The Art of the Grift

Greg Pruett Dorr Brothers
Greg Pruett and the Dorr Brothers in Washington, DC / Credit: Facebook

Greg Pruett, president of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, represents himself as a champion of gun rights. His history, record, and far-right connections tell a different story. Greg Pruett’s true talents lie not in his understanding of the Constitution or gun rights, but in his ability to manipulate social media. Taking lessons from a group of now-infamous anti-conservative grifters, he practices the art of creating the false appearance that he is merely one prominent member of a large group of grassroots activists.

But the grass is fake, and Greg Pruett is Idaho’s king of astroturfing.

Contrary to Greg Pruett’s often used line of when they are attacking me, they are really attacking you, the gun owners… this isn’t to attack those who’ve been drawn in by Pruett’s astroturfing campaign. He learned from some of the best social media grifters in the midwest who like Pruett have betrayed the interests of gun owners to build an empire of astroturfed front organizations.

Idaho gun owners are not the problem, they are the victims of Greg Pruett’s deceptions.

Gun Rights Activist or Gun Grabber?

Unlike the NRA, the well respected century-old gun rights organization which sponsors gun safety and education programs nationwide, Pruett’s groups in Idaho and Washington have dedicated themselves solely to whipping up fury about fake threats to gun rights, all for the sake of influencing elections.

Pruett has used the defeat of House State Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Loertscher by Chad Christensen to create the perception that anyone who crosses him could get “Loertsched” by his supposed legion of supporters.

The truth is that he has undermined gun rights by pushing toward extremes to drive fundraising. Take the case of HR 38, a bill proposed in the House of Representatives in 2017.
Also called the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, HR 38 was an NRA-backed effort to solidify the right to concealed carry throughout the nation.

As the NRA noted:

“Every U.S. state now has a legal mechanism whereby its residents may carry concealed handguns, and 42 states and the District of Columbia broadly recognize a right of law-abiding citizens to do so.

The remaining eight states, however, treat the right to carry for self-defense as a privilege reserved for the elite, the connected, or those who can “prove” extraordinary circumstances to the licensing officials.

How this minority approach works in places like New York City, for example, is that movie stars such as Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel can get permits, but a bus driver or waitress who wants to carry in his or her own high-crime neighborhood cannot, no matter how spotless the person’s background.”

Nearly every Republican in the House voted for HR 38, which would require each state to recognize every other state’s concealed carry permits, including Representative Mike Simpson and Representative Raul Labrador. You’d think a group dedicated to Second Amendment Rights would be right behind them.

You’d be wrong. Greg Pruett and the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance opposed enacting nationwide protections for concealed carry. They used objections to a related bill to make improvements to the criminal background check system as an excuse to oppose what could have been one of the most important advancements for gun rights in Blue States.

HR 38 was never taken up by the Senate. Instead, only the Fix NICS Act became law. The criminal background check system was improved, but gun owners in places like New York saw no expansion of their ability to carry concealed.

When Greg Pruett launched his campaign against the bill, he declared that nine separate state gun rights organizations (his own as well as Iowa Gun Owners, Ohio Gun Owners, Minnesota Gun Rights, North Carolina Firearms Coalition, Missouri Firearms Coalition, Wisconsin Firearms Coalition, and Wyoming Gun Owners) were joining to oppose the bill.

But something looked very fishy.

I2AA American Firearms Coalition

Take a close look at Greg Pruett’s press release. Notice anything strange about the logos of all these “grassroots” gun groups from around the nation? Many have strikingly similar names, use the same fonts, or use the same crossed musket and AR-15 insignia. It’s almost as if these aren’t a diverse group of grassroots gun rights organizations but a series of fronts for the same small group of individuals…

That’s because they are. The men behind these “organizations” are the Dorr brothers, a family of astroturfers from Iowa dedicated to undermining successful gun rights organizations like the NRA.

The Dorr brothers and their confederates are recognized as a group of infiltrating grifters by well-established Republican groups and elected officials. In their home state of Iowa, Representative Matt Windschitl, who wrote the most important gun rights bill in that state’s history, all but called the entire organization a fundraising scam.


If you substitute the Dorr’s name in this video, it may sound like Iowa Rep. Windschitl (R) is describing Greg Pruett.

Windschitl and other Republican politicians in Iowa have learned to keep away from the Dorrs after a state senator close to them landed in federal prison. Sen. Kent Sorenson pled guilty to federal charges after lying to investigators about illegal payments from the presidential campaigns of Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul. The Washington Post published an email written by Aaron Dorr, in which he helped negotiate payments from the Ron Paul campaign.

Even before he was brought up on federal charges, Sorenson faced an ethics investigation after allegations were brought forward by a homeschooling group that he had swiped a proprietary email list. Chris Dorr, who worked on the Bachmann campaign at the time, admitted to copying the list but said he didn’t believe it was improper.

Their playbook has been similar in Ohio.

