Two affiliates of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity are helping conservative media promote the cause of a Nevada rancher who has made violent threats against the federal government.
Cliven Bundy, a cattle rancher in Nevada, has refused to remove his animals from public property in violation of a federal court order.
In 1993, Bundy declined to pay government fees that are required in order to allow his cattle to graze on the public land. In 1998 a court order told Bundy to remove his cattle as part of an effort to protect an endangered desert tortoise in the area. He refused. In July 2013, a federal court order told Bundy to remove his cattle from the land or they would be confiscated. He disobeyed the order, and confiscation has begun. The government will auction the animals and use the proceeds to pay off the $1 million in fines that Bundy owes the government.
In recent comments to a conspiracy theorist's radio show, Bundy said, "I haven't called no militia or anything like that, but hey it looks like that's where we're at." He added, "We got a strong army here, we have to fight." Previously Bundy told the Las Vegas Sun that "he keeps firearms at his ranch" and promised to "do whatever it takes" to defend his cattle being seized, adding, "I abide by almost zero federal laws."
Earlier this week, protesters and members of the Bundy family had a confrontation with law enforcement, where a stun gun was used to subdue Bundy's son, who had reportedly climbed on a dump truck when he assumed it contained cattle that had been killed during confiscation. Members of several militia groups have made their way to Bundy's ranch, reportedly "to protect the Bundys from tyranny."
Americans for Prosperity (AFP), the conservative non-profit group, was founded by and has been largely funded by billionaires Charles and David Koch. The Center for Media and Democracy reported that in its previous incarnation as Citizens for a Sound Economy, AFP received $12 million of its $18 million in funding from the Koch Family Foundation.
During the 2012 election, AFP spent $122 million in an effort to defeat President Obama and Congressional Democrats. AFP has also sponsored and organized bus rallies and town hall meetings to promote conservative ideas, including deregulation, tax cuts, and opposition to health care reform.
AFP has been at the forefront of spending in the 2014 election, launching several ads attacking the Affordable Care Act which have come under fire for inaccuracy by independent fact checkers. As of March, AFP had aired a reported 17,000 television ads.
Two of its local affiliates, Americans for Prosperity Nevada and Americans for Prosperity Colorado, have become active boosters of Bundy's actions.
AFP Nevada's Facebook page posted a graphic attacking the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for spending "one million dollars" to enforce the court order to round up Bundy's cattle on federal land. Another photo attacked the Bureau for creating a designated "First Amendment Area" for protesters to gather in near the property.
On its Twitter page, AFP Nevada is more strident in its support of Bundy and in attacking the federal government.
AFP Nevada has promoted the hashtag #BundyBattle, which supporters are using to showcase their message. In one tweet, AFP Nevada posted a graphic attacking the cattle round up and said they had a "bone to pick" with the Bureau of Land Management.
Another AFP Nevada tweet attacked the "First Amendment Area" with a photo of cow manure and the caption "This is what we think about 'First Amendment Areas'."
AFP Nevada also promoted as a "must read" a blog post from conservative pundit Dana Loesch where she described the standoff as "harassment" from the federal government. The group also accused the BLM of "strategically regulating hard-working Americans out of business."
AFP Colorado has reposted several of AFP Nevada's tweets, and has posted commentary of its own about the issue. In one tweet, AFP Colorado has said that the "Fed militarizing of Nevada standoff is bound to fuel more sagebrush rebellion" and that "Feds turn from landlords to warlords when Nevada rancher won't bend his knee."
AFP Colorado also reposted a tweet attacking the "First Amendment Area" from Paul Joseph Watson, a correspondent from conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' Infowars.