Coalgate: The Gateway Pacific Terminal Scandal

Coalgate: The Gateway Pacific Terminal Scandal

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February 23, 2014

In April 2013, when Philip Brendale advised attendees at the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA)-sponsored conference to seek funding from coal companies for an attack on Lummi Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, he spoke from experience. As one of a handful of professional hate campaign entrepreneurs, who came from as far away as Wisconsin and California to teach anti-Indian organizers how to take on tribal governments, Brendale’s remarks at the Anti-Indian Conference were taken to heart. Urging Tea Party activists and other attendees to get organized, he offered his non-profit to serve as a conduit for coal company monies, which in turn could be used to, “take these tribes down.”

Sharing the stage with Brendale at the Bellingham Lakeway Inn on April 6 was Elaine Willman from Hobart, Wisconsin. Elaine is a board member of CERA, the national umbrella organization devoted to terminating tribal sovereignty in the United States. Presenting along side her were Lana Marcussen, CERA legal counsel from California, and Tom Williams, CERA board member from Lynden, Washington. Tom Williams, a member of the anti-immigrant Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, was the local conference organizer.

By the time of the April 6 conference to mobilize resentment against Lummi Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians for their unified stance against Gateway Pacific Terminal — the coal export facility proposed for Cherry Point — Willman and Williams’ voices were already familiar to the audience. Indeed, Willman’s appearances on KGMI radio leading up to the conference, were orchestrated to incite listeners to rally against treaty rights and tribal sovereignty. Her November 3, 2012 and March 30, 2013 interviews by KGMI Saturday Morning Live host Kris Halterman featured such provocative statements as, “Tribalism is socialism, and has no place in our country.”

Halterman’s interviews of Willman and Williams to promote anti-Indian ideology and methodology to Whatcom County listeners should come as no surprise. As a Tea Party Nation organizer, Halterman is part of an anti-Indian network that extends to such places as Northern California, where, as Charles Tanner reports in his August 2012 article Tea Parties, Property Rights and Anti-Indianism in the Klamath River Basin, Tea Party activists — with help from CERA celebrities like Willman — rally against Indian treaty fishing rights and environmental protections that impinge on industrial water consumption. With Gateway Pacific Terminal proponents proposing to take five million gallons of water per day from the Nooksack River to spray on coal piles to keep them from combusting, treaty and environmental protections for Nooksack River salmon are viewed by them as an obstacle.

In August and September 2013, when Halterman established the Save Whatcom and Whatcom First PACs with $149,000 from the coal port consortium behind Gateway Pacific Terminal, the purpose was to fund pro-coal candidates for Whatcom County Council in the November election. Further coal consortium funds for these candidates, known locally as the Tea Party slate, would follow in November after being laundered through the Washington Republican Party. In the end, the Tea Party slate lost its bid for public office, but the PACs are there for future congressional and gubernatorial races.

In his April 26, 2013 special report “Take These Tribes Down” The Anti-Indian Movement Comes to Washington State, Charles Tanner reveals the insidious nature of the anti-Indian movement that held rallies in Massachusetts, New York, California and Washington between March and June 2013. Sponsored by CERA with Tea Party support, these rallies are intended to build momentum for termination of treaties and tribes nationwide.

As Sandra Robson suggested in her January 2014 article at Whatcom Watch, the hiring of Mariana Parks as spokesperson for the Gateway Pacific Terminal front group Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports was an unlikely coincidence. As Robson revealed in What Would Corporations Do? Native American Rights and the Gateway Pacific Terminal, Parks was Deputy State Director for U.S. Senator Slade Gorton. As Robson reports,”In 1997, as a senator, Gorton championed anti-Indian legislation, based on an HR 2107 rider that would have diminished, if not totally destroyed, the validity of Indian tribes as sovereign nations.”

With organizing and legal support from CERA — the “Ku Klux Klan of Indian country” — local Tea Party and other anti-Indian activists are prepared to mobilize an anti-Indian hate campaign, much like Whatcom County property rights groups did in the 1990s. Indeed, local anti-Indian organizers Marlene Dawson and Skip Richards also presented at the April 6, 2013 CERA conference. As Robson reported in her October-November 2013 Whatcom Watch article How Property Rights Can Become Property Wrongs, Dawson, as a Whatcom County Council member in the 1990s, worked with Senator Gorton to deprive Lummi Nation of federal funding, and Richards, in the 1990s, hosted white supremacist militias. In 1996, four Christian Patriot militia members from Whatcom County were indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on conspiracy, firearms and explosives charges.

On February 5, 2014, Gateway Pacific Terminal consultant Craig Cole sent a letter to Whatcom Watch editor Richard Jehn threatening a lawsuit for publishing Robson’s January 2014 article that exposed the convergence of Peabody Coal, Pacific International Terminals, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and the Tea Party with Citizens Equal Rights Alliance as a looming threat to Lummi Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, something I wrote about in my May 5, 2013 article White Power on the Salish Sea: The Wall Street/Tea Party Convergence. Cole’s threat against investigative journalists like Robson and myself might not matter to passive readers, but for those that put their lives on the line against the portentous movements in America intent on promoting interracial discord and a growing politics of fear, it matters a lot.

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