The extremist Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association placed billboards on Iowa’s highways after signing a deal with Lamar Advertising. Constitutional Sheriffs leader Richard Mack then pitched a national billboard campaign to collaborators, including Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb. It was one of many times Mack reached out to Lamb for collaboration, according to emails Hatewatch obtained.
The Lamar Advertising Co., one of the largest outdoor advertisement companies in the world, signed a contract with a Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA) group to display billboards on Iowa highways even though they knew the signs to be “political,” according to emails Hatewatch obtained. It’s not clear how many billboards were erected or for how long.
Gary Shawver, a retired well-drilling contractor from Wadena, Iowa, told Lamar account executive Mark Reeder on Nov. 22, 2021, that he was “promoting Sheriffs that follow the Constitution of the United States.” The CSPOA espouses conspiracy theories and the debunked legal theory that sheriffs have final say on what laws to enforce in their counties. CSPOA’s leader, retired Sheriff Richard Mack, has called on sheriffs to investigate former President Donald Trump’s claims the 2020 election was stolen.
Shawver is a member of an organization called We the People for Constitutional Sheriffs, according to the Oelwein Register, a local Idaho newspaper. There is little public information about the group. Shawver told the Oelwin Register he and others formed the organization after seeing Mack give a presentation in Iowa in May 2021.
The back-and-forth between the company, commonly known as Lamar, and a member of the CSPOA group in Iowa raises questions about Lamar’s policy on allowing advertising to extremist organizations. Lamar claims to have over 363,000 displays across the U.S. and Canada. The company describes its political billboards as a way to “target voters in key primary and battleground markets with the largest network of digital billboards in the U.S.” in “today’s highly fragmented media environment.”
Reeder asked Shawver on Nov. 22, 2021, for any art or ideas for the billboard. Then, Reeder informed Shawver that Lamar’s “legal dept is considering this Political [sic]” and “will need to be prepaid.”
Shawver replied: “I will run this through an organization called ‘Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officer’s Association’ otherwise known as CSPOA. I’ve talked to the head of the organization, which I work with a lot.” Shawver said the “the invoice” would go to CSPOA, and Mack “will pay it and it will show that the ad was paid for by the CSPOA or the organization’s name spelled out whichever he prefers [sic].”
Shawver then informed Mack of the ad’s status and thanked him for his help.
Mack said: “People in IA wanted to put up some billboards and raised the funds to do so. So?”
Lamar did not respond to requests for comment on the duration and cost of the advertisements, nor whether it has a policy on allowing extremist organizations to advertise on its billboards.
Hatewatch did not obtain the entire conversation between Shawver and Reeder, only portions that Mack forwarded to Pinal County, Arizona, Sheriff Mark Lamb. Lamb is an ally of the CSPOA.
Mack said in the email, which he sent to 14 email addresses including Lamb’s, that the “billboard was funded and arranged by our CSPOA group in Iowa. Maybe it’s a project that we should take nationwide.”
The emails further show that on May 16, 2022, Mack sought Lamb’s opinion on a joint press release between CSPOA and Protect America Now (PAN), another antigovernment sheriffs’ organization with which Lamb is involved.
Mack emailed Lamb the press release, which promoted debunked conspiracy theories that fraud caused former President Donald Trump to lose the 2020 election to President Joe Biden.
Mack asked: “Ok, this is my edit and latest draft. What think ye?”
The release says CSPOA and PAN “stand united to call upon all Americans and Law Enforcement nationwide to come together in pursuit of the truth regarding the 2020 election.” CSPOA published the press release in May 2022. PAN did not appear in the release.
Mack told Hatewatch he did not recall why PAN did not appear on the press release. Mack said he did not recall how much the advertising campaign cost, but said he was “surprised” at how little it was. He also said the billboards were up for approximately two years.
Mack disputed the CSPOA’s designation as an extremist organization. He said he has “never advocated violence or committed violence” and is not racist. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers antigovernment groups those who view the U.S. government as “tyrannical” and espouse conspiracy theories, among other reasons.
Lauren Reimer, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office public information officer, told Hatewatch the sheriff’s office “has no involvement with either CSPOA or Protect America Now.” The office was not active in discussion surrounding the billboards nor the press release, Reimer said.
The release promoted Dinesh D’Souza’s debunked 2000 Mules documentary. The documentary uses the geotracking data from cell phones in five swing states before the election. Conspiracy group True the Vote paid $2 million for the data, according to FactCheck.org.
The data allegedly showed that 2,000 cell phones were in the vicinity of ballot drop boxes and left-leaning nonprofits. The film posited that this meant the holders of these cell phones were “mules,” illegally paid to traffic ballots for Biden.
State agencies including the Georgia Bureau of Investigation determined the evidence did not prompt sufficient probable cause to investigate the claims. Geotracking experts told FactCheck.org that True the Vote’s data was not accurate enough to reach the conclusions in the film.
Mack’s release asked “all local law enforcement agencies to work together to pursue investigations to determine the veracity of the ‘2000 Mules’ information.”
He further wrote that if 2000 Mules “is wrong, then we want that exposed.”
But a previous email suggests Mack did not believe 2000 Mules could be wrong. On May 13, 2022, Mack sent Lamb an article from far-right fake news site WND (formerly WorldNetDaily). The article claimed Georgia officials were intimidating 2000 Mules investigators.
Mack wrote that CSPOA had “been in contact with the investigators at the front of the documentary ‘2000 Mules’ …. The article below makes me believe that [Georgia] authorities are trying to ruin the investigation.”
The CSPOA head said he needed to discuss the issue with Lamb. “I have seen the movie and it is irrefutable.”
Mack continued his election denial into 2022, the emails show.
On Nov. 29, 2022, Mohave County Board of Supervisors chairman Ron Gould told local Arizona radio station KTAR News 92.3 that he had no choice but to certify the results of the Nov. 8, 2022, general election in Mohave County, or “I’ll be charged with a felony.” A recording of Gould’s comments also went public on a verified Twitter account for Alex Nicoll, an Arizona Republican strategist.
That same day, Mack asked Lamb why Mohave County, Arizona, Sheriff Doug Schuster was “not investigating this crime mentioned by the county supervisor in this video.”
Mack asked Lamb if Schuster made “the threat” and requested a follow-up.
Gould told KTAR News 92.3 that the county attorney informed him he would be charged with a felony if he didn’t certify the election.
No documents show Lamb responded to Mack via email.