Minuteman Meltdown

An Arizona man who mortgaged his house to finance a small fence on someone else’s private land along the U.S.-Mexico border is suing the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps for putting up cheap cattle fencing rather than an “Israeli-style” barrier, and failing to complete even that.

“Jim Campbell is a great American,” declared MCDC President Chris Simcox a year ago, when Campbell gave the group $100,000 for the fence project. Campbell said then, “I can now rest comfortably knowing that I can look the next generation in the eye and say to them: ‘We stepped up and did what we could to preserve the future of your country.’” Now Campbell has changed his tune:

But Mr. Campbell said he has seen no work on the fence that Mr. Simcox promised on the Palominas, Ariz., ranch of John and Jack Ladd since he made the donation in June 2006. He said the 11 miles of fencing that MCDC says it has built consists of a five-strand barbed-wire range fence similar to what is already in place. …

“To date, MCDC has not constructed any ‘Israeli-style’ border fencing … in breach of agreement between it and Campbell,” the lawsuit said.

For his part, Simcox denies any mismanagement of funds, and blamed the lack of progress on lack of donors: “His $100,000 is sitting out there on the Hodges ranch. We’ve showed good faith. … I’m sorry it has not gone as quickly as we had thought, but you can only erect as much fence as you have the donations for.”

But Campbell’s accusation that Simcox diverted the money to other purposes echoes complaints raised recently by other Minuteman volunteers. MCDC’s financial filings showed revenues far lower than Simcox had claimed, and money wasn’t spent where he claimed it was – instead, most of the group’s budget went to unspecified “personnel services.”

Internal MCDC disagreements came to a head last week, when a group including officers and 14 state coordinators sent a letter to Simcox demanding a meeting. Simcox responded by accusing them of insubordination and firing the lot. “I did not expect Chris to be happy about it, but neither I nor the state leaders anticipated the paranoia driven nightmare we were about to be plunged into,” said the former deputy director of the group.

When we last wrote about the financial problems at Simcox’s Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, we received an e-mail from Jim Gilchrist reminding us that MCDC is “is in no way affiliated with The Minuteman Project,” Gilchrist’s own faction of border vigilantes. Indeed, Gilchrist’s group, which uses the acronym MMP, has its own problems with finances and in-fighting.

Three months ago, Gilchrist’s lieutenant Marvin Stewart accused Gilchrist, a retired accountant, of being unable to account for $400,000 that the group had raised; Stewart, along with other members of the MMP board, declared Gilchrist no longer president of the group. Gilchrist sued, claiming his opponents “hacked into” the web site and stole money from its bank accounts. “They think they can 9/11 us, but they can’t,” he said.

While a court did freeze the group’s assets until the mess could be sorted out, Gilchrist eventually dropped the suit with those he called “delusional whiners,” leaving Stewart and the others with all the group’s funds, about $3,700. Gilchrist said he would found a new group, the Jim Gilchrist Minuteman Project Inc. “You can’t create a new Minuteman Project,” Stewart responded. “There is already one, and I’m the president.”

In an interview this week with a web site called Global Politician, Gilchrist accused his board of being “disgruntled sociopaths” and said of Stewart, “He’s really mentally ill. When he declared himself leader, everyone went crazy.”

The fact that both Chris Simcox’s Minuteman Civil Defense Corps and Jim Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project are enveloped in major internal struggles involving shady finances is a reminder that the two groups were once united, during an April, 2005 “border vigil,” but had a bitter falling out involving, yes, finances.

Nevertheless, the groups’ own problems haven’t stopped them from commenting on the immigration reform bill currently under consideration in the Senate. Simcox called the plan “backward,” while Gilchrist, who describes himself as “pro-deportation,” predicts that “by the year 2025, we may have another 150 million illegals and we’ll be a nation governed by mob rule.”