Today, the Clarion Ledger ran an article about Noel Fritsch and groups like Mississippi Gun Rights (MGR). Not mentioned in the article was a group called the Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership (FACL), with which Fritsch has some connection.
To the extent there exists a circular firing squad in the Mississippi conservative movement, the followers of MGR and FACL seem to be trying to pull the trigger by attempting to intimidate lawmakers to do their bidding through coordinated robo-calls and social media attacks. MGR has been after both Andy Gipson and Sean Tindell in recent weeks for being soft on gun rights. Folks, if Gipson and Tindell are soft on guns according to your political persuasion, you need to seek professional help. Particularly Andy Gipson has been the workhorse for Second Amendment issues in Mississippi and was the author and chief sponsor of House Bill 2 in the 2013 legislative session.
The common denominator of that antagonism here in Mississippi, as outlined by the Clarion Ledger article, is the communications hired gun for the Chris McDaniel’s failed 2014 Senate campaign, Noel Fritsch.
But interestingly, Fritsch doesn’t appear to be a kingmaker as much as (in the larger scheme of these national organizations) the local help.
Before we get into the analysis, let’s have a quick history/connecting-the-dots lesson.
Mississippi Gun Rights is an offshoot of the National Association of Gun Rights run by a guy named Dudley Brown. Brown is a Colorado native and is widely known as a political bomb thrower. Their scorched earth tactics in Colorado seem almost identical to the playbook in Mississippi. Here’s a little anecdote of Brown’s demanding unconditional fealty from elected officials.
Almost Twenty years later, former state Senator Don Ament still remembers finding himself in Dudley Brown’s cross hairs. Ament was driving along I-76 toward Sterling when he passed a large plywood sign that read, “Defend Guns, Defeat Ament.” At first, he thought his eyes had deceived him—until he passed another. “I lived on a ranch my whole life,” Ament told me. “We had rifles in our pickups. Nobody ever thought I was a gun control guy.”
He just wasn’t pro-gun enough for Brown. In 1996, Brown hit Ament with a devastating mailer while Ament was running for Congress. The state GOP offices were then located on Colfax Avenue near the Diamond Cabaret strip club; the flier’s photo, taken as Ament was leaving the party’s office, was shot at an angle that made it look like he’d been enjoying lap dances. The text read: “Send Denver Don home to his wife.” This was when the philandering Bill Clinton was president, and the message resonated. Ament lost the Republican primary to Bob Schaffer, and the Dudley Brown playbook was born.
After what Mississippi went through in 2014, it’s hard not to think that same sort of political mindset might result in a nursing home break in, stalking a DC apartment complex, or even paying a preacher to lie about vote buying. But let’s get back to connecting the dots.
The Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership is basically training people how to become hardened political activists, though they can be a little secretive about their tactics and who they will train. NAGR definitely has some commonality FACL in tactics: rhetoric and leadership. They also share the same address in Fredericksburg, VA (we’ll get to that in a minute). Dudley Brown and Luke O’Dell (who run NAGR) are also listed as instructors for FACL.
Locally, Fritsch has also been organizing/instructing for FACL events in Mississippi.
Externally, FACL says things like, “We don’t want to equip you to be an effective pawn or volunteer for a candidate or political party. We want to help you create a political environment that will reduce government interference in our lives, resulting in lower taxes and more freedom.”
But on closed political forums like Mississippi FACL Attendees, it becomes a very different vernacular. YP obtained this internal Facebook post where local liberty leaders talk about training folks “to use the masses as rabid dogs to do our will through educating them.”
As you can see, Fritsch is at least a fan of that line of thinking. That is the playbook being deployed through these groups.
But again, the local story in Mississippi, while compelling, is not nearly as interesting as looking at the national organizations and how they tie together.
The greatest common denominator between NAGR and FACL is a guy named Mike Rothfeld. Rothfeld is listed as the Founder of FACL and according to the NAGR 2013 990 form, he serves as a Director of that organization as well.
