At a Glance
Online Members: 81, 248
Notable: The for-profit group has been a home to nativists and Islamophobes.
ResistNet.com is a for-profit organization. According to its website, “ResistNet is a place where citizens can resist -- in a peaceful, patriotic way -- the efforts to move our nation away from our heritage of individual liberties toward ‘brave new world’ of collectivism. ResistNet is designed to give citizens a new level of networking resources to organize the Patriotic Resistance.”
The corporate structure that envelopes ResistNet.com is similar to that of Russian nesting dolls. ResistNet is a for-profit project of Grassfire Nation, a division of Grassroots Action, a for-profit, Internet activism services organization privately-held by Steve Elliott. To further complicate the structure, Grassroots Action, Inc. is more a virtual rather than traditional bricks-and-mortar organization. Elliott lives in Virginia, but the company’s business address is in the small town of Maxwell, Iowa (population 793), because Elliott uses web developers based there. In addition to its for-profit side to which ResistNet belongs, Grassfire also has a 501c4 non-profit corporation, Grassfire.org Alliance, with its corporate headquarters in Iowa. The 501c4 was created in 2004 and had total revenue of $1,415,667 in 2008. Elliott served as president for twenty hours a week and was paid $61,000 for the year.
Grassfire has grown through the use of a number of Internet petition campaigns, using a model once employed by MoveOn.org. The nature of these petition campaign points to a political base with a set of concerns much broader than simply taxes and budgets. Its first petition was sent to 200 friends on September 15, 2000, supported the Boy Scouts [anti-gay stance]. Within forty-five days more than 140,000 people had signed it. Petitions included: saving traditional marriage, “stand for the unborn,” opposition to partial birth abortion, stopping internet porn, make God Bless America the National Hymn, supporting the Pledge of Allegiance, and support for Judge Roy Moore’s fight to place the Ten Commandments in his Alabama courtroom. During the period 2005-2007, when the number of nativist anti-immigrant groups grew by as much as 600%, Grassfire started several petitions opposing meaningful immigration reform. By June 2010, Grassfire had developed a contact database of 3,713,521 people (including 2,608,818 phone numbers and 1,211,259 opt-in email names).
After the 2008 election, Grassfire’s Email blasts warned that “what President-elect Obama and the Pelosi-Reid Congress have in store has the potential to rapidly move America to the socialist Left.” People were asked to sign up to Grassfire.org and join the resistance. On December 15, 2008 Elliott registered the ResistNet.com website domain and soon after, it was officially launched as the “Home of the Patriotic Resistance.” This new website argued that, “Resisting is just the first step. That is why we propose a three-phased recovery for conservatives: Resist, Rebuild, and Restore. We believe that resisting will create newfound unity among conservatives.”
Soon after, Darla Dawald joined this social network, and during January 2009 she organized a team of volunteers to promote Tea Parties at every State Capitol. By early February, Dawald had a paid position as national director of ResistNet.com. Indeed, all of ResistNet’s leadership team are women, unlike other male-dominated Tea Party factions. Of course, ResistNet is a project owned primarily by Steve Elliott, who ultimately calls the shots).
ResistNet groups began holding Tea Parties as soon as the idea hit cyberspace. On February 24, 2009, for example, a ResistNet group in Louisiana announced that they would be holding a “tea party” in the city of Lafayette that March. By April, ResistNet had started working with FreedomWorks, and Dawald became one of the three National Coordinators for the September 12, 2009 March on DC. ResistNet listed 142 different local Tea Party chapters in 34 states, and has worked at one time or another with all the national Tea Party factions.
As of August 1, 2010, ResistNet is the second largest national Tea Party faction, with 81,248 online members. Its membership is scattered around the country, in every region. The top ten cities for ResistNet membership include: Houston, Texas; Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; San Antonio, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; Dallas, Texas; San Diego, California; Austin, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The organization may have an all-female leadership team, but the majority of the ResistNet members are men -- 56% of members identify as male, 36% female, and 8% chose not to self-identify.
ResistNet has also created its own structure of state groups to “flip this House!” and return Congress to conservative control. As a sprawling online social network and Tea Party national faction, ResistNet has also become a gathering spot for bigotry against Islamic believers. Its website proclaims: “We are at a point of having to take a stand against all Muslims. There is no good or bad Muslim. There is only Muslims and they are embedded even in our government, military and other offices. What more must we wait for to take back this country of ours..."
