Rand Paul is openly courting Cliven Bundy's militia supporters by appealing to the scofflaw rancher at a campaign event Monday.
Paul spoke at a campaign stop in Mesquite, Nevada on Monday, the Associated Press reports. Bundy sparked an armed stand-off between federal agents and a militia at his Nevada ranch in 2013. His ranch continues to be an attraction for right wing extremists, from sovereign citizens to militia members.
Bundy told the AP he and Rand are "in tune," adding he doesn't think the federal government should have any say over "our land."
Rand had thrown his support behind the rancher in 2013, calling the federal government's actions "overreach." But he withdrew it after the New York Times reported Bundy made racist remarks about blacks, saying they:
abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.
But Paul seemed ready to court him again on Monday.
"I think almost all land use issues and animal issues, endangered species issues, ought to be handled at the state level," Paul told the AP. "I think that the government shouldn't interfere with state decisions, so if a state decides to have medical marijuana or something like that, it should be respected as a state decision."
Paul also seems to have the support of David Lory VanDerBeek, a Nevada politician from the far-right Independent American Party who is also tied to Bundy Ranch. Last week he wrote on his Facebook page that he "loves" Paul's position on the IRS.
VanDerBeek is linked to Jerad and Amanda Miller, a married couple who dropped everything in their home state of Indiana to come to Bundy Ranch to take part in the stand-off. They later gunned down two police officers and a Walmart shopper before being killed in a shootout with authorities.
VanDerBeek had communicated with the couple numerous times and acknowledges his criticism of police may have resonated with the couple.
In April of 2013, Bundy's refusal to comply with federal agents over more than $1 million in grazing fees and fines over 20 years inspired hundreds of armed supporters to hunker down at his ranch to help him resist. Federal Bureau of Land Management agents backed off after the militia aimed sniper rifles at them - a felony offense, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports.
According to the SPLC report:
Antigovernment extremists have been encouraged by irresponsible politicians and commentators, the report found. Rather than condemning the effort to suspend the rule of law at the Bundy ranch, numerous politicians – including Nevada’s governor – and commentators such as Fox News’ Sean Hannity supported Bundy and his followers.
The stand-off was viewed as a victory by the extreme anti-government "Patriot Movement."
Last year, the Millers went on a shooting rampage in Nevada, murdering two police officers in cold blood, leaving a Gadsden "Don’t Tread on Me" flag, a note saying the revolution had begun and a swastika on the officers bodies and killing a shopper at Walmart before they died in a shootout with police.
The Millers had joined the Bundy Ranch militia the year before.