30-plus governors told to quit in letters from Guardians of the Free Republics

By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 3, 2010

More than 30 governors, including Robert F. McDonnell (R) of Virginia, received letters from an anti-government group this week demanding that they resign within three days or face removal from office.

The letters from the group, Guardians of the Free Republics, do not threaten violence, according to officials in Richmond and Washington. No arrests have been made.

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) did not receive a letter, his spokesman, Shaun Adamec, said Friday.

The demands come after an outbreak of harassment and vandalism against members of Congress a couple of weeks ago. A Philadelphia man was charged Monday with threatening to kill U.S. House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) and his family.

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security warned police across the country that the letters could provoke violent behavior.

"The FBI and DHS are not aware of any immediate or credible threat,'' a Department of Homeland Security official said in a statement. "Although no specific information to indicate violence is intended as part of this plan, the bulletin was shared with federal, state, local and tribal partners to ensure they are equipped with the tools they need to better recognize behaviors and other indicators consistent with homeland security threats to prevent violence or criminal acts."

In at least two states, Utah and Nebraska, security was increased after the letters were received. In Nevada, screening machines were added to the main entrance of the state Capitol.

Guardians of the Free Republics aspires to restore the U.S. republic by peacefully dismantling parts of the government, according to its Web site.

"The Restore America Plan is a bold achievable strategy for behind-the-scenes peaceful reconstruction of the de jure institutions of government without controversy, violence or civil war,'' the Web site says.

Bruce Hoffman, a professor at Georgetown University who has studied anti-government groups for more than two decades, said the delivery of the demands -- to so many governors -- is unprecedented.

"Given how emotional politics has become, it has to be taken seriously,'' he said. "On the one hand, it's absurd. On the other hand, given the time it took to contact 30 governors, it's not easily dismissed."

Mark Potok, an editor at the Southern Poverty Law Center who tracks extremists and hate speech, said the group stems from the "sovereign citizen" movement, including those who do not believe in paying taxes or abiding by zoning or other regulations. Some contend that a person has not committed a crime if there is no complaining witness.

In Virginia, the letter was received at the governor's office in Richmond on Wednesday. It was turned over to the Virginia State Police, which sent it to the Richmond FBI office.

The governor's office released a statement Friday morning that said the "the Governor and his family are secure."

Governors who received the letters include Tim Pawlenty (R) of Minnesota, Jennifer M. Granholm (D) of Michigan, Bobby Jindal (R) of Louisiana, Chet Culver (D) of Iowa, Brad Henry (D) of Oklahoma and Mike Rounds (R) of South Dakota. The FBI expects that all 50 governors will eventually receive such letters.

Staff writer Spencer Hsu and researcher Eddy Palanzo contributed to this report, which includes information from the Associated Press.

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