Missouri Militia Infiltrates Local GOP

Article excerpt

Members of Missouri's growing militia movement appeared on ballots throughout the St. Louis area in the August primary elections. A number of militia candidates will be present once again on ballots throughout Missouri on Nov. 5.

Politics, militia-style, has some people downright gleeful over the anti-establishment message their political presence conveys. Others are gravely concerned about the effect of these candidates on the election process.

St. Louis County's John Moore, who is the commander of a militia group known as the 1st Missouri Volunteers, said he's taking satisfaction in some of the militias' recent political success stories. He said militia candidates carry a message that is attracting voter attention.

"We now have four elected party committeemen in the metropolitan area - all Republicans. And we also have a state representative candidate named Tim Dreste running on the Republican side in Normandy," notes Moore.

"I think militia candidates did well entering the political process for the first time," says Moore. "It remains to be seen what will happen in the 1998 elections."

Moore himself ran in the GOP primary for the seat of U.S. Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-3rd District. Moore came in third place in a field of eight. Another militia member, Joseph Keller of Ballwin, opposed Gephardt in the Democratic primary and received 20 percent of the vote.

An election watchdog group known as Missouri Pro-Vote is warning that militia candidates try to paint themselves as moderates, but are part of a movement that "is the stepchild of the KKK, Posse Comitatus and other armed, radical groups."

John Hickey, executive director of Pro-Vote and co-author of a recent election report on militias, denounces Moore as a radical who advocates ownership of personal arsenals and who does private investigations on his own enemies list.

"In the right-wing monthly Metro Voice, Moore boasted that he has been collecting and 'providing confidential information about those who perform abortions to the pro-life movement,'" notes Hickey. "The marriage of the militias to the pro-life movement is one of the bizarre aspects of this election season."

Hickey notes that GOP candidate Dreste, a captain in Moore's 1st Missouri Militia, has been a regular protester at local reproductive health clinics, wearing a hat adorned with 12-gauge shotgun shells. Dreste is a member of a group that signed a "justifiable homicide" pledge after the murder of a clinic doctor.

Hickey says pro-life radicalism is not the only problem with militia candidates. He says they also have extremist views on education, taxes, immigration and the right to bear arms - whether they be automatic weapons or hand-held missiles.

"Here in Missouri, these militia candidates, like their brethren in Michigan and Montana and across the country, are no 'middle-of-the-road Joes,' nor are they your standard civic-minded individuals running for public office," Hickey says.

Hickey says that after the recent arrests of the radical Viper militia in Arizona, and after the Oklahoma City bombing of April 1995, it's a wonder that anyone could bring themselves to vote for a militia member.

News media failing

According to Hickey, militia members are infiltrating the political process because the news media is failing in its role as a watchdog on democracy. He says voters, and political parties, need to know more about the militia movement and what its members stand for.

Hickey says that while the news media did a good job of giving saturation coverage to the Oklahoma City bombing, its performance in covering the militia threat before Oklahoma was abysmal and the news media has dropped the ball in the aftermath of the bombing.

"It's an important story for the media to pick up, because it would force political parties to distance themselves from these extremists," says Hickey. "I think the Larry Pratt incident in the Buchanan campaign is a good example. …