Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart
An Oklahoma Tea Party group is under investigation following a warning to a State Senator that he had to bring a conspiracy-theory laden piece of legislation to the floor — or else.
At issue is paranoia-induced anti-U.N. House Bill 1412 and its current status languishing in the Senate’s Energy Committee, much to the chagrin of the Sooner Tea Party. The delay after the Oklahoma House of Representative passed the bill — which spans all of two weeks — prompted Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart to send an email to Energy Committee Chair Sen. Cliff Branan to voice his displeasure:
Misspelling one word, Gerhart wrote: “Get that bill heard or I will make sure you regret not doing it. I will make you the laughing stock of the Senate if I don’t hear that this bill will be heard and passed. We will dig into your past, yoru [sic] family, your associates and once we start on you there will be no end to it. This is a promise.”
Due to the reference to his family, Sen. Branan (R-Oklahoma City) passed the email on to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol captain stationed at the Capitol, who then forwarded it to the Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation. After the OBI concludes its investigation, it will pass on its findings to the Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater, who will make a decision on whether to prosecute Gerhart for blackmail. In his interview with The Oklahoman, Gerhart defended his actions, accusing of the government of “harassing him” for “making them look bad.”
The Energy Committee will next meet on Thursday, at which point Branan may ultimately decide to have the bill heard like Gerhart wants. Attempts to reach Branan’s office via phone and email did not receive an immediate response, leaving it unclear whether the Republican senator supports the measure or its goals.
So what is this all-important topic of the legislation Branan is supposedly keeping from passing? House Bill 1412 specifically bans the state of Oklahoma and all of its cities and counties from taking part in any action that would advance the cryptic-sounding “Agenda 21.” In reality, Agenda 21 is a series of completely non-binding United Nations recommendations about how to better use natural resources in the course of promoting development. The term created in these recommendations — “sustainable development” — has become a right-wing code-word for black helicopter conspiracies of the U.N. dictating to the U.S. on how it can use its land and revoking private property ownership.
Oklahoma isn’t alone in advancing this type of legislation: Indiana, Georgia, and Arizona have all considered or passed laws banning Agenda 21. Due to the wording of the text, however, the Oklahoma Legislature could be restricting far more than they intend with this bill. Particularly troubling is the final operative clause in the version the House passed:
C. Since the United Nations has accredited or enlisted numerous nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations to assist in the implementation of its policies relative to United Nations Agenda 21/Sustainable Development around the world, the state and all political subdivisions of the state shall not enter into any agreement, expend any sum of money, receive funds contracting services or give financial aid to or from any nongovernmental or intergovernmental organizations accredited or enlisted by the United Nations.
The lack of a definition of “accredited” leaves the term up for interpretation, including a reading that would make bodies such as the International Red Cross — which has a seat at the U.N. as an Observer — unable to receive any funding from the state of Oklahoma. That would go beyond the non-existent impact to the nation’s golf courses that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) warned about, making this Tea Party-backed bill possibly more dangerous than the supposed threat its meant to counter.