Washington, D.C. — By signing his executive order, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts continues to parrot the talking points of the fringe conspiracy-pushing group American Stewards of Liberty (ASoL) in their efforts to mislead the public about President Biden’s 30 by 30 land conservation policy. This is not the first time Ricketts has acted on behalf of ASoL: he’s been on a misinformation campaign throughout the state in a series of town halls, using the group’s talking points and PowerPoint slides in his presentations despite simultaneously attempting to distance himself from the organization. 

“The people of Nebraska should know that behind Governor Pete Ricketts’ fearmongering stands American Stewards of Liberty, a fringe conspiracy-pushing group dead-set on preventing action to address climate change and protect our public lands. ASoL has found an ally in Governor Ricketts, and together, they are working to poison the public’s perception of these bold and necessary policies that ensure our public lands are protected for future generations to come. Ricketts’ executive order is his latest shilling for the group — it’s shameful, but unsurprising,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US.

The collaboration between Ricketts and ASoL has been clear for some time, but the governor finally publicly admitted he has been working with them after he previously attempted to distance himself from the group by asking for “more information” on the organization  when questioned about their relationship. Ahead of signing on to a letter to President Biden opposing the 30 by 30 land conservation plan, Ricketts met with ASoL Executive Director Margaret Byfield to discuss ways to oppose the policy. He confirmed this story when he was a guest on ASoL spokesperson Trent Loos’ podcast. Ricketts has used the group’s talking points and PowerPoint slides throughout his misinformation campaign at various town halls across the state. 

American Stewards of Liberty has a history of promoting wild conspiracy theories, including denying climate change and suggesting the United Nations wants to eliminate private property rights. Trent Loos publicly compared the 30 by 30 policy to Hitler, warning “history does repeat itself.” Byfield went further, agreeing to a comment that compared the plan to Stalin’s genocide of the Ukranian people. The group has received  at least $120,000 from the Koch-backed dark money network and has also worked directly with the oil and gas industry to oppose protections for public lands and wildlife. 

By spending a substantial amount of time and money lobbying government officials to oppose President Biden’s 30 by 30 plan, ASoL appears to be violating IRS rules for tax-exempt nonprofits. The IRS deems collaboration on legislation with county commissioners and other state legislators as lobbying, jeopardizing ASoL’s status as a nonprofit. Accountable.US filed a complaint with the IRS against ASoL for pressuring local officials in multiple states to pass legislation opposing the 30 by 30 plan.

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