The Dorr brothers have also made efforts to undermine Pro-Life organizations in Minnesota, as Minnesota Concerned Citizens for Life, an affiliate of National Right to Life, recently exposed. The Dorr brothers founded an astroturf group deceptively called Minnesota Right to Life, which was attempting to gain donations from Pro-Life Minnesotans.

Internet security researchers found that the Dorr brothers are behind recent astroturfing efforts backing protests to public health measures implemented by Republican governors. They quickly created websites and Facebook pages, each designed to appear like a statewide grassroots organization, targeting governors around the country.

The security researcher who tracked down the astroturfing campaign summarized the perception of Aaron Dorr’s political operation. “He’s lobbied against gun rights and then pumped news on his site that was sensationalized to then drive traffic and make some money through donations… It’s a way to make money. It’s a way to profit off the people’s hysteria.”

So how does the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance fit in with these other astroturfing campaigns? Like a hand in a glove. That’s not surprising since Greg Pruett began his career as a political operative in one of their organizations and he maintains close ties with them.

Greg Pruett got his start as a lobbyist for one of the Dorr groups, the Wisconsin Firearms Coalition. He frequently invites ringleader Aaron Dorr as a featured guest at fundraising events.

One of Greg Pruett’s videos on how to make “killer” campaign ads is featured on the Dorr’s parent astroturfing organization’s YouTube channel, American Firearms Coalition. Greg Pruett serves as the American Firearms Coalition’s NW coordinator.


Watch this video to see the Dorr brothers be completely unapologetic after getting caught by the national media deceiving hundreds of thousands of people.

They’ve even posted group chat videos calling for an “absolute, bloodbath fight” after they were exposed. (Greg Pruett is in the video, but they didn’t let the poor kid talk much. Instead, they spent most of their time asking for money.)

What’s really interesting is that Greg Pruett regularly says his group is “the only no-compromise gun rights group in Idaho”, that they are the “only ones fighting for your gun rights…” almost word for word what the Dorr brothers say on all of their astroturfing sites. His Facebook pages are essentially content duplicated from his other pages or articles and memes that coincidentally match the Dorr’s astroturf network pages post for post.

Here is an example of two separate posts made on the same day…

I2AA astroturf network
Screenshots of Facebook posts taken on 5/27/2020
I2AA AFC astroturfing
Screenshots of Facebook posts taken on 5/27/2020

 

It gets worse, American Firearms Coalition content makes its way not only to Greg Pruett’s page but an “Northwest Gun News endorsed” candidate as well…

I2AA Astroturfing Frugoli

These examples were from this week alone! Go back months and even years and you’ll see the posts align daily with a few local stories sprinkled in to try and make themselves appear relevant.

This is how they influence local elections. The Dorr’s create the content and Greg Pruett is very obedient in sharing exactly what they want.

Very little of what Greg Pruett does on social media is original. It’s clickbait designed to grow his network of sites and get enough likes to make it look like he has a powerful following. In reality, it not nearly as many as it appears.

Pruett duplicates the Dorr’s website astroturfing tactics as well. You may have recently seen Idaho Second Amendment Alliance sharing posts from a website called Northwest Gun News. Northwest Gun News recently endorsed a series of far-right candidates including Chad Christensen, Bryan Zollinger, Christy Zito, Dorothy Moon, Adam Frugoli, Tammy Nichols, Julianne Young, Zach Brooks, and others.

Who created the Northwest Gun News blog six months ago? Greg Pruett himself.

When Idaho Freedom Foundation favorite candidates can’t get real endorsements from local elected leaders, agriculture organizations, and business groups, they rely on Greg Pruett to manufacture an endorsement from Northwest Gun news and hope nobody notices that this is nothing more than just another one of Greg Pruett’s astroturfing blogs.

To really sell the idea that NW Gun News is a “real website”, Greg Pruett went so far as to announce to his Idaho Second Amendment audience that its beloved President had been featured in a “guest opinion” article that was “picked up” on Northwest Gun News!

NW Gun News astroturfing
Greg Pruett promoting his NW Gun News website on the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance Facebook page.

Just how stupid does Greg Pruett think his audience is, that they would not notice this, or was he just being deceptive?

Why go through the effort of creating a second website to host all these articles and fake endorsements?

It’s Astroturfing 101. By creating several apparently separate organizations, and utilizing his connections to the Dorr Brothers’ astroturfing pages and social media platforms, Greg Pruett is able to make it seem like his opinions are shared by a wide variety of gun grassroots groups when in fact a handful of people are behind the whole effort.

Greg Pruett does this with a number of sites and Facebook pages, including Keep Idaho Fre, NW Gun News, Washington Gun Rights, and Greg Pruett for Idaho (now Greg Pruett, and formerly The Greg Pruett Show).

What’s the most consistent message in the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance’s videos? Now is the time, the crucial time to give them your money. Donate. Become a member. Buy a T-shirt.

