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Disgraced Rep. Mike Nearman’s ties to the extremist Washington “Policy” Center

Alt= "Mike Nearman with arrow pointing to Washington Policy Center logo"

On December 21, 2020, Oregon Representative Mike Nearman (R – HD23) helped violent rioters to illegally enter the Capitol building in Salem. Almost immediately, the militants began clashing with State Police, a standoff that escalated into attacks on the officers with flagpoles and bear mace.

That same day, other militants broke windows on the Capitol and attacked journalists. It was a day of political violence and extremism, a dark stain on Oregon’s democracy. Rep. Nearman is now under criminal investigation by the Oregon State Police for his actions and faces possible expulsion from the Oregon Legislature.

Rep. Nearman is no stranger to extremism. He has long-held ties to scrubby white nationalists like Patriot Prayer, the Oathkeepers and OFIR, an anti-immigrant hate group. But it’s important to look at the full spectrum of Nearman’s radical associates, like his employers at the so-called “Freedom” Foundation and their partner organization, the Washington Policy Center (WPC). These are the types of extremists who wear ties and cash checks from billionaires. Both are members of the Koch brothers-funded State Policy Network.

The WPC is a Seattle-based far-right organization that has championed extremely harmful policies on a wide range of issues, especially those related to education and labor. WPC has been collaborating with Nearman’s “Freedom” Foundation on their failed anti-union campaign, a thinly veiled political maneuver to do the bidding of out-of-state billionaires and turn Washington and Oregon “red.” 

With an innocuous-sounding name, the WPC often portrays itself as a legitimate, non-partisan think tank, but in reality, they are the Washington State policy arm for a national network of extremist right-wing funders and organizations.

It’s a funding network that contains voter suppression operations like the Bradley Foundation, which devoted almost a million dollars to spread fear about unsubstantiated mail-in voter fraud, purge state voter rolls and plan gerrymandering schemes. The WPC also shared funding with neo-Nazi Richard Spencer and his National Policy Institute via the Rotella Foundation. Spencer co-organized the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville which brought together white supremacists from across the country.

How has the Washington Policy Center responded to their partner organization’s employee committing such an atrocious act on camera? Did they condemn an elected representative for abusing his position to bring violence into a legislative assembly? They certainly haven’t yet. This silent complicity with political violence makes sense against the backdrop of who is bankrolling the Washington Policy Center. When you share funding with vote suppressors, white nationalists and insurrectionists, another attack on our democracy may just be par for the course.

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