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Memo: Aaron Withe Removal from OR Advisory Committee US Civil Rights Commission

The anti-worker “Freedom” Foundation’s so-called National Director Aaron Withe who got his job because he’s best friends with the CEO’s son and then failed up has been absurdly appointed to the Oregon Advisory Committee on Civil Rights.

His organization has ties to white supremacists and anti-LGBTQ organizations, and has promoted known bigots like Laura Ingraham, Dinesh D’Souza and Mike Huckabee. The NWAP circulated the following memo to other members of the committee and those overseeing the process of selecting members, and will continue educating the public about their contributions to the mainstreaming of white nationalism.


TO: Interested Parties
FROM: The Northwest Accountability Project
RE: Aaron Withe’s Appointment to the Oregon Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is Inappropriate and Dangerous. Remove him immediately.

It has recently come to our attention that Aaron Withe, a staffer at an extremist, right-wing organization based in Washington State has been appointed to the Oregon Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. This appointment is inappropriate and dangerous. It flies in the face of everything the Committee is tasked to achieve as Withe and his employer have strong connections to anti-LGBTQ organizations, anti-immigrant leaders and white supremacists, and are pushing a hateful and divisive agenda.

We, along with our partners, are shocked and disappointed that Withe holds this position and we urge that he is removed immediately.

Withe is currently the National Director of the Freedom Foundation and a member of their “Executive Team.” Their mission is to silence workers by attacking unions that represent women and people of color like homecare workers and educators in order to win elections for extremist politicians. The Freedom Foundation and Withe regularly aligned themselves with discriminatory organizations and funders, and have hired staff who are openly racist. Here are the facts about the Freedom Foundation and Aaron Withe:

  • The Freedom Foundation shares funders with anti-LGBTQ organizations and white supremacist organizations. One of their key funders is the Murdock Trust which has given the Freedom Foundation nearly half a million dollars. Murdock is a leading funder of anti-LGBTQ organizations, even funding groups that practice and promote so-called “gay conversion therapy.” One of Murdock’s most notorious grantees is the Alliance Defending Freedom which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has designated an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Another Freedom Foundation funder is the Wisconsin-based Bradley Foundation, which has given the Freedom Foundation millions of dollars. Bradley is currently funding the fellowship of Charles Murray who wrote the Bell Curve, a book that used “racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the Black and Latino communities, women and the poor.” Many modern-day white supremacists cite Charles Murray as the godfather of their movement. Another Freedom Foundation funder is the Pennsylvania-based Sarah Scaife Foundation which also funds anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant organizations, and whose founder was a known anti-immigrant leader.
  • Beyond their financial ties to hate groups, one of the Freedom Foundation’s key staffers in Washington State is Jac Cates, who made openly racist and misogynistic comments including calling for the deportation of all Muslims, and mocking survivors of domestic assault. After being alerted to his actions, Withe and the rest of the Freedom Foundation leadership took no public action and the staffer remains gainfully employed.
  • The Freedom Foundation has a long history of inviting extremist commentators and politicians to headline their fundraisers, including former Carl’s Jr CEO Andy Puzder who once called his employees “the best of the worst,” and Dinesh D’Souza who once said that African Americans behave differently from other races through negative behavior and dependency, and once publicly outed LGBTQ students without their permission when he was editor of his college newspaper. Now they have events planned with anti-immigrant pundit, Laura Ingraham, and leading anti-LGBTQ pundit, Mike Huckabee at two high dollar fundraising events in Washington and Oregon.
  • Recently, the Freedom Foundation appointed Mike Nearman as their Oregon State director. Nearman led Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR), another SPLC hate group. Nearman has made a career out of demonizing immigrants, including this jaw-dropping ugly clip where he unleashed classic white supremacist scare tactics about immigrants and diseases on the Oregon State House floor. But Nearman’s disdain for traditionally marginalized communities doesn’t stop with immigrants; he once called workers with disabilities “subsidized workers.” When Withe was asked about Nearman’s comments he told a reporter: “What he said in the past is what he said.”
  • Nearman, Cates and Withe are part of a long line of bigoted staff employed by the Freedom Foundation. Their previous Oregon Director once said: “We all know there were good and bad slave owners, just like there were good and bad dog owners.” She was NOT fired for these comments by the Freedom Foundation’s executive team.
  • Upon his appointment to the Oregon Advisory Council, Withe said: “I can’t think of any American whose civil rights are under more assault than government employees whose rights to opt out of union bondage are being denied by their union.” It’s surreal that someone would say that public sector workers are the most threatened group of people in the United States, but it makes perfect sense when you understand Withe and his organization’s ties to white supremacists, anti-LGBTQ elements in the Northwest, and disdain for low-income people.

It’s shocking and absurd that he would be appointed to the Oregon Advisory Committee and frankly, it discredits the entire process. Withe and the Freedom Foundation sit on the political fringe and are part of a growing wave of the mainstreaming of white nationalism and white supremacy. For the sake of the credibility of the committee, we are recommending his swift removal.

Click here to download this memo as a PDF.

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