During the first week of January, a new face appeared on the extremist “Freedom” Foundation’s website. Alek Skarlatos, an Oregon politician known for thwarting a 2015 terrorist attack on a French train, was now listed as Development Associate. For a moment there, it looked like the fringe-right group had landed a minor celebrity on staff. That after a year of dwelling in the muck of covid-denialism and attacking workers they could finally hold their head high, and say, “See? We matter!” But it was not to last. One week later, Skarlatos was nowhere to be found on the staff list.
We don’t know why he quit. We certainly doubt he was fired. What we do know is that between his start and end dates, his co-worker, State Representative Mike Nearman was exposed, and publicly shamed, for aiding rioters in a December assault on Oregon’s Capitol Building. The revelation came days after the nation watched in horror as the U.S. Capitol was invaded by Trump supporters. Oregonians recoiled in amplified disgust to know that Nearman had pulled a similar stunt locally.
Despite Nearman being under investigation by the Oregon State Police, the “Freedom” Foundation had gone silent in addressing their Senior Fellow’s conduct. In fact, Nearman’s name was attached to a recent op-ed penned by their staff arguing against pay raises for Oregon Capitol staff during the pandemic. Their business-as-usual obliviousness may have given Skarlatos a big decision to make.
As news of his co-worker’s misdeeds spread state-wide, then nationally, then even internationally, we can only surmise that Skarlatos was having second thoughts about the impact of listing “Freedom” Foundation on his resume. Skarlatos lost a congressional race in Oregon last year, and may run again. Trying to run for office while forever linked to Nearman, a man who betrayed fellow legislators, enabled the assault of police officers and sought to overturn President Biden’s election doesn’t sound promising to us, either.
In a bittersweet tribute to his brief stay, the nostalgic “Freedom” Foundation has left Skarlatos’ photo and bio on just the Author section of their website. Perhaps leaders of the group look at it wistfully, feeling Skarlatos was the one that could have been. A hero, a solid Republican politician and a guest on Dancing With the Stars. He could have given the marginalized group some of the affirmation they thirst for. But that’s over now. It’s time for the organization to get back to what it knows – mocking citizens who wear masks as “sheep,” pushing children back into schools before it’s safe and failing to tear down the middle class.
Statement on Rep. Nearman Assisting White Nationalists in Dec. 21 Attack on Oregon’s CapitolJanuary 8, 2021
Northwest Accountability Project Statement on Rep. Mike Nearman Assisting White Nationalists in Dec. 21 Attack on Oregon’s Capitol:
“Mike Nearman is a disgrace to the great State of Oregon. He should be expelled from office immediately.”
– Peter Starzynski, Executive Director
Can we count on you to contact Oregon Legislative Leaders and ask them to hold Rep. Nearman accountable to the furthest extent possible?
Use our template below to send an email now.
The Extremist “Freedom” Foundation Honored the Disgraced Attorney Assisting Trump in His Attack on Our DemocracyJanuary 7, 2021
Just days before the assault on our nation’s Capitol, the now-infamous Cleta Mitchell joined embattled President Trump on last week’s leaked phone call where he bullied and threatened Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger to “find” nearly 12,000 votes to overturn the will of the Georgia Voters. Fallout from her complicity in what could be construed as a seditious coup by the sitting President was swift, including a separation from her law firm. Public fury rose quickly against her underhanded attacks against America’s greatest institution, our elections.
In a shocking, although not altogether surprising revelation, it has been uncovered that Mitchell was celebrated as a guest speaker at the extremist ”Freedom” Foundation’s Honors Dinner in 2015. In an invite to the extremist group’s event, CEO Tom McCabe, lauded Mitchell as “a fearless conservative attorney who has over 40 years experience fighting for freedom” and “the lynchpin of the entire conservative movement.” She returned the fawning praise by saying, “I know that with your support of Tom McCabe and the Freedom Foundation, we are going to win this battle.”
At the same dinner, Mitchell was joined by former Washington State Representative Matt Shea, who has fallen into similar disgrace after publishing a violent manifesto that encouraged training children for a holy war.
These are the types of people who gravitate to the extremist “Freedom” Foundation, and notably, the group has neither rebuked nor publicly separated from either of the offenders. They claim to be about freedom and America, but as their choice of honored guests shows, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The Washington “Policy” Center Dog Whistles on Anti-Racism CurriculumDecember 21, 2020
The Black Lives Matter movement has been challenging this country to recognize an epidemic of police violence against people of color and the inherited wounds of American slavery that have left racism entrenched in our governance and economic systems. The Washington “Policy” Center (WPC), however, seems quite resistant to seeing the African-American experience through this lens. Across multiple blogs and an “in-depth review,” their Director of Education, Liv Finne, has excoriated a new teaching curriculum based on the The 1619 Project that provides a historical analysis of how slavery shaped American political, social, and economic institutions.
The authors of The 1619 Project seek to place “the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” The curriculum, created by journalists at The New York Times Magazine, is being offered to teachers as an optional supplement to history courses, many of which are outdated and conveniently gloss over America’s “original sin.” The content is challenging, even gruesome, as The New York Times Magazine explains, but “American history cannot be told truthfully without a clear vision of how inhuman and immoral the treatment of Black Americans has been.”
The concept makes Finne and the Washington Policy Center very uncomfortable, as evidenced by the racist dog whistles they’ve been blowing while discrediting The 1619 Project. As Washington State experiences a disturbing surge in white nationalism and hate groups, Finne has joined her voice with Trump, Newt Gingrich, and other right-wing pundits decrying this re-examination, and more honest depiction, of our national history.
The WPC published an “in-depth review” that complains the Project is not considering the historical context of slavery because “forced labor was not exclusive to North America, but was common around the world.” Finne also wrote a blog accusing the Project of denying students “access to the rich texture of American history” and teaching them to “hate their country.” Going even further, Finne looks to be very keen on Washington State school superintendents not adopting the offered lessons, referencing an (un-documented) survey of those officials in one of her blogs. Finne claims no superintendent in the survey intends to adopt The 1619 Project materials, and she applauds them for avoiding a non-factual curriculum that contains non-seminal events.
WPC’s disgust at a syllabus that highlights the legacy of slavery and achievements by the Black community in America is disappointing, but perhaps not surprising. As we reported previously, WPC shares the same funding pipeline with another radical group with an equally deceptive name, The National Policy Institute. Led by neo-nazi Richard Spencer, the National Policy Institute is a white supremacist organization that helped organize the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, VA, in 2017. Both the WPC and Spencer received funding from the Rotella Foundation of Washington for their “work.”
The American legacy of marginalizing lives of color rages on, inflamed violently this year with the police shooting deaths of Breonna Taylor in Louisville and George Floyd in Minneapolis. The 1619 Project provides a first step in the healing of this country by admitting the painful past and examining its relationship to the present. When a white-led, billionaire-funded group like the Washington “Policy” Center fights against that message, we see where their true colors lie.