A new report from government watchdog Accountable.US reveals that Otero County Commissioners in New Mexico, voted to hire the Texas-based extremist organization, American Stewards of Liberty (ASoL) for an annual taxpayer-funded contract of up to $20,000 per year to provide the County “with technical advice and guidance on land planning and endangered species issues.”
American Stewards for Liberty has spent the last year traveling rural America to raise false alarms about the Biden Administration’s conservation policies, comparing them to “the actions of Nazi Germany.” Meanwhile, one of the Otero County Commissioners who voted to approve the funding, Couy Griffin, is a January 6th insurrectionist found guilty of trespassing and faces potential jail time.
American Stewards of Liberty has a track record of suckering county officials out of money to line their own pockets and it looks like the people of Otero County are their latest victims. Their tax dollars should not be going to out-of-state extremists groups, especially as their schools struggle without adequate funding.”
Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US
Otero County’s vague, $20,000 annual contract comes as some in the county were forced to vote to raise taxes for school capital improvements. The $20,000 sum is more than Otero County’s budgets for important law enforcement spending.
- Otero County Attorney RB Nichols Says The Group Will Help With Land Issue Planning And “Other Issues.” “’(American Stewards of Liberty) provide consulting services and legal services to counties having issues with land planning and other environmental issues,” Otero County Attorney RB Nichols said. “I think (these) services will be useful in this process with the Forest Plan, but also having them on contract with other issues that come up with land planning and endangered species.’” [Alamogordo Daily News, 03/23/22]
- American Stewards of Liberty Is A Right Wing Group Stoking Fear Throughout Rural Communities About Biden Administration Campaign Policies. “A right-wing, anti-federal lands group is leading a disinformation campaign against the Biden administration’s effort to protect 30% of America’s lands and oceans by 2030. […] American Stewards of Liberty, a little known Texas group with ties to both the Trump administration and the fossil fuel industry, has worked to drum up opposition at the county and state level. It has characterized the proposal as a federal ‘land grab’ ― before the Biden administration has even unveiled details about how it plans to achieve its goals ― and stoked fear in rural communities across the West and Midwest.” [Huffington Post, 05/06/21]
- The County Budget Allotted Less Money For Vital Expenses Like Law Enforcement Training And Equipment Than It Did For Byfield’s “Services”
- Otero County Budgeted More For ASoL Than They Spent On Police Trainings Last Year. According to Otero County’s 2022 budget, the county spent $15,556.87 on police training last year, nearly $5,000 less than their contract with ASoL budgets for. [2021-02 Otero County Budget, Accessed 09/09/21]
- Otero County Budgeted The Same Amount For ASoL As They Did For Emergency Services Gas Costs. According to Otero County’s 2022 budget, the county budgeted $20,000 for emergency services gasoline costs, the same amount as their contract with ASoL. [2021-02 Otero County Budget, Accessed 09/09/21]
- Otero County Budgeted $8,000 More For ASoL Than They Did For Animal Care At The Shelter. According to Otero County’s 2022 budget, the county budgeted $12,000 for care of animals, and medical care, $8,000 less than their contract with ASoL budgets for. [2021-02 Otero County Budget, Accessed 09/09/21]
- Otero County Residents Voted In 2021 To Raise Taxes For School Capital Improvements on a ballot measure to raise property taxes for 2021-2025 for capital improvements to schools, while the county budgeted thousands for Byfield and ASoL’s “services.” [Co.otero.nm.us, 12/02/21]