Wealthy financiers are backing neo-Nazi and other extremist groups to the tune of $2 million.
For decades, the radical right in the United States has struggled with the problem of financing its plans and propaganda. Now, in the form of three wealthy financiers, it has found cash backing that likely amounts to close to $2 million.
In Idaho, two men who made millions in the Silicon Valley computer industry recently paid to produce and mail out thousands of copies of a videotape of neo-Nazi Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler and a poster explaining the white supremacist Christian Identity religion.
And a Chicago-area real estate mogul has helped fund at least three conspiracy-oriented investigations of the Oklahoma City bombing and other causes that have been adopted by the so-called "Patriot" movement.
The money could be instrumental in changing the extremist landscape. Although few expect the propaganda sent out in Idaho to win many converts, human rights leaders fear the presence of large amounts of cash could help the movement grow.
"Money has the ability to draw people together that otherwise might be at odds," says Bill Wassmuth, director of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment. "I am concerned that it may act as a unifying force on the far right."
In December, The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review reported that ex-Californians Carl E. Story and Vincent Bertollini had used their ministry, the 11th Hour Remnant Messenger, to send out 9,000 high-quality Identity posters to area residents. They also paid to make and send out videotapes of an interview with Butler, who is based in Hayden Lake, Idaho.
And they financed other far right causes, including speeches in Idaho by antigovernment lecturer Joyce Riley — who was sponsored by a local Identity church — on alleged government lies about Gulf War syndrome.
Bertollini, in a brief interview with the newspaper, said the 11th Hour Remnant had spent $1.5 million over the past eight years to send out 10 major mailings "all over the world" and intended to lay out more.
One Remnant publication bitterly complains that the government has "provided technology to the Soviets." It doesn't mention that Story and a partner were convicted in 1979 of illegally shipping $299,970 worth of computer equipment to the Soviet Union that authorities believe was used to develop Soviet missile-guidance systems.
Both Story and Bertollini, who recently served 10 days in jail for drunken driving, have made a name for themselves in Sandpoint, Idaho, by driving expensive cars and leaving $100 tips at local restaurants. But a former longtime friend says that Story, for whom he once worked, is the money man.
Milton Meyer, a retired, 65-year-old computer industry manager whose sons knew Bertollini as "Uncle Vince," says that Bertollini at one point was Story's chauffeur, a gofer who cleaned Story's pool and fetched him cases of beer.
The 11th Hour Remnant mailings are virulently anti-Semitic, describing Jews as the biological children of Satan and Eve. But that didn't stop Bertollini from accepting the largesse of Meyer, whose father is Jewish.
Meyer says he lent Bertollini more than $20,000 at "ridiculously" low interest rates; let Bertollini's stepdaughter live in his house for five years, once buying her a new car; and surfed, fished, and skiied with Bertollini for years.
"He didn't mind all that with a Jew," Meyer says.
Meyer says that in company staff meetings Story "would start speaking in tongues and pointing at people and they would have to reply in tongues."
Another case has raised eyebrows as well.
From Arlington Heights, Ill., real estate tycoon Alexander B. Magnus has been funding conspiracy-minded "investigations" of the Oklahoma City bombing, including one spearheaded by a former state representative (see Grand Jury Concludes no Conspiracy in OKC).
The Oklahoma Gazette quoted sources saying that Magnus paid more than $100,000 to Charles Key's Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee. Conspiracy-monger David Hoffman told the newspaper he, too, had received about $100,000 to write his book on the bombing.
Magnus heads a right-wing media watchdog group whose Michigan leader is longtime militia official Tom Wayne. In 1997, Americans for Responsible Media helped pay for antigovernment leader Jack McLamb to intercede in an Illinois stand-off, the newspaper reported. Magnus has also been involved in efforts to prove government involvement in the World Trade Center bombing and the crash of TWA Flight 800.