Face it, we knew it was only a matter of time. When we learned a number of weeks ago that the far-right political advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), had opened an office in Prince William County, we were pretty confident we could guess which local elected officials would quickly sell out the county to suckle at AFP’s dark-money funnel. You see, AFP is one of those notorious political groups that effectively masquerades as a social welfare organization to take advantage of the tax code and hide its donors while supporting far-right – often very far-right – causes, all the while not disclosing whose interest they are really pursuing. In fact, AFP is one of the largest such groups in the country. Over the years, investigators learned that the far-right Koch brothers had helped found AFP, something which one of the brothers finally acknowledged years later.
Among fair-minded people such groups are considered a serious threat to democratic institutions. Not required to disclose their donors, as formal political action committees (PACs) must do, they are notorious for swamping local communities with outside staff and money from undisclosed sources, effectively “buying” either directly or through intimidation, the policy positions they want implemented. According to news sources, the Koch Brothers distaste for Donald Trump led them to scale back their efforts at the national level some time ago and instead refocus their energies at the state and local level where the financial backing of wealthy, outside, secret donors can overwhelm local advocates and implement a patchwork of policies that the Koch Brothers support, regardless of whether or not they are in the best interest of that community.
AFP has been employing this strategy around the country, and early indications weeks ago made it clear that they had entered Prince William County by effectively partnering with the County’s far-right group led by Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland and the felon and fabrication blogger, Mac Haddow of Upstream Consulting. As is well known, Mac Haddow effectively controls three seats on the Board of Supervisors through the Haddow Junta of Gainesville Supervisor Pete Candland, Brentsville Supervisor Jeanine Lawson, and Occoquan Supervisor Ruth Anderson. On almost all important issues these three supervisors vote in lockstep with Haddow’s commands.
To date Haddow’s Junta has been partially stymied by the coalition of moderate Republicans Marty Nohe and Maureen Caddigan, Democrats John Jenkins and Frank Principi, and the governing half of the sometimes Jekyll and Hyde Chairman, Corey Stewart. Although Haddow was successful in 2015 in replacing the inoffensive and not wholly co-opted Mike May with the slow and malleable Ruth Anderson, he failed to unseat Nohe and Stewart in primaries, and thus was unable to secure the needed fourth seat to deadlock the board and force concessions.
Recently, however, the Haddow-Candland cabal has smelled blood in the water. With Corey Stewart’s governor’s campaign being criticized sharply for extremist views, local supervisors abandoning him, and his standing in the polls not improving, Haddow and Candland sense an opportunity. A Stewart weakened by an unsuccessful governor’s campaign may not run for re-election as Chair of the BOCS, and even if he did, might be vulnerable to a Haddow Cabal challenge.
Enter the Koch Brother’s Americans for Prosperity (AFP). The Haddow-Candland cabal apparently promptly sucked up to the well-funded outside group, and partnered with them in opposition to IDA bond funding of a new minor league baseball stadium for the Potomac Nationals. In public appearances AFP staff have been remarkably ignorant of the stadium deal, not able to speak to any of the facts of the deal, but simply citing polls they claim to have done, and making threatening comments about how they have defeated elected officials who oppose them. In other words, they seem to be using simple intimidation.
For the Haddow-Candland cabal the situation is ideal for attacking Stewart, since the latter is a stadium supporter. In typical cowardly fashion the junta of Candland, Lawson, and Ruth Anderson publicly abandoned Stewart after taking stock of which way the wind was blowing. First, of course, the Haddow-Candland cabal used the vehicle of Haddow’s forgery and fabrication blog to attack Marty Nohe (and his wife), a long-time critic of Stewart’s governor’s campaign, and a potential rival of a Haddow candidate in the event of Stewart’s political demise. Then, after evaluating the largely favorable reaction to Nohe’s latest criticisms of Stewart, they reversed course and jumped on the anti-Stewart bandwagon. Occoquan Supervisor Ruth Anderson went so far as to make one of her legendary bizarre pronouncements, saying the last straw for her was when a plane flew over an event with a confederate flag encouraging support of Stewart. Of course, Stewart claimed a supporter did this, not his campaign, and one can only wonder how this action of a supporter, as opposed to Stewart’s long record of comments, could have been the catalyst for Ruth Anderson’s sudden change of heart from just a week before.
The answer, of course, is that this was not the catalyst. Instead, the Haddow Cabal determined, after seeing the reaction to Nohe’s critique of Stewart, that it was politically expedient for the Junta to abandon Stewart en masse — even unsuccessfully trying to encourage Maureen Caddigan to do so as well. It coincided nicely with another bizarre, but telling, incident but a short time before, when some local Democrats protested the home opener of the Potomac Nationals. They did so in opposition to the team owner’s longstanding financial support for Stewart’s various campaigns. While outside the stadium, Democrats were approached by representatives claiming to be from Americans for Prosperity, who asserted that the two groups had a common enemy and needed to work together. That enemy was none other than Corey Stewart.
It’s no great secret what’s happening in Prince William County. An outside, far-right, dark-money group has moved into the County to implement a patchwork of policies beneficial to the Koch Brothers and their undisclosed allies. The idea that the group actually cares about a minor-league stadium deal is ludicrous. What they do care about is establishing a presence in the County through which they can co-opt enough local elected officials to do their bidding long term and implement a Koch agenda at the local level that they cannot enact at the national level. Thus the de facto partnership with Mac Haddow, Pete Candland, Jeanine Lawson, and Ruth Anderson, all of whose interest in maintaining their positions regardless of the best interests of the county puts them up for sale.
When hypocrisy, dark money, backroom deals, and clandestine surrogates are involved, of course there one will also likely find Delegate Rich Anderson. At the start of the year his spouse, Occoquan Supervisor Ruth Anderson, claimed to be a supporter of a stadium deal with the Potomac Nationals. AFP enters the County, embraces the Haddow-Candland cabal, takes a position on the stadium deal, and voila – Ruth Anderson votes against even signing a non-binding letter of intent on the stadium. Then, a few weeks later what do we see? A mailer to residents of the 51st House of Delegates District in support of Delegate Rich Anderson – funded by Americans for Prosperity.