Apparent Hate Groups Contributing to Mainstream Campaigns - NBC Southern California
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Apparent Hate Groups Contributing to Mainstream Campaigns

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti Defamation League list the American Freedom Party as an extremist hate group

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A candidate for governor accepted campaign contributions from a white nationalist. Lolita Lopez reports for the NBC4 News on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

    (Published Friday, Sept. 22, 2017)

    People who are apparent members of organizations considered to be hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center have been making some big political donations across the state, the NBC4 I-Team has found.

    "We want to run people for office and get elected and combat the globalism that has confronted america," said William Johnson, an American Freedom party chairman and a Los Angeles attorney. "I personally would like to have a white ethno state."

    A group against big government, but who also believe white people and minorities shouldn't mix.
     
    "I want a country where I go to these little schools and there's just a sea of towheaded kids with blond haired blue eyed."

    And that is what has earned the American Freedom party a spot on the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti Defamation League's list of extremist hate groups.

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    "They infuse racism and bigotry into their ideology and into their political action," said Joanna Mendelson, is a senior researcher for the ADL.

    She has seen a growing trend in the mainstreaming of hate groups.

    "They view politics as the stepping stone to carry out their belief system and effect change," Mendelson said.

    William Johnson, the chairman of the American Freedom party, has contributed thousands of dollars to a variety of political candidates such as Ddavid Duke, Ron Paul and Rand Paul. Johnson also created a super PAC for Donald Trump's campaign to donate above individual limits.

    "It was tens of thousands of dollars," Johnson said.

    The NBC4 I-Team, along with the NBC Bay Area station compared campaign finance records with the SPLC's map of hate groups based here in California. The information showed state and federal politicians accepted more than $100,000 in donations since 2002 from board members of these groups.

    "I celebrate diversity," said John Chiang, the California treasurer and current gubernatorial candidate . "I celebrate the idea of what is America."

    Chiang said he declined or returned Johnson's contribution of $250 to his last campaign.

    "He did try to make an additional contribution and we are not accepting it," he said.

    Johnson said he contributed to Chiang's campaign because he went after Wells Fargo for allegations of ripping off customers, an interesting intersection of anti-big corporate political views, and his beliefs on racial identity.

    "Now I am about as anti-big business you can get," Johnson said.

    Most of the candidates Johnson contributed to also returned or rejected his donations once they discovered his beliefs about creating a white state.

    "All of us need to decide who are for what we stand for and what we're against," Chiang said.

    Mendelson says now more than ever it is important to recognize that these groups are beginning to seek a seat at the political table.

    "Historically these groups have operated on the fringe, but currently they're seeking to be politically relevant to be legitimate and to engage in the process in a mainstream capacity," Mendelson said.

    Johnson was briefly scheduled to be a delegate for then-candidate Trump at the Republican Convention. Trump's campaign said Johnson's name was listed by mistake.

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