus on dissolving Social Security and other federal “safety net” programs, and ending all controls on gun ownership. Elliot writes: “This is the centerpiece of Miller’s political identity. He asserts that there is no constitutional authority for the health care reform law or proposed cap and trade legislation. He advocates a state takeover of federally controlled land in Alaska such as Denali National Park. These are the kinds of positions that are creating buzz in the militia world.” Olson’s colleague, Ray Southwell, who accompanied Olson to Alaska after both were ejected from the Michigan Militia for their extremist views (see April 1994, March 25 - April 1, 1996, and Summer 1996 - June 1997), has written emails and Web posts in support of Miller in recent weeks. One email reads in part, “We need leaders here to stand against the feds.” Another militia member wrote: “Joe Miller is an strong Constitution following patriot, he does not play games.… If we want to make sure Joe Miller keeps on the straight and narrow, WE, ALL OF US, have to make damn sure he and his entire family are safe and sound, because that is a common way to get at a man go for the soft spot family [sic].” Elliot notes that the Alaska militias are not unified in support of Miller, and some, like Schaeffer Cox of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, say, “He’s going to try to run things in a more conservative way, but he’s still trying to run things—so he has the same fundamental problem of all the other politicians.” [Salon, 7/23/2010] The online news site Alaska Dispatch will note that Cox also founded and leads the Second Amendment Task Force, the group that turned out to display its assault weapons during the recent Miller rally. It also will note that Olson recently attempted to run for lieutenant governor on the Alaskan Independence Party (AIP) ticket (see September 6-7, 2008). The AIP is one of the largest and most well-known secessionist organizations in Alaska, and once listed Todd Palin, the husband of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK), as a member. [KTUU-TV, 9/6/2010; Alaska Dispatch, 9/23/2010] Miller claims to know nothing of AIP’s agenda or views, but according to the Alaska Dispatch and the liberal blog Progressive Nation, AIP’s statements of beliefs are virtually identical to those espoused by AIP. It’s unlikely Miller is unaware of AIP, the blog claims, and asks, “If you like the Tea Party, you gotta love the Alaskan Independence Party, so why has it been shunned even by Alaska politicians?” It goes on to note that when Palin ran for vice president in 2008, the McCain-Palin campaign called attempts to call attention to her family’s ties to AIP a “smear.” AIP itself has written on its Web site, “No longer a fringe party, the AIP is a viable third party with a serious mission and qualified candidates for elected offices,” and boasts the inclusion of former Governor Wally Hickel (AIP-AK) as a member. The blog notes that former AIP member Todd Palin is involved in Miller’s campaign. [Progressive Nation, 7/11/2010; Alaska Dispatch, 9/8/2010] Miller will later be shown to employ security guards with militia ties (see October 17, 2010).

Entity Tags: Ray Southwell, Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller, Alaska Peacemakers Militia, Alaska Dispatch, Alaska Citizens Militia, Justin Elliot, Progressive Nation, Todd Palin, Second Amendment Task Force, Sarah Palin, Schaeffer Cox, Wally Hickel, Norman (“Norm”) Olson

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Liberal New York Times columnist Frank Rich writes an op-ed focusing on the billionaire Koch brothers (see 1977-Present, 1979-1980, 1981-2010, 1984 and After, 1997, Late 2004, August 5, 2009, November 2009, July 3-4, 2010, August 30, 2010, and October 4, 2011), the oil magnates who are the driving force behind the tea party movement. Rich writes that “even those carrying the Kochs’ banner may not know who these brothers are.” Rich, using information from historian Kim Phillips-Fein’s book Invisible Hands, notes that the Kochs are the latest in a long line of behind-the-scenes corporate manipulators “who have financed the far right (see September 2010 and August 17, 2011) ever since the du Pont brothers spawned the American Liberty League in 1934 to bring down” the Roosevelt administration (see August 23, 1934 and After). “You can draw a straight line from the Liberty League’s crusade against the New Deal ‘socialism’ of Social Security, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and child labor laws to the John Birch Society-Barry Goldwater assault on [the Kennedy administration] and Medicare (see 1962 and November 1963) to the Koch-Murdoch-backed juggernaut against our ‘socialist’ president,” Rich writes. “Only the fat cats change—not their methods and not their pet bugaboos (taxes, corporate regulation, organized labor, and government ‘handouts’ to the poor, unemployed, ill, and elderly). Even the sources of their fortunes remain fairly constant. Koch Industries began with oil in the 1930s and now also spews an array of industrial products, from Dixie cups to Lycra, not unlike DuPont’s portfolio of paint and plastics. Sometimes the biological DNA persists as well. The Koch brothers’ father, Fred (see 1940 and After), was among the select group chosen to serve on the Birch Society’s top governing body. In a recorded 1963 speech that survives in a University of Michigan archive, he can be heard warning of ‘a takeover’ of America in which Communists would ‘infiltrate the highest offices of government in the US until the president is a Communist, unknown to the rest of us.’ That rant could be delivered as is at any tea party rally today.” Rich also focuses on FreedomWorks (see 1984 and After, May 16, 2008, February 16-17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, February 27, 2009, March 13, 2009 and After, April 2009 and After, April 14, 2009, April 15, 2009, June 26, 2009, Late July, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6-7, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 14, 2009, August 19, 2009, August 24, 2010, September 2010, September 12, 2010 and August 17, 2011), one of the two “major sponsor[s]” of the tea party movement, along with Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see Late 2004, October 2008, January 2009 and After, February 16, 2009, February 16-17, 2009, February 17, 2009, February 19, 2009 and After, April 2009 and After, April 8, 2009, May 29, 2009, July 23, 2009, July 27, 2009, August 5, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 6, 2009, August 10, 2009, August 14, 2009, October 2, 2009, November 2009, February 15, 2010, April 15, 2010, July 3-4, 2010, August 24, 2010, August 30, 2010, September 20, 2010 and August 17, 2011). Both FreedomWorks and AFP are heavily funded by the Koch brothers. Rich writes: “Tea partiers may share the Kochs’ detestation of taxes, big government, and [President] Obama. But there’s a difference between mainstream conservatism and a fringe agenda that tilts completely toward big business, whether on Wall Street or in the Gulf of Mexico, while dismantling fundamental government safety nets designed to protect the unemployed, public health, workplace safety, and the subsistence of the elderly.” Rich writes that the Koch brothers’ agenda is “inexorably… morphing into the GOP agenda,” and points to Republican luminaries such as incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-MO) and tea party candidates such as Rand Paul (see March 27, 2010, May 17, 2010, October 25, 2010 and After, October 26, 2010 and November 10, 2010), Sharron Angle (see January 2010, Mid-May, 2010, Mid-June 2010, June 16, 2010 and September 18, 2010), and Joe Miller (see July 19, 2010, July 23, 2010, October 17, 2010, October 17, 2010 and October 18, 2010). “The Koch brothers must be laughing all the way to the bank knowing that working Americans are aiding and abetting their selfish interests,” Rich concludes. [New York Times, 8/28/2010]

Entity Tags: Rand Paul, Koch Industries, Sharron Angle, Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller, Kim Phillips-Fein, John Birch Society, Barack Obama, Americans for Prosperity, American Liberty League, Charles Koch, John Boehner, David Koch, Fred Koch, FreedomWorks, Frank Rich

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

East German guards carry the body of a slain child back over the border, in this undated photo.East German guards carry the body of a slain child back over the border, in this undated photo. [Source: Ben and Bawb's Blog (.com)]Alaska candidate for US Senate Joe Miller (R-AK) tells a crowd at a town hall meeting in an Anchorage middle school that the US should emulate the effectiveness of the former East German border control system to keep illegal immigrants out. A Miller supporter asks Miller how he thinks the US should stop illegal immigrants. Miller responds that the way to stop illegal immigration is to build a fence at the border (he does not say the northern or southern border), and cites the effectiveness of the East Germans in controlling their borders. East Germany, under Soviet control, built the infamous Berlin Wall, and hundreds of people were killed by East German border patrol officials trying to sneak out of East Germany into West Germany. Miller says he got a first-hand look at the barbed wire and concrete divide as a West Point cadet when he was sent to the Fulda Gap near Frankfurt, “when the wall was still up between East and West Germany.” Miller says, “East Germany was very, very able to reduce the flow.” Perhaps referring to the machine gun nests on and around the wall, and the border guards with standing orders to shoot to kill, Miller adds: “Obviously there were other things that were involved, but we have the capacity as a great nation to obviously secure our border. If East Germany could do it, we could do it.” [Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010] After the town hall event, a group of Miller’s private security guards forcibly detain and handcuff a reporter who attempts to question Miller (see October 17, 2010).

