Minutemen founders fall out
- Minutemen are focus of call for cash audit
Susan Carroll & Dennis Wagner
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 11, 2006 12:00 AM
TUCSON - The honeymoon is over for the Minutemen.
More than 16 months after the civilian border patrol movement took root in
Arizona, the co-founders of the original Minuteman Project are feuding
publicly, and some former loyalists are calling for detailed accounting of
the estimated $1.6 million to $1.8 million in donations the group has
The two leaders tried for months to keep their split cordial, with Chris
Simcox taking over the patrol missions and raising money to build an
Israeli-style border fence. Meanwhile, Californian Jim Gilchrist kept the
Minuteman Project name and pledged to go after employers in the interior of
the U.S. advertisement
But now, Gilchrist's interior enforcement mission has fizzled, and Simcox
has bristled at Gilchrist's new book on the Minuteman Project, saying his
former partner is acting like the "lord and emperor" of the movement.
On the ground, some former loyalists are concerned about delays in getting
non-profit status and the design of a border fence by Simcox's Arizona-based
Minuteman Civil Defense Corp., or MCDC. Simcox has been touting an
Israeli-style border fence but so far has erected only 2.2 miles of
five-strand barbed wire.
"There is a lot of dissention through the ranks," said Richard Humphries,
who lives in southern Arizona and faithfully attended Minuteman gatherings
for more than a year. "When it was a brand new thing, it got a lot of media
attention, and people across the country were excited about becoming
Minutemen," Humphries said. "But for some reason, I don't know whether it's
because of a lack of leadership or what, to a great extent the novelty has
Simcox has been dealing with publicity on money matters since a recent
Washington Times article said former leaders quit over questions about
finances. He said the allegations stem from bad blood with a few former
members and urged patience from followers. The organization is in the
process of filing for non-profit status and will disclose all the
information required by the Internal Revenue Service by the Nov. 15
deadline, he added.
Connie Hair, a spokeswoman for the group, said its financial situation is
simple. "There is no controversy," she said. "There is no impropriety."
Simcox estimated that MCDC has raised $1 million, plus about $600,000 to
build fencing along the border but said that he can't be sure of the amount.
He said the organization hired accountants and consultants in 2005 and set
up a "caging" account controlled by a lawyer to ensure that donations were
"Only our auditors and our caging company know exactly how much we've
raised," he said. "It's not my job. That's why we've hired the best
Board member and Executive Director Al Garza said he has no idea about its
finances. When asked how much money his organization has received in
contributions, Garza said: "Oh, geez, I don't know. I don't make it my
business. I refuse to even ask for the figures. . . . They're donations
being well spent, I can tell you that."
The group's Web site states that donations are not tax-deductible. If the
IRS eventually approves MCDC's application for tax-exempt status, donors
won't be able to write off contributions because the organization is seeking
to become a 501c4, which allows the leadership to lobby Congress.
Last September, Simcox told The Arizona Republic that he already had started
the process of filing for non-profit status, but his spokeswoman said this
week that they plan to meet all the filing requirements later this month,
adding that delays with the complex paperwork has slowed the process.
In the meantime, Simcox formed a partnership with the non-profit, Herndon,
Va.-based Declaration Alliance, headed by conservative Alan Keyes.
Leaders also contracted with Diener & Associates, a consulting firm, to help
take the movement to a national level, Hair said, using connections for mass
mailings and fund-raising campaigns. MCDC leaders could not say how much
Diener, which also has ties to the Declaration Alliance, has made off the
partnership. Keyes and the Declaration Alliance have not benefited
financially from the partnership, Simcox said.
Meanwhile, Gilchrist, whose recent failed bid for Congress in California was
run by Diener, is questioning Simcox's use of the company, saying it was not
forthcoming with financial records. Beyond that, he declined to comment
except to say, "I fired them the day after my campaign was over."
Diener officials referred comment to Hair, saying she also works with them.
Gilchrist has largely escaped public scrutiny of his books but is facing
some of the same issues as Simcox: pending non-profit status and leadership
that does not officially draw a salary but pays for travel expenses with
donations. He said he has received $162,000 in donations since January and
has spent about two-thirds, paying for billboards, travel expenses for
speaking engagements and lodging. In 2005, he received $68,000 in donations,
Andrea Esquer, a spokeswoman for the Arizona Attorney General's Office, said
she could not confirm or deny whether state officials are investigating the
Minuteman finances. The IRS also does not comment on investigations,
including whether one is being conducted, spokesman Jim McCormick said.
Humphries and other members of the MCDC stressed they're concerned about the
money and not questioning anyone's integrity.
The biggest criticism from former volunteers has centered on one of MCDC's
major projects, the fence for which Simcox is trying to raise $55 million to
build on private land along the border.
MCDC has raised about $600,000 for the construction of a border fence,
touting on its Web site a barrier with trenches and rolls of barbed wire. So
far, the group has erected 2.2 miles of barbed-wire livestock fencing on
rancher Jack Ladd's land.
Simcox said there are still plans for a fortified barrier on other ranchers'
property and pledged to reinforce Ladd's fence with steel vehicle barriers
in coming months.
Ladd said the fence was never designed to stop people from crossing but has
been a big help with the cows.
"So far, the fence has been very effective, as far as we're concerned, in
keeping Mexican cattle from crossing over," he said.
Still, Humphries was concerned the fence isn't really fulfilling the
Minuteman mission: to curtail illegal immigration. "I know that if I had
contributed a bunch of money, as evidently a bunch of people have done, to
build a fence to keep out illegal aliens, and my money was spent to put up a
five-strand, barbed-wire fence to stop cattle, I wouldn't be very happy
about it," Humphries said.
Simcox and Gilchrist are moving ahead. Simcox wants to break ground on the
new fencing in the coming weeks, and Gilchrist plans to head to Texas to
patrol near Laredo.
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