Washington, D.C. — This week, South Dakota Representative Julie Frye-Mueller made her support public for the Koch-backed anti-conservation group American Stewards of Liberty and its spokesperson, Trent Loos, in an op-ed that praised the organization for its event attacking the Biden administration’s 30×30 land conservation policy. Frye-Mueller and three other state legislators attended the event, as well as five county commissioners — raising further questions about the group’s status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and breaking lobbying rules.
Government watchdog Accountable.US recently filed a complaint with the IRS against the organization for its role in pressuring local officials in multiple states to pass legislation opposing the 30×30 plan, a direct violation for tax-exempt groups. The group holds sessions to indoctrinate attendees with misinformation and instructs them to pass legislation to fight the 30×30 proposal, a clear violation of its status as a nonprofit.
“American Stewards of Liberty is using its status as a nonprofit to peddle misinformation and scare local representatives out of supporting the bold climate agenda necessary to preserve our public lands for future generations,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US. “By parroting the group’s wild conspiracy theories, these representatives have put logic on the backburner to mislead the public on Biden’s plan to address the climate crisis to benefit special interests in the oil and gas industry. It’s shameful.”
Joining state Rep. Frye Mueller, an aide for U.S. Senator John Thune (R-SD) spoke to the Senator’s agreement with American Steward’s attack of the 30×30 policy, even when the group compared the policy to genocide. Thune’s aide, Mark Haugen, claimed the Senator supported the group “with 100 percent of his being.” The group has a history of promoting wild conspiracy theories, including the denial of climate change and that the United Nations wants to eliminate private property rights. The group has been supported by at least $120,000 from the Koch-backed dark money network. It has also worked directly with the oil and gas industry to oppose protections for public lands and wildlife.