ResistNet and Nativism
Many leaders of state and local anti-immigrant groups have become active with ResistNet, including:
- Robert Dameron, founder of Citizens for the State of Washington (Yakima, WA);
- Wendell Neal, leader of the Tulsa Minutemen (Broken Arrow, OK);
- Mike Jarbeck, director of the Florida chapter of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (Orlando, FL);
- David Caulkett, creator of IllegalAliens.us and Report Illegals (Pompano Beach, FL);
- Robin Hvidston of the Southern California Minuteman Project and Gilchrist Angels (Upland, CA);
- Ruthie Hendrycks, founder of Minnesotans Seeking Immigration Reform (Hanska, MN);
- Evert Evertsen, founder of Minutemen Midwest (Harvard, IL); and
- Rosanna Pulido, the founder of the Chicago Minutemen and a former staffer for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (Chicago, IL).
After Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB1070, which required local and state officials to enforce federal immigration law, the statute faced immediate challenges in court; and as of the time this report went to press, key provisions have been blocked by a temporary injunction. A boycott campaign and other protests have been underway to oppose the law. In response, ResistNet started a “We Stand With Arizona” project to support the law. Nearly one hundred sponsors, including numerous local Tea Party and 9-12 groups have signed on, along with celebrities like Sarah Palin, John Voight, Ted Nugent, and Lou Ferigno. Other nativist groups are also supporting this campaign, including NumbersUSA, North Carolinians for Immigration Reform and Enforcement, and Kentuckians for Immigration Reform and Enforcement. In addition, Oath Keepers and a group called Well Regulated American Militias are on the We Stand With Arizona list.
ResistNet is also soliciting donations for an Arizona defense fund. KeepAZsafe.com is an official website of the state of Arizona where “donations collected through this website will be deposited into the Border Security and Immigration Legal Defense fund to be used by Arizona on Border Security and Immigration matters.”
ResistNet.com sports a section of links and “partners” which allows it to project itself into a larger network of ultra-conservative organizations. Among these partners is The Tenth Amendment Center, which had, as of July 2010, twenty six chapters in twenty three states. An online home for many of those supporting states rights as a way of opposing the federal government, the Tenth Amendment Center popularizes legal theories such as “nullification” and “secession” as viable options in its fight against the Obama presidency.
Another partner is the We the People Foundation for Constitutional Education, Inc., headquartered in Queensbury, New York. Run by Bob Schulz, on January 27, 2010 the Internal Revenue Service revoked its non-profit status, retroactively going back to 2003. Although it started as a tax protest organization, in the current period We the People promotes conspiracy theories about President Obama’s birth certificate. On January 27, 2010, after a multi-year legal battle dating back to the George W. Bush presidency, the Internal Revenue Service revoked the corporation’s tax-exempt, retroactively going back to 2003. Nevertheless, We the People claims to be continuing its program.
On December 1 and 3, 2008, We the People took out full-page ads in the Chicago Tribune, entitled “An Open Letter to Barack Obama: Are you a Natural Born Citizen of the U.S.? Are you legally eligible to hold the Office of President?” The ad argued that if Obama didn’t meet all the group’s demands, then he would be a “usurper,” who “would be entitled to no allegiance, obedience or support from the People.” A year later, on December 8, 2009, the group held a press conference at the National Press Club to further promote this point of view. Attending that event were Philip Berg and Orly Taitz, both leading “birther” attorneys.
Another ResistNet partner organization is TakeAmericaBack.org, a website launched in April 2009 to publish anti-immigrant propaganda. One article claimed that “multiculturalism” demands that “Americans learn to speak Spanish so illegals can take over America with foreign cultures." Another article on this site concluded that “a Kenyan, Communist, son of a terrorist, as our wannabe president, who has not only expressed his hatred of America, but is also an avowed Muslim...”
Also included among the official partners is a trio of groups run by anti-Islam activist Pam Geller. [See Chapter “Who Is an American?”]
It is this untenable attempt to vilify President Obama as “non-American” and “foreign” that pushes a significant number of ResistNet Tea Partiers out of the ranks of a responsible opposition and into the columns of bigots and xenophobes.
Leonard Zeskind is president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. Devin Burghart is IREHR vice president.