MINOT, N.D. — A group of Republicans aligned with the Bastiat Caucus, including four NDGOP district chairs from the Minot area, are holding a rally in Bismarck at the beginning of next week's special session.
The event is aimed at pushing the raft of anti-vax and culture war bills introduced by Bastiat lawmakers.
Among the speakers will be Rep. Jeff Hoverson, a Republican from Minot who recently made headlines after an altercation with airport security at the Minot International Airport that got him barred from boarding his flight.
The North Dakota folks involved claim the rally is something they've organized, but according to the fine reporting of Michelle Griffith, the application to hold the event on the capitol grounds was not filed by anyone local.
It was actually filed by some dude from Ohio who was subpoenaed by Congress in connection to the violent Jan. 6 riot in Washington, D.C.
"The application for the 'We The People' rally was submitted by a city councilman from Shelby, Ohio, Nathan Martin, who is also a member of the organization America Restored," Griffith reports. "Martin was reportedly subpoenaed by the U.S. House of Representatives Jan. 6 committee for his alleged affiliation with 'Stop the Steal,' a group that is connected to rallies that occurred on or near the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6."
I'm as confused as you are, and the digging I've done doesn't make things any clearer.
According to a March 2021 filing with the Florida Secretary of State, the president of America Restored is a Bismarck woman named Tomi Collins. Her LinkedIn profile says she attended the University of Mary and Bismarck State College and lists her current occupation as the executive director of America Restored.
The treasurer of the group, per the same filing, is Alexandria Splonskowski, wife of Bismarck city council member Mark Splonskowski, who is himself has been an outspoken opponent of masking during the pandemic who promoted vitamin D as a "scientifically proven" way to prevent COVID-19 deaths.
(Please talk to your doctor if you're concerned about COVID-19 and don't take medical advice from a politician.)
Martin, who pulled the aforementioned permit, is listed as the vice president of the group.
The address listed for the group is the Orange Lake Civic Center, a building in Lagos, Florida, which is also, according to the filings, home to the National Center for Life and Liberty, Inc. as well as an organization called All Pro Pasters International.
That former group, along with a man named David C. Gibbs III, is listed with the State of Florida as the registered agent for America Restored. Gibbs is the president and general counsel of the NCLL, described in his online bio as "a legal ministry that protects the rights of churches and Christian organizations nationwide, with offices in California, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas."
Meanwhile, the website for America Restored doesn't tell us much, though it does promote Frank, a website owned by election conspiracy theorist and pillow impresario Mike Lindell that is supposed to be some sort of an alternative to more mainstream social media platforms.
America Restored also promoting a recall for Rep. Rusty Bowers on its website. He's a Republican and Speaker of the House in Arizona. His sin, in the eyes of this group, is refusing to call a special session to audit that state's election results.
That should give you a flavor of what America Restored is all about.
But let's bring things back to the impending rally in Bismarck.
We're being led to believe that this is the work of local activists, but there's clearly some money behind the effort. According to Griffith's report, organizers have purchased, "3,000 T-shirts to hand out to attendees, plan to have their own security guards present and rent about 40 porta-potties for the rally."
Buses have been hired to bring people from Minot and Tioga to the event.
That's thousands and thousands of dollars worth of expenditures. According to BigRentz.com, the average cost to rent a porta potty is around $150 per unit (that's a weekly rate but the bulk of the cost comes from setting the units up and taking them away). Basic custom T-shirts are going to cost about $5 each when ordered in bulk.
If we use those estimates, and the numbers volunteered by the event organizers, we're talking about $6,000 for toilets and about $15,000 for T-shirts before we even get to the other costs, which would include the buses.
Even if the actual cost is half of what I'm estimating, we're in the ballpark of $10,000 for T-shirts and toilets at an event that, again, is supposedly put on by local people but has these mysterious ties to activists in other states.
The intent of this folderol is to pressure North Dakota's lawmakers into advancing the Bastiat Caucus bills. Given that, don't the organizers of this event owe us some explanations?
Where is the money coming from? Why is this Florida group involved?
North Dakotans deserve to know.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.