Entity Tags: Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Several of Joe Miller’s private security guards stand over a handcuffed Tony Hopfinger, whom they detained during a political event.Several of Joe Miller’s private security guards stand over a handcuffed Tony Hopfinger, whom they detained during a political event. [Source: Anchorage Daily News]Tony Hopfinger, an editor of the Alaska Dispatch, is “arrested,” detained, and handcuffed by private security guards employed by US Senate candidate Joe Miller (R-AK) after he attempts to interview Miller. Miller appeared at a public event at Anchorage, Alaska’s Central Middle School, sponsored by his campaign. The guards handcuff Hopfinger, place him in a chair in a hallway, and stand over him, presumably to prevent his “escape” from custody. They release him when Anchorage police arrive on the scene and order him arrested. The security guards come from a private security firm known as The Drop Zone; owner William Fulton, one of the guards who detains Hopfinger, accuses Hopfinger of trespassing at the public event, and says he assaulted someone by shoving him. Anchorage police say they have not yet filed charges against anyone. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/17/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010; Salon, 10/18/2010] Miller, Fulton, and The Drop Zone are later shown to have ties to Alaska’s far-right paramilitary and militia groups, to employ active-duty soldiers, and to lack a business license to legally operate (see October 18, 2010).
Small Gathering Marked by Candidate Dodging Tough Questions - The 3 p.m. event is billed by the Miller campaign as a chance for voters to “hear Joe Miller speak for himself,” and is clearly a public event: in a Facebook campaign entry, the campaign urges supporters to bring their “friends, colleagues, family, acquaintances, neighbors.” The entry also tells voters, “Don’t let the media skew your views.” Miller spends some 45 minutes addressing the crowd of several hundred voters and, according to the Anchorage Daily News, “answering—or deflecting—questions.” While there are many Miller supporters in the crowd, some hostile questioners also make themselves heard. One questioner, referring to Miller’s admitted reliance on medical care subsidies and other federal benefits in contradiction to his campaign theme of such benefits being unconstitutional, calls Miller a “welfare queen—you had a lot of children that you couldn’t afford, and we had to pay for it.” Miller responds that he is not necessarily opposed to such benefits, only that they should come from the states and not the federal government. Another criticizes Miller’s announcement last week that he would no longer answer questions about his character or his personal history. The questioner says that while his opponents have previous records in elective office, he does not: “In this instance, you have no record, so it’s meaningful and it’s reasonable that we would want to examine your professional background and your military…” Miller cuts her off and calls her a known supporter of his opponent, write-in candidate Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who lost a narrow primary vote to him. Miller says he has a public record as a state and federal judge, but adds that he wants to discuss his position on federal spending and not federal subsidies he may have received. During the questioning period, he says he will stay to talk to individuals, but when the period concludes, he quickly leaves the room. [Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010] Miller does speak to a few participants in the school hallway after leaving the room. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/18/2010]
Detained after Asking Questions - Hopfinger, carrying a small video camera, approaches Miller after the event, and asks questions of the candidate concerning disciplinary actions taken against him while he was a lawyer for the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The topic is one Miller has cited as driving his refusal to answer further questions about his character and personal history; he was disciplined for using government computers for partisan political activity during his time as a part-time borough attorney. Three press outlets, including the Alaska Dispatch and the Anchorage Daily News, are suing the borough to get Miller’s personnel file. Miller walks away from Hopfinger without answering. Some of the people in the vicinity tell Hopfinger to “quit pestering” Miller. As they walk down the hallway, Miller suddenly changes direction, leaving Hopfinger quickly surrounded and pressed in by Miller supporters and a large contingent of private security guards, all of them wearing radio earphones. (Miller later claims that Hopfinger is actively blocking his exit from the hallway, a claim not