The militant group was a big presence on Jan. 6.
When hundreds of people stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the Oath Keepers were there. At least 20 members of the far-right, anti-government militia group that is made up largely of former and current police officers and military personnel were indicted for their role in the riot. While the group may have been heavily involved in organizing and executing the domestic terror attack against the federal government, a new report from BuzzFeed News shows that the extremist organization has had more than two dozen members or financial backers in elected positions across the country.
By combing through leaked data from the organization — including membership information, chat logs, and emails — published last month by transparency group Distributed Denial of Secrets, BuzzFeed News was able to identity 28 people who currently hold elected office in the U.S. and have ties to the Oath Keepers. And that number is likely low, as the data available is incomplete. Of those with a known affiliation with the group, they hold a variety of different positions: state senators and representatives, city council members, road superintendents, and sheriffs.
According to BuzzFeed News, some of those who were found to have previous ties to the Oath Keepers now claim to have dropped out of the group. Others, not so much. Chad Christensen, a Republican member of the Idaho House of Representatives, reportedly said “there’s no way” he will renounce his membership to the organization. David Eastman, a Republican member of the Alaska House of Representatives, and Mark Finchem, a Republican representative in Arizona’s state legislature, were not only both identified as supporters of the Oath Keepers but were also present at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
The discovery that elected officials have maintained ties to the Oath Keepers is just the latest revelation showing how much influence the far-right militia group holds. Previous reporting on the leaked data showed more than 200 active or retired members of law enforcement as being members of the organization. Other reports showed a spike in interest in the Oath Keepers from police and military members following the insurrection attempt.
The Oath Keepers are, by most accounts, a relatively small organization — experts estimate there are about 5,000 members. But it increasingly appears that those members hold power in American politics. They are involved in crafting laws as well as enforcing them. It should be deeply troubling that a group actively involved in an attempt to subvert democracy also holds positions that would allow them to do exactly that.