He’s fighting harder than anyone for your right to buy one of his liberty memberships and t-shirts modeled on his site by none other than another Idaho Freedom Foundation favorite, Rep. Tammy Nichols.

Recently, the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance raised $10,000 for a lawsuit it promised to file against the City of Sandpoint. But with all that cash in the bank, Greg Pruett reevaluated his strategy and never filed the lawsuit.

Perhaps most concerning are connections between the Dorrs, Pruett, and some of the most extreme elements of the far-right.

Greg Pruett, like his allies at the Freedom Foundation, has had close links with Ammon Bundy lately. But his connections go further back. The Idaho Second Amendment Alliance used Ammon Bundy as a featured speaker at a rally in 2018, for example. Greg Pruett has also made frequent recent appearances alongside Real 3% leader Eric Parker, Freedom Foundation President Wayne Hoffman and Ammon Bundy at recent events held to protest Governor Brad Little’s Stay Home order.

When Sara Walton Brady was arrested in what may have been a staged protest, Greg Pruett was right there with a bullhorn alongside Idaho Freedom Foundation President, Wayne Hoffman. His posts about the arrest incident and subsequent protest may have contributed to the over 300 phone calls to the Boise 911 center. Given what we now know about Greg Pruett’s national astroturfing network, it’s no surprise that 70% of the callers were from out of state.

Greg Pruett’s friend Ammon Bundy led the protest at the Meridian Police Officer’s home in an act that the vast majority of Idahoans found repulsive.

Fighting Hard to Influence Elections

Far-right Washington lawmaker Matt Shea, who was accused by an internal legislative investigation of support for three acts of domestic terrorism, is one of Greg Pruett’s closest allies. Shea “planned, engaged in, and promoted a total of three armed conflicts of political violence against the United States government” including in Idaho, the investigation concluded, shortly before Shea was expelled from the House Republican Caucus. The report also found Shea had trained children to engage in “holy war” and authored an essay called “The Biblical Basis for War” which called for the establishment of a theocracy and the murder of all men who would not submit to it.

Like Ammon Bundy, Matt Shea has appeared as a featured speaker at Idaho Second Amendment Alliance rallies in the past. When Washington House Republicans kicked Shea out of the GOP caucus, Greg Pruett traveled to the Republican House Minority Leader’s district to campaign against him for revenge.

How does Greg Pruett describe this dangerous fanatic? As “one of the most respected legislators in the gun rights community.”

“Gun owners are grateful for the service Shea provided to the state of Washington,” Greg Pruett wrote.

They also share funding sources with the rest of Idaho’s Far-Right Political Machine. Earlier this year, the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance was caught violating campaign finance law by buying election ads in the Boise television market. When the Secretary of State forced them to disclose the donors who funded the ads, there was only one large contributor: Bryan Smith, the Idaho Freedom Foundation board member whose law firm is very closely tied to MRS.

The same medical debt collections company that donated $1,000 to Rep. Tammy Nichols shortly before the hearing on the Idaho Patient Act, a bill that would adversely affect Smith’s business. Not long after the bill was signed, Greg Pruett used his Keep Idaho Free website to publish articles attacking the bill and its supporters.

When someone has been deemed a threat to the Idaho Freedom Foundation and the far-right political machine, Greg Pruett is sent in to do their dirty work. He’ll distort the facts, manufacture propaganda, and attack anyone who stands in the way of their agenda. He’ll do it using the tactics the Dorr brothers taught him. There may be little daylight between him and these unapologetic grifters.

Why do all of this? To influence elections, of course. Right now, one of the candidates the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance is working to unseat Senator Patti Anne Lodge. What it doesn’t disclose in its electioneering is that Lodge’s opponent, Zach Brooks, was a co-founder of the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance and former Chairman of the group. It’s not about gun rights. It’s about helping out a close ally. That would explain why a years-old claim of Lodge allegedly pointing a gun in Greg Pruett and Zach Brook’s direction very recently showed up on one of his blog sites. He’ll say or do just about anything to get far-right candidates elected. It pays the bills.

So when you see a post from the Idaho Second Amendment Alliance, ask yourself: Is this about gun rights… or is it about profiting off of influencing elections and promoting far-right agendas?

Disclaimer: While I may find the actions of Greg Pruett, the Dorr Brothers, and Idaho’s far-right political machine to be dishonest and repugnant, I do not believe any of the actions by them listed in this article are in any way unlawful.

Update 6/1/202: After our article was published, Pruett and his I2AA group filed a lawsuit against the city of Sandpoint in what we believe will be a total waste of taxpayer money.

Read more about Greg Pruett – The Politics of Fear


Sources:

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-https://gregpruett.com/that-one-time-an-idaho-senator-pointed-a-gun-at-me/

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-https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/08/lockdown-groups-far-right-links-coronavirus-protests-american-revolution