backed up by evidence, and tells a Fox News reporter that Hopfinger “was hounding me… blocking the way.”) Hopfinger later says he feels threatened and pressured, so he shoves one of the guards aside. “These guys were bumping into me,” Hopfinger later says, “bumping me into Miller’s supporters.” He later identifies Fulton as the individual making most of the physical contact with him. The man Hopfinger shoves is not hurt, Fulton later says, though Hopfinger later says Fulton is the man he pushed away. No one else comes forward to say they were the person “assaulted,” Hopfinger later says. At this point, Miller’s private security guards seize Hopfinger, push him against a wall, cuff his hands behind his back with steel handcuffs, sit him in a chair in a hallway, and “confiscate” his video camera. Hopfinger later says he chooses not to resist, saying “these guys would have had me on the ground; it ramped up that fast.” He later says that when the guards tell him he is trespassing, he is given no time to leave, and is immediately seized and handcuffed. Everything happens in seconds, he will say. Hopfinger later says that when he receives his video camera back, the segment of video showing his questions to Miller, and the ensuing scuffle, have been deleted. Hopfinger refuses an offer from police to have the video camera taken into custody and analyzed by the crime lab. The guard who takes the camera later denies erasing anything, and says Hopfinger dropped it during the altercation. [Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010; Salon, 10/18/2010; Fox News, 10/18/2010; Alaska Dispatch, 10/19/2010] A Miller supporter who witnesses the incident later says Miller knocks her aside and “bowl[s] over” her eight-year-old son in his attempt to get away from Hopfinger (see October 17-18, 2010).
Other Reporters Threatened - Hopfinger later says Fulton then says he is calling the police, and Hopfinger responds that calling the police is a good idea. Hopfinger is then handcuffed. Fulton later says he does not know how long Hopfinger was detained for; Hopfinger later says it seemed like a long time to him. While Hopfinger is in handcuffs and surrounded by Miller’s guards, the guards attempt to prevent other reporters from talking to him, and threaten the reporters with similar “arrests” and handcuffing for trespassing. An Anchorage Daily News reporter succeeds in speaking with Hopfinger, and is not detained. Several small altercations between the guards and reporters ensue, consisting of chest bumps and shoving matches as the guards attempt to prevent reporters from filming the scene. Video footage shot by Anchorage Daily News reporter Rich Mauer shows three guards blocking Mauer and Dispatch reporter Jill Burke from approaching Hopfinger, and shows Burke repeatedly asking a guard to take his hands off her. When police officers arrive, they order Fulton to release Hopfinger from the handcuffs. According to Hopfinger, during the entire time he is detained, he is in the “custody” of people who identified themselves only as “Miller volunteers,” though most of them are wearing the radio earphones. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/17/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010; Alaska Dispatch, 10/18/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010] An Anchorage police officer removes the cuffs and refuses to accept Fulton’s “private person’s arrest” (Alaska’s equivalent of a “citizen’s arrest”) after interviewing people at the scene. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/18/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010]
Miller Campaign Accuses Hopfinger of Assault, 'Irrational' Behavior - After the incident, the Miller campaign quickly releases a statement accusing Hopfinger of assault and attempting to “create a publicity stunt” (see October 17-18, 2010). [Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010] Hopfinger later says he would have preferred a less confrontational method of questioning Miller. “I was not assaulting or touching Joe, I was asking him questions,” Hopfinger will say. “I would certainly prefer to sit down with Mr. Miller and ask him the questions, but he drew a line in the sand a week ago and said he wasn’t going to do that. That doesn’t mean we don’t go to functions or public appearances and try to ask our questions.” [Alaska Dispatch, 10/19/2010]
