It’s shaping up to be a rough month for the aggressively confrontational San Diego Minutemen (SDMM) and their leader Jeff Schwilk (below, right).
Last week, the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation released a report exposing SDMM internal E-mails dating back to June 2006 in which SDMM members repeatedly refer to immigrants in dehumanizing terms, including “cockroaches” and “Third-World animals.” One E-mail, dated June 2007, recommends that SDMM members headed to the border to search for immigrants bring “a portable battery operated freezer ... for storage of filets, hams and ribs of well-marbled border crossers.”
Such comments, it turns out, aren’t the only Schwilk embarrassment this month. Now, African-American anti-affirmative action crusader Ward Connerly is disputing the truthfulness of a Schwilk claim in an April 13 mass E-mail to all SDMM members. Schwilk informed his followers that Connerly had personally contacted him to relay an offer to pay the travel expenses of any SDMM member willing to collect signatures in Missouri for an anti-affirmative action proposition Connerly and his allies are trying to get on the ballot in the “Show Me State” this November.
According to Schwilk, Connerly was inviting SDMM members to embark on a “1-2 week paid ‘vacation’ to Missouri where travel and per diem expenses would be covered, as well as a per-signature commission.” The SDMM leader purported to be in one-on-one contact with Connerly: “Ward wrote me yesterday. He’s heard a lot from me about what standup guys and gals you street and border activists are.”
But when Hatewatch contacted Connerly to ask him about bringing the San Diego Minutemen to Missouri, he denied through a spokeswoman ever making such an offer or even knowing Schwilk. Jennifer Gratz, the director of state and local initiatives for the American Civil Rights Coalition — a nonprofit organization founded by Connerly to oppose affirmative action programs — said in an E-mail that Connerly “did not talk with him [Schwilk] and, beyond that, he doesn’t know who Jeff Schwilk is.”
In fact, Schwilk’s apparently bogus claims appear to be less a total fabrication than a hybrid of plagiarism and self-aggrandizing embellishment. The language in Schwilk’s E-mail is taken word-for-word from an E-mail addressed to “Minuteman friends and allies” that was circulated earlier the same day by Stuart H. Hulbert, a biology professor at San Diego State University, longtime Connerly ally, and one of the leaders of an anti-immigration group, Californians for Population Stabilization.
But regardless of who originally claimed that Connerly was personally inviting the San Diego Minutemen to Missouri, Connerly’s spokeswoman maintains her denial. “We have targeted no cities or individuals to be ‘recruited.’” Gratz wrote. “Should anyone express interest, we refer them to the firm that is coordinating the signature collection process. That firm screens and trains those who ultimately collect the signatures.”
But there’s no question Connerly is looking for right-wing volunteers.
Two days before Schwilk fired off his E-mail, Connerly sent a different E-mail of his own to Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of the conservative National Review Online, in which he wrote that he was seeking “25 individuals who are committed to equal treatment under the law to travel to Missouri. All expenses will be paid and there is the potential to earn big bucks to collect signatures.” Lopez posted Connerly’s E-mail to the National Review website, along with a Missouri area code phone number for the Atlanta-based company National Ballot Access (“Promoting Direct Democracy Through The Initiative, Referendum and Recall Process”), apparently the firm referenced by Gratz.
The Missouri ballot initiative drive is being spearheaded by Connerly and the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (MoCRI), a deceptively named group formed by Missouri native Timothy Asher (“Yes,” the group’s anti-affirmative action donor reply device reads, “I want to help MoCRI end policies of discrimination and racial preferences in Missouri!”). The MoCRI’s website identifies Connerly as its mentor and lists Missouri business owner John Uhlmann, a huge donor to right-wing causes, as its “honorary chair.” Uhlmann loaned Connerly’s American Civil Rights Commission $190,000 during its successful effort in 1996 for a ballot referendum called Proposition 209 to end all affirmative action programs in California state government.
And yes, Schwilk wants to help. In his recruiting spiel to the members of the SDMM he wrote, “You get to see springtime in Missouri, and you get to interact with and make friends with some more can-do ‘salt of the earth’ folks you may never otherwise meet! I and my wife are rearranging our schedule to try to get there for a week.” Schwilk failed to mention whether he’d be toting his freezer for the trip.