7 Nevada Republican lawmakers have joined far-right Facebook groups, report says

Seven Republican lawmakers in Nevada are members of at least one far-right Facebook group, according to a new national report. Five of the seven are running for new elected positions this year.

The Institute for Human Rights Research and Education, a think tank that champions democracy and human rights, has identified 875 lawmakers nationwide who have joined at least one of 789 Facebook groups, including white nationalist groups, QAnon-related groups, groups spouting conspiracy theories about COVID-19, and others promoting former President Donald’s “Big Lie” Trump that voter fraud cost him the 2020 election.

The institute’s report, titled Breaking the mainstreamlists all lawmakers identified as part of far-right Facebook groups and details their legislative impact.

“We knew we had a problem on our hands, but we hadn’t been able to quantify the depth of it,” said Devin Burghart, president and executive director of the institute. “It was an early attempt on our part to understand this, and it was quite striking in terms of the various pipelines that opened up to pump disinformation and far-right ideas into legislatures.”

The seven Nevada lawmakers captured in the report were: Minority Leader Robin Titus, Deputy Minority Leader Tom Roberts, and Assembly Members Alexis Hansen, Annie Black, Jill Dickman, Jim Wheeler, and Lisa Krasner . All are Republicans. And all are candidates for re-election or a new mandate this year.

Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R-Minden), who is currently running for state Senate District 17, entered as the Nevada elected official who had joined the most Facebook groups in far right. They include two groups promoting Constitutionally Constructed Nationalism with an emphasis on supporting paramilitary activism – US Patriots and US PATRIOTS WOLFPACK NATION MAIN PAGE.

Wheeler is also part of four groups promoting covid denial – Nevadans to Open our State, Re-Open Nevada, KEEP NEVADA OPEN and Reno Freedom of Choice.

Wheeler’s contender in the state Senate District 17 Republican primary is Congresswoman Robin Titus (R-Wellington). She is a member of three far-right groups: Re-Open Nevada, Stand Up Nevada, and Nevada Liberty & Reno Tea Party Coalition.

Whoever wins the GOP primary next month will likely win November’s overall, as the district leans heavily Republican.

Congresswoman Lisa Krasner (R-Reno) is also a member of two American Patriot groups promoting Constitution-built nationalism with an emphasis on supporting paramilitary activism. Krasner is now running against three other Republicans in the primary for Senate District 16, a red but competitive district.

As the events of the January 6, 2021, uprising unfolded, Krasner tweeted, “I express my support for the patriots who traveled to Washington DC to demonstrate peacefully. However, the #FirstAmendment only protects the right to peaceful protest. I am against violent extremists.

Congresswoman Annie Black (R-Mesquite) is a member of two covid denial groups (Re-Open Nevada and Bare Face is Legal) and a group associated with Q-anon (Fed up Conservative Patriots).

Black’s far-right alliances are well documented. Black was criticized for her presence in Washington DC on January 6, 2021 – although she maintained that she was not physically at the Capitol for the insurrection. During the 2021 legislative session, Black was banned from voting or speaking on the floor because she refused to wear a face mask, which was a violation of legislative rules at the time.

Black currently represents Assembly District 19, but is running in the GOP primary for Congressional District 4 hoping to challenge U.S. Representative Steven Horsford in November.

Congresswoman Jill Dickman (R-Sparks) is a member of the Constitutional Grassroots Movement, a Facebook group classified as promoting Constitutionally-built nationalism. The group is heavily influenced by Posse Comitatus, which the report describes as “a violent far-right paramilitary group that pushed the central idea that the county sheriff is the highest law in the land.” Posse Comitatus is the Latin word for “power of the county”. Dickman is also a member of a covid-denial group (Nevadans to Open our State).

The first-term MP is re-elected this year but faces no primary or general election challengers, meaning she will win by default.

Congresswoman Alexis Hansen (R-Sparks) is a member of KEEP NEVADA OPEN, which characterizes itself as a covid denial group. Like Dickman, Hansen is up for re-election this year but faces no competition in his heavily Republican District 32.

Assemblyman Tom Roberts (R-Las Vegas) is a member of Parents for School Choice, a Facebook group that the report said has been linked to covid denial.

Former State Senator Ben Kieckhefer, who represented Senate District 16 until October 2021, when he resigned to accept an appointment to the Gaming Control Board, was also identified as a member of a Nevada Facebook group associated with covid denial. He is not counted as one of Nevada’s seven Republicans since he is no longer seated.

Many of the Facebook groups mentioned in the reporter are private, which means non-members can’t see the group’s content or members.

National point of view

The seven Nevada lawmakers who have joined far-right Facebook groups represent more than a quarter of Republicans — and 11% of the total — in the state house. Both houses of the legislature are currently controlled by Democrats.

Nationally, more than one in five Republican lawmakers have joined at least one far-right Facebook group, according to the report.

Combined, lawmakers have sponsored 963 bills in recent legislative sessions, the group that authored the report said.

The report identified five anti-human rights bills in Nevada. Four fell under the category of voter suppression and dealt with election-related issues such as voter identification requirements, mail-in voting procedures and same-day voter registration. The fifth was classified as “anti-protest” and would have created new penalties for illegal demonstrations and protests that block traffic.

None of the bills received even a committee hearing in the Democratic-controlled legislature.

Nationally, lawmakers who joined far-right groups made up 21.74% of all Republican lawmakers and 0.09% of all Democratic state lawmakers in the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions, according to the report.

More than 75% of lawmakers in far-right Facebook groups identify as men, while 24.45% identify as women. Nationally, 31.2% of all legislative seats are currently held by women.

While lawmakers for far-right groups come from all 50 states, some states are more represented than others. Representation is highest in New Hampshire (62), followed by Pennsylvania (40), Minnesota (39), Missouri (36), Arizona (34), Montana (34), Maine (34), Georgia (32), Washington (30) and Maryland (27), according to the report.

State legislators are evenly distributed across all regions of the country. Currently, 221 of them represent districts in the Midwest, 191 in the Northeast, 264 in the South and 200 in the West.

“It’s a national phenomenon,” Burghart said. “All too often people think this activity is relegated to the Deep South or the Pacific Northwest, but there are lawmakers in all 50 states who have joined these various far-right Facebook groups.”

According to the report, many of the lawmakers identified have been at the forefront of promoting anti-democracy and anti-human rights bills.

Identified lawmakers have backed far-right legislation, including “Don’t Say Gay” proposals and bills aimed at teaching critical race theory in schools. They have proposed bills attacking the reproductive rights of women, immigrants and the LGBTQIA community, the report notes.

“There was a very high level of support and sponsorship of bills coming from this group of lawmakers that we had identified, Burghart said.

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