Matt Rosendale Just Isn’t Telling the Truth About Public Lands, Part 2: The Conspiracy Theorists and Bigots

On Monday, we took a look at how Matt Rosendale just hasn’t been telling the truth about his position on public lands and how he was promising, just four years ago, that he’d be the “point man” in Congress on public lands transfer. Today, we’ll dig in a little deeper to see the kind of people Rosendale was willing to associate with to promote this agenda of oil and gas drilling on our public lands.

Back in 2013, Rosendale attended an event in Missoula called “How to Reclaim Montana’s Lands” hosted by an organization called Defend Rural America. I’d love to link to the original piece, but Lee Enterprises has decided that the news isn’t worth saving, but here’s what the Missoula Independent had to say about the gathering and its leader Robert Mackenzie:

MacKenzie wants to teach citizens and politicians how to strip control of public lands away from the federal government and put it in the hands of state and local officials. He believes that rural America is under attack by an insidious cartel of leftists, bureaucrats, bankers and phony scientists who use federal lands and laws like the Endangered Species Act to enact an oppressive agenda.

MacKenzie explained that these plots are the work of what he calls “neo-environmentalists.” “What is the single biggest problem in rural America?” he asked rhetorically during his speech. “Neo-environmentalism. I am not talking about environmentalism. I am talking about a political movement that disguises itself in a green cloak … If you peel it back, you will see what I have been seeing … watermelons, green on the outside, red on the inside … In my opinion, they are domestic terrorists.”

Asked by the press about his attendance, Rosendale refused to denounce the speaker or his views. Eventually, when the national press started to call, Rosendale offered a weak statement, disagreeing that a cabal of bankers controls environmentalism, but repeating his call for “state sovereignty” over public lands.

That Rosendale attended—and approved of—the core message of the Defend Rural America event speaks to what is, in the most charitable view, a predilection for conspiracy theories or, in the most honest view, a tendency to embrace those who believe that the government itself is controlled by forces outside the people.

Defend Rural America, according to its website, believes that a shadow government is behind the nefarious plot to protect our public lands:

To fully understand jurisdiction, it is essential to understand the U.S. Supreme Court has sanctioned the creation of a second, shadow “United States” government that operates outside of the U.S. Constitution, without constitutional constraints nor regard for the People’s inalienable rights. In essence, the Supreme Court has declared it is constitutional to be unconstitutional.

And the people at Defend Rural America have a familiar face for this a shadow government, the conspiracy-laden Agenda 21 theory, which as the Daily Beast reported, is often rooted in Anti-Semitic thought:

Several anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi groups have also jumped on the anti-Agenda 21 bandwagon, seizing the opportunity to blame the controversial document on none other than the Jews.

“Anti-Semitism is basically a conspiracy theory,” the American Jewish Committee’s Ken Stern told the SPLC. He explains how neo-Nazis have linked Agenda 21 to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a falsified document that is alleged to reveal a secret Jewish plot to take over the world.

This, of course, is not Matt Rosendale’s only association with anti-government, anti-Semitic leaders who believe the government is conspiring with Jewish people to deprive Americans of their rights. As we have been reporting since last October, Rosendale has shown public and private support for Montana’s Chuck Baldwin and his Liberty Fellowship, going so far as to attend his church services and speak at a rally he organized along with the Montana Oath Keepers.

Baldwin, who has built his hotel ballroom-sized congregation on anti-Semitic screeds and profound hatred for the federal government, pines for the days of Southern secession and believes that the 9/11 attacks were a conspiracy perpetrated by those same shadowy figures that always seem to circulate in the far right-wing. Baldwin is such a virulent anti-Semite and dishonest fraud that even far-right outlets have refused to continue running his pieces.

And it’s worth noting that Baldwin’s views were well-known years before Rosendale agreed to speak with him at an anti-government rally and attend his church service.

All of this goes to show that it’s awfully hard to take Rosendale at face value when he claims that he no longer supports public lands transfer. To believe that, you’d have to believe that a man in his fifties radically transformed his views about the Constitution, the role of the federal government, his concerns about the UN, his theological views, and his willingness to be the leader of the movement against federal ownership of public lands in a matter of years.

Rosendale has never been asked to explain how he found himself attending and praising events hosted by the American Lands Council, Defend Rural America, the Oath Keepers, and Chuck Baldwin. He’s never been asked to explain what prompted his radical reassessment of the issue nor his willingness to associate with people and groups holding abhorrent, discriminatory views.

And now’s he asking for our vote without answering any of those important questions.

Why in the world would we give it to him?

My apologies for not getting this published yesterday. Cell service and WiFi were gloriously unavailable in our national parks the past couple of days.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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