Meet the 'Patriots'
'Alice in Wonderland'
Orly Taitz, 49
It's not unusual at public meetings of, say, a local city council to find a common species known as the political gadfly. These persistent critics, tolerated as attention-seeking eccentrics, don't allow the absence of coherency or logic to keep them from speaking. Often claiming expertise they do not possess or seeing evil machinations that do not exist, these gadflies cling to their feverish suspicions.
Orly Taitz, a southern California lawyer who has led the national "birther" movement, is a political gadfly writ large, except for one crucial difference: She found a large, national audience.
Dubbed the "birther queen" – and worse – in the blogosphere, she's a champion of those who question the citizenship of President Obama and, therefore, the legitimacy of his presidency.
Taitz, a former swimsuit model born in the Soviet Union, lived in Israel and Romania before setting up a dentistry practice in Orange County. Along the way, she picked up a law degree from an online school.
Tirelessly, inexplicably, Taitz has filed dozens of lawsuits and made numerous claims in the media alleging that Obama has not only lied about his citizenship but has masterminded a deception on a scale that has seldom, if ever, been seen before. In the process, she has become a hero to the antigovernment Patriot movement and last year even joined We the People, a leading tax-protest group that is a key part of that movement.
Taitz has called for an insurrection to remove the president. Last summer, she released a document she claimed was Obama's Kenyan birth certificate. It was quickly proven a fraud. She has claimed that Obama has as many as 25 Social Security numbers. She has aligned herself with others who claim Obama has ties to radical jihadists, is a closeted gay man, and may be a ruthless murderer.
Taitz has been so roundly discredited, even the rabid right-wing attack dog Ann Coulter has called her a crank. As one judge wrote in dismissing one of Taitz's lawsuits: "Unlike Alice in Wonderland, simply saying something is so does not make it so."
Teed Off in Tulsa
Amanda Teegarden, 54
Amanda Teegarden is Tulsa's leading lady of the radical right. She's executive director of Oklahomans for Sovereignty and Free Enterprise (OK-SAFE), a nonprofit whose website says it "sees a concerted, dedicated and well funded effort by Social and Economic Elites to transition the United States from a Representative Republic to a Socialist Group" — rhetoric virtually indistinguishable from that of the antigovernment Patriot movement.
Teegarden has expressed alarm about federally funded law enforcement "fusion centers" – like the one run by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation – that collect and analyze information about potential terrorist activities. She told one newspaper that she worried the centers could track attendees at "tea parties" and congressional town halls.
Teegarden joined the American Civil Liberties Union and right-wing "constitutionalists" at an odd-bedfellows event at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., in October 2008. The subject: opposition to the gathering of data on U.S. citizens, including collection and use of DNA and biometric samples, and to any federal ID legislation.
In August 2009, OK-SAFE sponsored a national conference that focused on individual liberties and federal encroachment on states' rights, another favorite issue of the radical right. Right-wing luminaries who spoke at the Freedom21 conference, held in Midwest City, Okla., included Edward Griffin, author of The Creature from Jekyll Island (a screed attacking the Fed, a common target of far-right conspiracy theorists), Republican state representatives and others concerned about the United Nations and President Obama's education plans.
Teegarden has backed local conservative candidates in Tulsa, and she filed to run for the county school board in 2004 only to drop out of the race later. She also co-founded an organization called Oklahomans for School Accountability, which promotes teaching a "biblical world view."
"We are obviously a very conservative parents group," Teegarden told the Tulsa World in 2006.
Gunning for the Government
Mike Vanderboegh, 56
Back in the 1990s, Mike Vanderboegh used to go to some lengths to portray himself as a moderate in the world of antigovernment militias, even though he once wrote about the utility of snipers and using "violence carefully targeted and clearly defensive." In 1996, for instance, he joined many militia leaders in signing a document distancing the movement from racists and neo-Nazis.
That was then. This spring, he started to sound a little different.
On March 19, Vanderboegh, enraged at the imminent passage of health care reform, furiously called on Americans to break the windows of local Democratic Party headquarters offices around the country. "[I]f you wish to send a message that [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and her party cannot fail to hear, break their windows," the Pinson, Ala., blogger wrote. "Break them NOW. Break them and run to break again. Break them under cover of night. Break them in broad daylight."