Further Investigation - The school’s security camera may have captured footage of the incident, police say. Hopfinger is considering whether to file assault charges against Fulton, “The Drop Zone,” and/or the Miller campaign. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/17/2010] However, Heidi Embley, a spokeswoman for the Anchorage School District, later says security cameras were partially installed at the school but were not equipped with recording devices, so no video of the scene is available from that source. She later says that Miller’s group paid $400 to use the school for three hours, a standard fee for any non-school group. She also says that any such gatherings are technically private events because the group is renting the facility for its meeting. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/18/2010] The campaign rented the cafeteria, stage, and parking lot, the school district later notes, and the hallway outside the event venue was not covered in the rental agreement. [Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010] Sergeant Mark Rein of the Anchorage Police Department says Hopfinger is not in custody or under arrest. [Crooks and Liars, 10/18/2010] Al Patterson, chief Anchorage municipal prosecutor, later decides to file no charges against anyone involved. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/19/2010]
False Claim of Security Requirement - Miller later tells national news reporters that he had been told by the school district to hire private security guards as part of his agreement to use the facility. He later tells a Fox News reporter, “I might also note that the middle school itself required us by a contract for a campaign, required us to have a security team.” And he tells a CNN reporter: “There was a—a private security team that was required. We had to hire them because the school required that as a term in their lease.” Embley will state that Miller’s claims are false, and there is no such requirement for private security guards in the rental agreement. The agreement does require some sort of security plan, Embley will say, no matter what the function. She will give the agreement to reporters, who learn that the plan basically involves monitors to watch over parking and ensure participants do not bring food or drink into the facility. Miller’s campaign will later claim, again falsely, that the security plan called for Miller’s “security team” to enforce a “no disruptive behavior” clause, and in its assessment, Hopfinger was being disruptive. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/18/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010]

Entity Tags: Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch, Anchorage Police Department, Fox News, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller, Central Middle School (Anchorage, Alaska), Tony Hopfinger, Lisa Murkowski, William Fulton, Mark Rein, Heidi Embley, Richard Mauer, The Drop Zone

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism, 2010 Elections

The campaign of Joe Miller (R-AK), a candidate for US Senate in Alaska, releases a pair of statements following Miller’s security guards detaining and handcuffing a reporter for attempting to ask Miller questions after a public event in Anchorage (see October 17, 2010). The first statement is a single paragraph from William Fulton, the owner of “The Drop Zone,” a private security firm whose guards, employed by Miller’s campaign, handcuffed and restrained Alaska Dispatch reporter Tony Hopfinger. Fulton himself was one of the guards who handcuffed Hopfinger. In his statement, Fulton accuses Hopfinger of “assaulting” one of his guards, and claims that because the school district rented the space to the campaign, his guards had the right to declare anyone in trespass. He says Hopfinger was “stalking” Miller and posed a security threat. The statement from the Miller campaign, entitled “Liberal Blogger ‘Loses It’ at Town Hall Meeting,” accuses Hopfinger, the editor of the Alaska Dispatch newspaper, of being “an irrational blogger” attempting to “create a publicity stunt” by assaulting someone during the event. The statement says Miller’s guards were forced to take action to restrain the “irrational” Hopfinger. “It is also important to note that the security personnel did not know that the individual they detained was a blogger who reporting on the campaign [sic],” the statement continues. Miller campaign spokesman Randy DeSoto refuses to comment or make Miller, himself a witness, available for news interviews. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/17/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010]
Miller's Statement - The statement reads in full: “The Miller campaign was required by the facility to provide security at the event. Even though Joe had spent nearly an hour freely answering questions from those in attendance, the blogger chased Miller to the exit after the event concluded in an attempt to create and then record a ‘confrontation’ with the candidate. While Miller attempted to calmly exit the facility, the blogger physically assaulted another individual and made threatening gestures and movements towards the candidate. At that point the security personnel had to take action and intervened and detained the irrational blogger, whose anger overcame him. It is also important to note that the security personnel did not know that the individual they detained was a blogger who reporting on the campaign. To them, the blogger appeared irrational, angry, and potentially violent.” [Joe Miller, 10/17/2010; Crooks and Liars, 10/18/2010]
