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Ex-‘hate group’ strategist trained GOP candidate’s team

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In July, Republican Congressional candidate Buzz Patterson hosted a former national strategist from one of the largest purported hate groups in the U.S. to “motivate, train, and support” about 150 of his volunteers and campaign staff.

The training event represented one of several times Patterson has associated with individuals with far-right connections since he finished second in the March 3 primary for California’s 7th Congressional House seat. The district serves eastern Sacramento County, and Patterson won 33.6% of the primary vote to face Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Ami Bera on the November ballot.*

Endorsed by the California Republican Party (CAGOP), the 65-year-old Patterson has, for the most part, not hid these far-right associations, but neither the CAGOP nor the Patterson campaign would respond to requests for comment for this article.

To be clear, Patterson has not been found to express support for far-right groups, with one possible exception. (That involved QAnon. See below.) This said, his campaign has nonetheless associated with several individuals supportive of or connected to these groups.

‘Militant’ Anti-Muslim Group

The public nature of Patterson’s far-right associations includes publicizing on social media his July 18 training with the conservative speaker and organizer Scott Presler.

But not revealed was that from 2017 to 2018 Presler served as a national strategist for ACT for America, which the web site of the Southern Poverty Law Center labels an “extremist hate group.” The Anti-Defamation League calls ACT for America “the largest anti-Muslim group in the United States.”

Presler’s work for ACT did stir some controversary. The largest event he organized was a nationwide series of 2017 protests of Muslim Sharia law, which included a protest in the Sacramento suburb of Roseville.

In one report, National Public Radio described ACT as “militant toward Islam” and reported Presler approved naming an avowed white supremacist to oversee a march in Arkansas. When that individual broadcast his white nationalist views via podcast and invited white nationalists to march with weapons, ACT canceled the local march.

Today Presler works independently as a national conservative speaker and voter registration organizer. His events are energetic and at times fiery but not as provocative as with ACT. But Presler’s speaking circuit still leads him to occasionally speak at the same events as extremists.

This included in December in Bettendorf, Iowa, at an Iowa Teenager Republican forum that sparked local controversary. There Presler spoke as part of the same program as Nick Fuentes, who the Des Moines Register called “a white nationalist speaker” and who also attended the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. Two months after the Iowa event, Youtube terminated Fuentes’ video channel for violating Youtube’s “hate speech” policy.

It’s unclear how much, if anything, Patterson’s campaign paid Presler for the July 18 event. Neither Patterson nor Presler responded to requests for comment.

Dark finances & QAnon

Often campaign costs like this can be found in a candidate’s quarterly fundraising and expenditure filings with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). However, according to the FEC searchable online database, Patterson has not submitted the required quarterly fundraising or expense filings covering activities going back to Oct. 1, 2019. This has effectively taken his campaign finances “dark.” (Campaign filings for the Q3 2020 period are due Oct. 15.)

[Editor’s update: As of 3/15/21, the FEC reports receiving none of a year’s worth of Patterson’s overdue filings from the 2019-2020 election cycle.]

Another far-right connection with the Patterson campaign involves the QAnon conspiracy theory movement, which the FBI in 2019 called a domestic terrorism threat. In April via Twitter, a QAnon supporter asked Patterson if he supported “the Q movement,” and Patterson’s account responded “yep!”

This interaction has been covered by national outlets such as Washington Post, Newsweek, Forbes and Axios, but oddly not by any major Sacramento outlets. Patterson did tell Axios he does not recall sending the “yep!” tweet and does not endorse QAnon. Not long after that interview, the Twitter exchange was deleted from Patterson’s account.

A natural question is whether this digital exchange led to an increase in donations to Paterson’s campaign from groups or individuals supportive of QAnon. However, since Patterson’s campaign has not submitted regular quarterly filings, this is impossible to review.

Though Patterson claims he doesn’t support QAnon, on multiple occasions this year he has joined the online talk show of Brenden Dilley, who is a prominent QAnon supporter. This is indicated below by the QAnon hat Dilley often wears on the broadcast.

