As Election Day draws near, Ammon Bundy, his campaign staffer (who is also running for the State Senate), and other allies have begun to ramp up illegal, rule-breaking, and provocative activity with electoral goals in mind: disregard rules and laws in the hopes of making headlines that boost his campaign.
First, a campaign rally planned for Cassia Park in Boise was canceled by city officials after they discovered the scale of the event was mischaracterized and the purpose hidden by the reservation request having been made under a different name — that of Bundy campaigner and candidate for the State Senate, Sarah Clendenon. After the park reservation was revoked, Bundy released a statement in response comparing Boise to Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s and equating himself to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Next, Bundy and longtime family friend and campaign funder, Diego Rodriguez, again refused subpoenas to show in court to respond to the lawsuit filed by St. Luke’s Medical Center for Bundy’s leadership in a violent protest that forced the hospital to turn patients away. The judge found them in contempt of court and says she will consider more punitive measures if they continue to flout this basic avenue for rule of law. The St. Luke’s lawsuit was filed in the aftermath of protests and threats made by Bundy and others after Rodriguez’s ten month old grandchild was temporarily removed from the family after suffering from severe malnourishment. Threats made by Bundy and his followers forced the hospital to go on lockdown as police prepared for armed protests. The lawsuit names Bundy, Rodriguez, and Bundy’s group, the People’s Rights Network, as defendants.
Then the campaign rally (“Keep Idaho IDAHO”) that was canceled for its misleading information was relocated to Nampa and held this past weekend.
A scattered, fairly sparse crowd spread out on lawn chairs and blankets in Nampa’s Lakeview Park, where Bundy claimed he was welcomed warmly by Mayor Debbie Kling and her Parks Department after his rejection in Boise. The afternoon program lasted about three and half hours, consisting of speakers, live music from Michael Rose, and a live auction to benefit the campaign. Items auctioned off included ammunition, a homemade afghan, and canvas aprons (“a piece of history” according to the auctioneer) worn and signed by Bundy and members of the Bundy clan.
Many of the speakers — including Clendenon, Health Freedom Idaho’s Miste Karlfeldt, the John Birch Society’s Tom Munds, and Bundy himself — used the rally as an opportunity to join in on Idaho Republican Party Chair (and Bundy ally) Dorothy Moon’s statements against Boise’s annual Pride event and its corporate sponsors. In a series of official statements from the Republican Party of Idaho, Moon called for counter protests and actions to oppose participants in Boise Pride.
Moon’s statements opposing the Boise Pride event and invoking dangerous conspiracies came just three months after 31 armed white supremacists with Patriot Front were arrested on their way to riot against Pride in Coeur d’Alene. Bundy joined in on Moon’s attack, specifically targeting the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry (IACI), whose president Alex LaBeau pointed out the hypocrisy of Moon’s statements given her prior defense of now-convicted rapist and former state representative Aaron von Ehlinger. In remarks to the Idaho Capitol Sun, LaBeau said:
“For Dorothy (Moon) to come out and have any sort of say in this — obviously this is coming from a woman who blamed a rape victim and said it’s OK for legislators to sleep with a teenage intern.”
IACI, the lobbying group who represents over 300 Idaho businesses and many of the Pride sponsors, notably invested resources both in defeating Moon during the May primary for Secretary of State and backing Governor Brad Little’s race for governor.
By partnering with Moon on these attacks, Bundy seemed to have two goals — again create headlines through threats and controversy, and cozy closer and closer to Moon and the state Republican leadership. Moon and Bundy have long been allies, and some wonder if Moon will explicitly support Bundy’s bid for governor despite Governor Little’s nomination for a second term from voters this past May.
As he continues his longshot bid for Governor, Bundy believes he’s found a way to make headlines: break the law, attack businesses and establishment Republican figures, and grow ever closer to the new guard calling the shots in the Idaho GOP. Bundy, a transplant to Idaho via Arizona and Nevada, may just be counting on the new guard vote.
In between songs at Saturday’s rally, musician Michael Rose told the crowd that he himself had escaped California to come to Idaho and that the “rich old folk at IACI” were mad because “this ain’t their state no more.”
Only time, and November’s general election, will tell.