Rothfeld is also the head of a group called Saber Communications. Saber Communications was one of the biggest vendors to the Ron Paul Presidential Campaign (over $7.7M). Saber Communications is based in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In fact, NAGR, FACL and Saber all share the same address (a non-descript office at 101 Washington Street in Fredericksburg). Again, there’s nothing particularly nefarious about having these organizations so close to each other, though it is certainly a little strange to have these groups with such commonality of personnel at or near the top of the organizations. Also, when calling a number listed for NAGR for more information, the receptionist answered “Saber Communications”. When you look on Google for Saber Communications, you won’t find a website. According to the staffer I talked to, they don’t have one. That’s more than a little strange to have one of the biggest vendors to a presidential campaign not even have a website of any sort.
Another interesting item that recurred in putting this story together was the fact that Ron Paul and Rand Paul’s organization have some sort of connective tissue with the organizations listed.
In fact, former Iowa state Senator Kent Sorenson last year entered a guilty plea to federal charges that he accepted money from Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign to switch his endorsement from Michele Bachmann to Paul soon before the crucial Iowa Caucuses. Investigations have connected Paul operative and Rothfeld colleague Dimitri Kesari to the deal. And here is where it comes full circle, according to reports, the plan was first allegedly hatched by the executive director of Iowa Gun Owners, basically the Iowa version of MGR (who coincidently also have made Constitutional Carry their top issue).
And guess who else was a big Ron Paul guy . . . you guessed it … Noel Fritsch.
Before coming to McDaniel’s campaign, Fritsch worked for Congressman Steve Stockman, a long time Ron Paul supporter who when Paul decided not to seek reelection, ran for his seat and replaced him (with Paul’s endorsement) in Congress. Before that, Fritsch was working for Gary Delong, a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage candidate in California.
After Fritsch joined Chris McDaniel’s campaign, you’ll remember that Ron Paul endorsed McDaniel in 2014. Now Fritch has found himself again tied to organizations that at some level go back to the tentacles of the Ron Paul effort.
SO WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN
There’s a lot of compelling data here. Last summer in Mississippi, we focused on a lot of the “purity for profit” efforts that involved themselves in the McDaniel campaign. There are a slew of these organizations out there. And it appears that the fundraising business is the place to be. The truth of the matter is a loss appears to be more profitable than a win to this crowd, which is probably why they all seem to come from the Ron Paul political lineage.
With Rothfeld, there are two real possibilities with regards to what Fritsch is doing in Mississippi. Either Fritsch is completely incompetent and fouling up the playbook of NAGR/MGR and FACL . . . . or he is executing the plans exactly as intended. Based on the information shown above, the latter looks to be the case.
Time and again, during the McDaniel campaign, I said that you cannot hide what you really are for very long. Mark my words . . . 2015 will be another crazy cycle with local, statewide and even a special congressional race thrown in for good measure. WE WILL SEE THESE PEOPLE AGAIN. In my mind, their involvement, even peripherally, with a candidate is a signal that the candidate should be opposed by true conservatives at all costs. And the lesson that can be learned by how they’ve treated Angela Hill and Sean Tindle is “the mob is fickle”. It’s not a question of if the mob will turn (or be directed to turn) on you . . . it’s when. Candidates should proceed with extreme caution and know who they’re dealing with and who they’re dealing with.
The damage that these folks have done to the “Conservative” brand both in Mississippi and abroad is palpable. The “burn the house down mentality” they seem to have isn’t about willing races or even power. To the chosen few, it’s about money . . . pure and simple. There are some well-meaning, right-minded people that have hopped on the bandwagon of various liberty, tea party and conservative coalition movements. But there is a certain segment of that leadership that is raising money hand over fist in both small and large amounts. That money is not geared toward electing people. It’s geared toward controlling people.
Until or unless the “liberty” or “ultra-conservative” people who are really in it for the cause regulate their own house and the people “leading” them, they will permanently occupy fringe status. There are already rumors of some deep fissures forming in the #McGOP universe. There are really good people in the tea party and liberty movements that mean well. But there are also people who would use them as their “rabid dogs” and co-opt their efforts for their own financial and personal benefit. Much like terrorist organizations find security in larger religious constructs, so too do many of these ultra conservatives find solace in larger and otherwise innocuous and well-meaning groups like the tea party, conservative coalitions and various liberty movements. It will take the people under which they shelter to expose them and kick them out to rid themselves of the baggage they bring to the movement.
We’ll be watching this stuff like a hawk in 2015. You can bet your Gadsden flag on it.