Defend Colorado Now took in thousands of contributions, large and small, from earnest Coloradans concerned about the negative effects of illegal immigrants.
But critics of the state group are saying that its outside money came with a taint.
Its largest contributions have come from a national group whose longstanding campaigns for immigration cuts, border defense and official English have brought it some fringe and sometimes unwelcome bedfellows—racists.
It’s a fact of life that hasn’t escaped the principal outside donor, John Tanton, a retired ophthalmologist and longtime environmentalist regarded by many as one of the progenitors of the immigration control movement.
One of Tanton’s many organizations, U.S. Inc., in his upstate Michigan hometown of Petoskey, gave a total of $48,000 to Defend Colorado Now. That’s 30 percent of the total of more than $161,000 the group collected in just over two years.
Frequently attacked by leftist critics as a hate organization, Tanton’s empire of immigration groups attracts a wide diversity of supporters. He can’t help it, he says, if some of them don’t like minorities.
The controversy that has dogged Tanton came to Colorado last week when a Chicago anti-racist group, Center for New Community, issued a report on Defend Colorado Now. It laid out connections between the Colorado leaders, Fred Elbel and former governor Dick Lamm, with Tanton—and by extension, with Tanton’s fellow travelers.
Defend Colorado Now’s political mission, to get Initiative 55 onto November’s ballot, failed when the Colorado Supreme Court last month stopped its petition drive cold. The justices ruled the initiative violated the single-subject rule for ballot measures.
But the failure led directly to Gov. Bill Owens calling the recently ended special session of the legislature to deal with immigration issues. In effect, Defend Colorado Now achieved some of what it was after.
“The 50,000 petition signatures we gathered made all this happen this year,” Elbel said. “The voice of the people was heard.”
Tanton’s history indeed shows that he came to his hard-line position on immigration from decades of involvement in the environmental movement, particularly the Sierra Club.
One group he helped to form is WITAN, from an Old English term, witenagemot, or a council of wise men. Its periodic meetings have included Jared Taylor of the New Century Foundation and its white nationalist American Renaissance magazine. The current featured offer on American Renaissance’s Web site is a report called “The Color of Crime” highlighting higher crime rates among blacks and discounting racial bias over inherent cultural traits as a reason.
Lamm said he is uncomfortable with Taylor’s philosophy but doesn’t see a direct connection between Tanton and Taylor aside from attendance at some of the same events.
“I know who Jared Taylor is,” said Lamm, who in the 1960s was a civil rights attorney for Colorado’s anti-discrimination commission, and who was a founding member and first vice president of the NAACP chapter at Berkeley.
“If there’s an association there with Jared Taylor, if I were John, I’d disavow it,” Lamm said.
Comments seen as racist
In a memo to WITAN meeting attendees in 1986 aimed at fostering discussion, Tanton made a number of remarks that critics took as racist.
One example: “As Whites see their power and control over their lives declining, will they simply go quietly into the night?”
But the focus of immigration control advocates inevitably settles into a discussion of culture—primarily America’s white European culture and the threat that Third World immigration poses from the standpoints of crime, the economy and even religion.
VDare is named for the first white child born in North America, Virginia Dare of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island, North Carolina. The site is run by immigration critic and author Peter Brimelow—himself an immigrant to America from Great Britain. His works have been published or distributed by Tanton’s Social Contract Press.
Another of Social Contract’s frequent contributors was the late Sam Francis. In a speech that got him fired as a columnist from the Washington Times, Francis opined that western civilization couldn’t have developed except for the genetic traits of the white race—and that western values couldn’t be passed to other races.
He said the election of Barack Obama of Illinois to the U.S. Senate would be “the moment when America. . . is transformed into the non-white multiracial empire symbolized and led by ‘people like Obama.’”
Ties close to home
But the closest ties between Tanton and the white nationalist and segregationist movements is in his own office complex in Petoskey.
Wayne Lutton is editor of Social Contract Press. A widely published author and intellectual on matters of immigration and culture, Lutton co-authored with Tanton in 1994 a widely read book on the issue titled The Immigration Invasion.
In a display of the strange brew of interests attracted to the book’s point of view, the foreword was written by the late liberal senator from Minnesota, Eugene McCarthy, and the book was favorably reviewed on the Web site of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
But Lutton has been directly involved with white nationalists such as Taylor. Lutton has been a speaker at an American Renaissance meeting and is involved with the parent organization, New Century Foundation.
Lutton has also been on the advisory board of the publication of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor group to the White Citizens Councils, which fought desegregation in the south in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1999, then Republican National Chairman Jim Nicholson, of Colorado, branded the group as racist and called on any Republicans who belonged to it to quit.
Lutton also has written articles for the Journal of Historical Review, published by the Holocaust-denial group Institute for Historical Review. Lutton’s articles haven’t dealt with Holocaust denial, but with other World War II issues.
Lutton deflected questions about his racial beliefs.
“I’m not involved” in white nationalist groups, he said. “I’m on record as just being a conservative academic. I’ve been described pretty accurately as sort of a right wing green.”