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Idaho State Capitol in Boise, ID

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In January, we reported that the Republican-led Senate in Idaho advanced a bill that would redefine domestic terrorism solely as terrorist activity committed in connection with “foreign groups.” In fact, the bill would essentially define all terrorism as terrorist acts committed by foreigners or citizens who collaborated with foreigners. The state Senate voted 27-8 to pass Senate Bill 1220, which means an overwhelming majority of GOP legislators in Idaho were dead serious about passing a law that would make violent home-grown white supremacists ineligible to be classified as domestic terrorists.

Fortunately, House legislators in the state had a bit more sense and the legislation failed to get the support it needed to make it to the House floor when committee members voted on it last week.

From InvestigateWest:

A handful of Democrats on the House Judiciary, Rules, and Administration Committee argued that the current law already had a clear definition of terrorism unmuddled by ideology: criminal actions, dangerous to human life, that were intending to influence government policy through intimidation.

“The idea that we would require someone who wanted to do that to send an email to Hamas first” in order to call that “domestic terrorism” didn’t make any sense, Rep. Chris Mathias, D-Boise, argued.

A few Republicans on the committee had similar concerns.

“There is ‘homegrown terrorism’ and ‘domestic terrorism’,” said Rep. Dan Garner, R-Clifton. “To tie it to a foreign entity does not encompass what that is in people’s minds.”

Supporters of the bill have vehemently denied that it’s a partisan bill meant to protect white American terrorists or conservative groups, but there are several indications to the contrary.

First, the bill would amend the “Idaho Terrorist Control Act,” which was implemented in 1987, just months after Aryan Nation members in Idaho who had no connection to foreign conspirators bombed the home of Rev. Bill Wassmuth, a former Catholic priest who led an anti-hate group. Secondly, when defending the legislation, Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon (R-Burley) said it was inspired by government entities tarnishing the names of parents who protested policies at school board meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic (i.e. largely white conservative parents who threw fits over mask mandates and vaccination requirements) despite the fact that none of them have been labeled as domestic terrorists. Anthon also cited Moms For Liberty (aka Ku Klux Karen), which was named a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center last year, but they were not labeled a domestic terrorist group.

But the most glaring indication that the legislation should actually be called the “Protect White American Terrorists From Appropriate Labels Act” is the fact that one of the advocates who played an instrumental role in the development of the bill was involved in an armed standoff against the FBI nearly a decade ago.

Eric Parker, leader of the Real Three Percenters of Idaho, a militia group, was labeled a domestic terrorist after he pointed a rifle at federal agents during the infamous Bundy ranch standoff in Nevada in 2014. Y’all remember the standoff, right? Cattle rancher Clive Bundy was illegally grazing his cows on government land he didn’t own and when the government tried to stop him from breaking the law, Bundy—who, by the way, once suggested that Black people were better off when “the negro” was enslaved—rallied his supporters and called on them to take up arms and join him in his act of armed thuggery. 

Parker, of course, claims none of that had anything to do with him pushing the legislation.

“I’m not here to relitigate the Bundy ranch or relitigate my character,” he told InvestigateWest. “I’m trying to work in legislation to protect people from weaponized laws.” Parker also noted that he wasn’t aware of the Terrorist Control Act being abused and used with prejudice against groups like his, but he was sure it would be in the future. (Again, the TCA has been around for the better part of four decades, but sure, any minute now, officials will be weaponizing it all through the MAGA world. Just wait!)

Anyway, while the bill failed to advance last week, it’s not exactly dead in the water just yet.

More from InvestigateWest:

The House introduced the Senate’s version of the bill with some minor changes to the language. But the fundamental sticking point was over the bill’s unusual definition of “domestic terrorism,” which required a tie to a foreign terrorist organization.

A motion to send the replacement bill to the Idaho House floor failed in an 8-8 tie.

In theory, either version of the bill could be resurrected, but supporters like Parker believe the bill is effectively dead until next year.

Parker claimed the bill “wasn’t partisan,” but, again, how could it not be? Any objective observer should be able to see this as what it is: more Republican legislation aimed at solving non-existent problems on behalf of conservatism.


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