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Former militiaman unapologetic for calls to vandalize offices over health care
Vanderboegh, who lives in the Birmingham suburb of Pinson, described himself as a "Christian libertarian" and said he has long been a gun rights advocate. He said he joined a clandestine militia group called the "Sons of Liberty" and later became a public leader of the First Alabama Cavalry, Constitutional Militia.
In 2006, Vanderboegh advocated hurling bricks through the windows of members of Congress who supported giving illegal immigrants the same rights as U.S. citizens, according to news reports at the time. He said those bricks should be used to build a wall sealing off the United States from Mexico.
Vanderboegh has no criminal record in Jefferson County, Ala., according to a court clerk there.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist and hate groups, has been following Vanderboegh since the mid-1990s, when he first surfaced in Alabama militia groups, said Heidi Beirich, the center's research director.
"He has been on our radar forever," she said. "He hasn't been involved in any kind of violence that we know of ourselves, but these causes that he's involved in led to a lot of violence. The ideas that Vanderboegh's militia groups were pushing were the same extreme anti-government ideas that inspired [Timothy] McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing."
Vanderboegh said he once worked as a warehouse manager but now lives on government disability checks. He said he receives $1,300 a month because of his congestive heart failure, diabetes and hypertension. He has private health insurance through his wife, who works for a company that sells forklift products.
Born in Michigan and raised in Ohio, Vanderboegh said he was not always a libertarian. He once was active in the Young Socialist Alliance and the Progressive Labor Party. "In my youth, I was a communist," he said. But in the mid-1970s, Vanderboegh read Friedrich von Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom," among other books, and had an epiphany.
"From that point on, I could never take Marxism-Leninism seriously again," Vanderboegh said.
He said he long opposed President Obama because he believed the president has "collectivism" tendencies. But he became especially energized during the health-care debate.
Vanderboegh said he advocates breaking windows only of Democratic Party offices, not congressional offices, and that he does not condone the death threats and other incidents of harassment that some Democratic lawmakers have faced.
"Obviously I not only deplore or decry that, but I denounce that vigorously because it has nothing to do with what I was advocating," he said.
Still, Vanderboegh's public cry for vandalism has made him vulnerable to the same threats.
"Frankly," he said, "my phone's been ringing off the hook with death threats the last few days."
Research editor Alice Crites contributed to this report.