Over the next few days, party office windows and those of several members of Congress were indeed smashed with bricks in several states, criminal attacks followed with glee by Vanderboegh in his blog's "Window War" feature.
After his time as a militia enthusiast, Vanderboegh in the mid-2000s took to patrolling the Mexican border with his own tiny Alabama Minuteman Support Team. More recently, he has been described as the co-founder of the Three Percenters, a loose alliance of gun owners who vow not to surrender their rights and disarm. The name refers to the 3% of American colonists believed to have been the portion of the population who actively opposed England. Three Percenters also claim to represent the hardest-line 3% of U.S. gun owners.
Vanderboegh's website, Sipsey Street Irregulars, warns that "the collectivists who now control the government" should leave gun owners alone "if they wish to continue unfettered oxygen consumption." He claims the website has garnered more than 1 million visits.
Vanderboegh declined an interview for this article in a lengthy E-mail attacking the Southern Poverty Law Center as "lying, conflationist bastards." Nevertheless, Vanderboegh, who used his website to promote his interview with a television station, ended his E-mail by writing, "Thank you in advance for all the free publicity."
Paul Venable, 56
Paul Venable, one of the few African-American members of the anti-abortion, anti-tax, anti-immigrant, and anti-gun control Constitution Party, serves as state chair in Idaho, a state that is 95% white. He says on his website that he was raised in Ohio and has been an information technology specialist for many years. He boasts that he and his wife have been presenting Constitution classes and teaching the principles of liberty since 2004.
Using Thomas Jefferson's words to refer to himself as a "Common Citizen of Little Consequence," Venable is definitely a "party" guy, having run for the Idaho House of Representatives as a Constitution Party candidate in 2008.
In May 2009, he attended a meeting of radical right leaders at Jekyll Island, Ga., that appears to have played a key role in the resurgence of the militia movement. He was then nominated to be a delegate to the "continental congress" in St. Charles, Ill., in November 2009, an event that was organized by We the People's Bob Schulz (see profile above), who also called the Jekyll Island gathering.
Venable spoke at the Constitution Party's October 2009 National Committee Meeting in Phoenix on the theme of "Get Out of Our House" — referring to the U.S. House of Representatives, which he says on his website has been "emasculated."
On his website, there is a snapshot of a yellowed poster headlined "WANTED FOR ACTS OF TERRORISM." It features sketches of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, and their "Aliases": Founding Father, Sons of Liberty, Freedom Fighters, American Patriots. The bottom caption reads: "CAUTION Subjects May Be Armed. They May Also Inspire Revolt Against the Tyranny of Their Government."
Architect of Militias
Edwin Vieira Jr., 66
To lawyer and radical-right thinker Edwin Vieira Jr., the Department of Homeland Security is a misnomer. The Harvard-educated Vieira feels the government agency is not meant to keep Americans safe. Instead, much like most arms of the federal government, the agency is bent on encroaching on the sovereignty of American citizens and individual states.
Vieira believes an economic crisis is looming – a cataclysm he believes will lead to a police state. There will be a "massive social and political unrest bordering on chaos throughout America when the monetary and banking systems finally implode in the not-so-distant-future."
A longtime associate of tax protester Robert "Bob" Schulz (see profile above), Vieira has appeared in a series of self-produced videos and regularly writes commentaries for fringe websites. A year ago, he and Schulz co-organized a meeting of 30 "freedom keepers" at Jekyll Island in Georgia, a summit that appears to have played a key role in reinvigorating the antigovernment Patriot movement. Vieira could not attend because, conference leaders said, he was working on a book on "well-regulated militias" and his plans to establish militias in all 50 states.
According to an Internet bio, Vieira holds four degrees from Harvard and has practiced law for more than 30 years, with an emphasis on constitutional issues. Remarkably, he also is the older brother of Meredith Vieira, the co-host of NBC's "Today" and host of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," according to the Internet Movie Data Base.
In his book, How to Dethrone the Imperial Judiciary, Vieira advocates the impeachment of "advocacy judges" who have authorized abortion and gay marriage. In 2005, he called for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, saying that the conservative jurist's opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."