Security Guard Insists He Had Legal Authority to Handcuff Reporter - Interviewed by a reporter from the Alaska Dispatch, Fulton says he and his guards pushed Hopfinger into a wall and handcuffed him because he refused to leave a private event and was trespassing. The event, which was clearly public, was indeed private, Fulton says, and Hopfinger should have been aware of that because of the “Joe Miller for Senate” signs outside the venue, an Anchorage middle school. “They leased it for a private event,” Fulton says. “It wasn’t a public place.” That, he says, gave him the legal authority to tell Hopfinger to leave, then grab him and handcuff him when he didn’t do as told. Hopfinger says he was given no warning and no opportunity to leave. He says he had no idea who Fulton was. The security guard was in a black suit, not a uniform, Hopfinger says, and refused to identify himself. “He throws me up against the wall,” Hopfinger states. “He handcuffs me,” and even then, Hopfinger says, Fulton refused to identify himself. Hopfinger says he was attempting to get Miller to answer questions about disciplinary hearings he faced while a lawyer with the Fairbanks North Star Borough, questions Miller has repeatedly refused to address. Fulton states that he and his fellow guards restrained Hopfinger because the reporter was “getting really pushy with Joe. Joe was trying to get away from him.” Fulton goes on to state that he was suspicious of Hopfinger because the reporter “had something in his hand,” but admits he knew Hopfinger was not carrying a weapon. “It could have been a camera,” he says. “It could have been a recording device. It could have been an iPhone.” Hopfinger was carrying, and using, a video camera. According to Fulton, when his guards surrounded Hopfinger, the reporter “shoulder checked a guy into a locker.” Fulton says whomever Hopfinger pushed aside “wasn’t one of our guys. It could have been anyone. [But] I saw that shoulder check as being violent.” Hopfinger says he was trying to get some room from the crowd of guards and Miller supporters pressing in on him, and only remembers touching Fulton. He says he did not “shoulder check” anyone, and says he put his hand on Fulton’s chest to try to push him away. “I was being pushed into a lot of people,” Hopfinger says. “I used my hand. It all happened in seconds. He said it was a private event. He grabbed me and said, ‘You’re under arrest.’” Fulton says as a private security guard he has the authority to police “private events,” but refuses to answer questions about how this particular event, billed as a public gathering at a public school, could be private. The Alaska Dispatch writes: “The meeting was open to the public. There were no names taken at the door. Reporters were not asked to apply for credentials.” Fulton insists, “This is a simple trespassing issue,” but no one else “trespassing” in the hallway with Hopfinger was detained. Fulton admits that others in the hallway may have been reporters, and says: “I think we told them [all] to leave. It’s not a public [place] if it’s leased. It was a private event… because it’s a private event, and we’ve taken over the school.” [Alaska Dispatch, 10/17/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010]
Witness: Guards Overreacted, Miller Shoved Her, Knocked Over Young Boy - A witness to the incident says while Hopfinger was rude, he did not threaten Miller and the guards overreacted. Lolly Symbol, a Miller supporter from Big Lake, drove to the rally with her two young sons to ask Miller about his stance on gun control. She says she received the opportunity just after the town hall event, when Miller spoke with a few people outside the main room. She says she was standing next to Miller when Hopfinger began questioning him. According to Symbol, Miller was already angry with another questioner, an elderly woman who asked him about his military background. “He ended up getting really huffy with her,” Symbol says. She began asking him her question, she recalls, when Hopfinger interrupted her with a camera and a question about the incident with Fairbanks North Star Borough. “I would say Tony was aggressive, and I would say he was rude because he interrupted me, but he didn’t do anything wrong and he wasn’t posing a threat to Miller,” Symbol says. Miller shoved her aside, Symbol says, and “bowled over” her eight-year-old son Vincent Mahoney in his attempt to get away from Hopfinger. “I don’t know if [Miller] didn’t see him or didn’t care, but he didn’t say ‘excuse me’ or ‘I’m sorry.’ He didn’t even turn his head,” Symbol recalls. “He simply did not care at all.” Hopfinger continued to try to question Miller, but the security guards blocked his access. “They kept pushing him back,” she recalls. “He kept saying, ‘I have a right to be here, I have a right to be asking these questions.’ Tony would try to walk forward and they would push him back.” Symbol says she did not see Hopfinger push anyone, though the reporter has said he did push someone he thought was a security guard who had bumped him to keep him back. Heidi Embley, a spokeswoman for the Anchorage School District, says security cameras were partially installed at the school but were not equipped with recording devices, so no video of the scene is available. Symbol says she attempted to give her statement to police, but no one would take her information. Of Hopfinger, she says: “I do not believe that he did anything wrong. He was rude and he was aggressive but that’s just what the press does. Legally he did not do anything wrong that deserved to be put in cuffs.” Of Miller and the incident, she says: “The whole thing just made me sick. I was a big supporter of Joe Miller, I really was. But not anymore.” [Alaska Dispatch, 10/18/2010]

Entity Tags: Tony Hopfinger, The Drop Zone, Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller, Heidi Embley, Alaska Dispatch, Fairbanks North Star Borough, William Fulton, Vincent Mahoney, Lolly Symbol, Randy DeSoto

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

The poster featured in the front window of the Drop Zone. The caption reads: “Fascism. Socialism. New World Order. InfoWars.com.”The poster featured in the front window of the Drop Zone. The caption reads: “Fascism. Socialism. New World Order. InfoWars.com.” [Source: Life in Spenard (.com)]Investigative reporters and bloggers learn that the private security firm hired by Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller (R-AK) is also active in right-wing militia and paramilitary activities. They also learn that some of the guards employed by the firm, the Drop Zone (DZ), are active-duty military soldiers, and that the firm is unlicensed and therefore operating outside the law. [Huffington Post, 10/18/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010; Salon, 10/19/2010]
Senate Candidate Has History of Armed Intimidation, Association with Militias - Miller himself has a history of armed intimidation: according to blogger and reporter Shannyn Moore, in 2008 he attempted to stage a “coup d’etat” of the leadership of the Alaska Republican Party, appearing during a meeting with a group of armed security guards. (The attempt, as such, was unsuccessful, and Miller currently enjoys the support of the Alaska Republican Party.) During the 2010 Senate campaign, Miller’s supporters drew media attention by brandishing assault rifles during campaign rallies (see July 19, 2010). [Huffington Post, 10/18/2010]
Security Guards on Active Duty with Army - On September 17, Miller’s security guards forcibly detained and handcuffed reporter Tony Hopfinger for attempting to question Miller about disciplinary measures taken against him while he was a lawyer for the Fairbanks North Star Borough (see October 17, 2010). The security guards work with DZ, and two of the guards who roughed up Hopfinger are on active duty with the US Army. The two guards, Specialist Tyler Ellingboe and Sergeant Alexander Valdez, are members of the 3rd Maneuver Enhancement Brigade at Fort Richardson. Army public affairs officer Major Bill Coppernoll says neither soldier has permission from their commanding officers to work for DZ, and the Army is still looking into whether previous company or brigade commanders authorized their employment. “They’ve got to be up front with the chain of command,” Coppernoll says. “The chain of command needs to agree they can do that without affecting the readiness and the whole slew of things that are part of being a soldier that they need to do first.” DZ owner William Fulton, who was one of the guards who restrained and handcuffed Hopfinger, says it is not his job to ensure that the soldiers complied with Army regulations. “They’re adults—they are responsible for themselves,” Fulton says. [Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010; Salon, 10/19/2010] Hopfinger identifies Ellingboe and Valdez as two of the guards who stood over him during the time he was handcuffed. Hopfinger says Ellingboe and Valdez refused to give him their names and would not identify their company or who they were working for. At one point they told him they were volunteers, he says. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/19/2010] A Defense Department directive from 2008, entitled “Political Activities by Members of the Armed Forces on Active Duty,” states in part, “A member of the armed forces on active duty shall not:… [p]erform clerical or other duties for a partisan political committee or candidate during a campaign.” [Department of Defense, 2/19/2008 pdf file]