Patterson’s June 26 appearance on The Dilley Show came just a few weeks after Dilley was suspended from Twitter for extremist comments he posted in a video. This followed George Floyd’s killing that provoked nationwide protests. Dilley responded by issuing a video warning “antifa” protesters that the “most violent, ready-to-go, most tactically trained” Americans were standing ready to do something about it.

Dilley said, “If for any reason the president of the United States feels that it’s not getting done the way it should and decides to put out the tweet that says, ‘My fellow Americans, my fellow [Second Amendment]-loving Americans, it’s time to take up arms against these a--holes,’ you are all f---ed in under an hour.”

He continued. “[We’re] waiting for that one tweet, that one emergency text message from the f---ing President of the United States that gives us the green light to finish this entire thing in under an hour.”

Patterson has called Dilley “brilliant” on Twitter and “brother” on air.

Extremism at Aug. 1 rally

Perhaps Patterson’s most public association with extreme groups and rhetoric came at the Aug. 1 rally he co-organized and emcee’d on the steps of California’s state capitol. Called the WalkAway/Rescue America rally, it featured a range of conservative speakers, including three other CAGOP-endorsed Congressional candidates, California Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove, and a variety of non-elected conservative speakers.

Among the latter was Cordie Williams, founder of the 1776 Freedom Forever group based in Carlsbad, Calif. Its web site describes the group as “a community-based organization that supports the Constitutional Rights of all Americans.” But at the time of the Aug. 1 rally, its home page also featured a group photo (below) prominently including symbols associated with the Three Percenter militia movement.

This photo has since been removed from the web site. In it, Williams kneels in front of a U.S. flag with a Roman numeral “III ”on it. This is the flag of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia group that armed itself with assault rifles to guard marchers at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

An individual in the back row of the photo also wears a Three-Percenter shirt, and two individuals on the right flash three-finger hand symbols associated with the Three-Percenters. These symbols have become well-known enough that Alec Baldwin even referenced them in a bit about President Trump and white supremacists on the Oct. 3 episode of Saturday Night Live.

Invoking the Holocaust

But the most provocative aspect of Williams was the speech he gave at Patterson’s Aug. 1 rally. Throughout the rally, Democrats were called socialists and Communists, and Williams said whenever people “acquiesce” and wear a mask, “we’re helping the other side.” He then invoked the Holocaust:

“In World War II, there was a furnace that said Auschwitz. Right now that furnace says socialism, and so many Americans are heading toward that furnace. And what my organization 1776 Forever Free wants to do is help turn that doggone bus around. We want to take it back the other way, to American values, American freedom, to the red white and blue,” Williams told the Aug. 1 rally.

Throughout this speech, Patterson stood near Williams and nodded in agreement. Video of the speech and the entire rally can be seen on Patterson’s campaign Facebook page.

‘Battle of good versus evil’

Another speaker at Patterson’s Aug. 1 rally was Eric Early, who Patterson called a “good friend.” The Los Angeles attorney is running for Congress in the CA-28 against U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff. In his speech, Early characterized America as amid a domestic “battle of good versus evil” and said Democrats like Schiff and Gov. Gavin Newsom are communists possessed by evil.

At one point, Early also revved up the crowd by exclaiming, “We are not white supremacists. We are American.” This bridged to a U.S.A. chant by the crowd of approximately 300 people.

One of the advertised themes of Patterson’s WalkAway/Rescue America rally was to celebrate and encourage Democrats to “walk away,” change parties and vote Republican. It’s unclear how the event Patterson organized – filled as it was with so much extreme rhetoric – had much chance to do this. But with Sacramento’s mail-in voting period now begun, the final say now resides with the voters.

* founder and editor Jeff Burdick ran in the March 3rd Congressional primary as a first-time candidate against Bera, Patterson and two other candidates. Burdick is a trained journalist, and six months after the primary election, he returned to this vocation by starting The Sacto Politico.

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