Security Firm: Ties to Militias, Blackwater - Fulton is an active member of the Alaska Citizens Militia, where he is titled a “supply sergeant.” The organization is led by former Michigan Militia leader Norm Olson (see April 1994, March 25 - April 1, 1996, and Summer 1996 - June 1997), who recently attempted to run for lieutenant governor of Alaska under the auspices of the secessionist Alaskan Independence Party (AIP—see September 6-7, 2008). [Yahoo! News, 10/20/2010; PalinGates, 10/20/2010] Many DZ employees have bragged about their connections to far-right elements in Alaska’s political and paramilitary scenes, and have said that the firm employs a number of former Blackwater security personnel. The firm displays a large poster of President Obama as “The Joker” in its front window and a link to InfoWars.com, a right-wing conspiracy Web site hosted by Alex Jones. The owner of the Drop Zone, William Fulton, has boasted to patrons about his partners’ participation in renditions and “black ops” overseas, and likes to show his .50-caliber sniper rifle to prospective customers. Fulton has frequently told patrons about his fondness for Fox News talk show host Glenn Beck, saying to one, “Glenn talks to the crazies,” who are his best customers. Fulton also has suspected ties to the Alaskan Independence Party, which once claimed Todd Palin, former Governor Sarah Palin’s husband, as a member. [Huffington Post, 10/18/2010; Anchorage Daily News, 10/18/2010; Life in Spenard, 10/18/2010; Salon, 10/19/2010]
Miller's Ties to Militias - Alaska Citizens Militia leader Ray Southwell, a longtime crony of Olson’s and a fellow leader of the Alaska Citizens Militia, recently wrote of meeting Miller at a militia leader’s home in Soldotna, Alaska. Southwell wrote in a militia forum that he recently encouraged Miller to run for state office: “We need leaders here to stand against the feds.” In that same forum, Olson posted his endorsement of Miller’s candidacy. [PalinGates, 10/20/2010]
Expired License - Investigating bloggers also find that the Drop Zone’s license to do business as a security firm (under the name “Dropzone Security Services”) expired in December 2009. The firm updated its license on September 18, 2010, the day after its guards detained and handcuffed Hopfinger, but only renewed its license to trade, not its license to provide security. [The Immoral Minority, 10/19/2010; Yahoo! News, 10/20/2010; PalinGates, 10/20/2010] Fulton tells a reporter that he is not a security guard and that DZ is not a security guard agency, therefore he needs no license to operate as a security firm. Instead, he says, DZ is a “contract agency” and that he and his people are considered “security agents,” not guards. “We don’t do anything covered under the security [statutes],” he says. “We don’t do anything that the state has any authority to tell us what to do.” He denies having any employees, and says he hires specific people on a contract basis. DZ is primarily a military supply store, Fulton says, and only does security contracts “three or four times a month.” He admits to doing business with Miller in the past, but refuses to go into detail. He goes on to say that his guards at the Miller event were unarmed, and his “contractors” only carry weapons when they undertake “fugitive recovery” jobs: “All the guys we use are professionals, and they act professionally and dress professionally.” Hopfinger disagrees with Fulton’s contention that he is a security “agent” as opposed to a “guard,” saying: “He certainly acted like an aggressive security guard and he may have broken the law. It was an illegal detention and an illegal arrest.” Of Miller, Hopfinger says the candidate is exhibiting “poor judgment… to have Fulton and active-duty soldiers be his bodyguards.” No other Alaska political candidate he has interviewed, including Miller’s Republican opponent Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), has security guards with them, he says. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/19/2010]
Investigation - The firm is being investigated by the Alaska Department of Public Safety, both for its handling of the Hopfinger incident and for its unlicensed status. [Alaska Dispatch, 10/19/2010]

Entity Tags: Alaska Citizens Militia, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Bill Coppernoll, US Department of the Army, Alaska Department of Public Safety, Alaskan Independence Party, Alaska Republican Party, Barack Obama, Alexander Valdez, Tyler Ellingboe, William Fulton, Todd Palin, Lisa Murkowski, Tony Hopfinger, Glenn Beck, Norman (“Norm”) Olson, Joseph Wayne (“Joe”) Miller, Sarah Palin, Ray Southwell, The Drop Zone, Shannyn Moore

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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