Cat Urbigkit: Tom James & Wyoming’s Boondock Saints

in Cat Urbigkit/Column

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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

In a bizarre St. Patrick’s Day salute, Senator Tom James of Green River likened himself and five other state senators to the violent religious extremists featured in the cult classic film The Boondock Saints.

James’ Facebook post referred to himself and fellow senators Anthony Bouchard of Cheyenne, Tim French of Powell, Troy McKeown of Gillette, Tim Salazar of Riverton, and Bo Biteman of Ranchester as the “we six” in a revised version of The Boondock Saints script in which men who believe themselves to be shepherds ordained by God become vigilantes who hunt down and kill wicked men – for the good of mankind. 

Here’s the side-by-side view of the Facebook post by Senator Tom James District 13 compared to The Boondock Saints script:




James’ omitted the movie’s lines “Each day we will spill their blood till it rains down from the skies” and sending the offenders “to whatever god you wish.” Instead of having the hunted pay “the dearest cost,” James claimed the offenders would be exposed “for who they really are.”

James’ post warned, “Do not dishonor your seat, do not {sic} do not lie, do not steal, and do not take advantage of the power the people have so graciously besowed {sic} upon you.” Those who ignore these codes of behavior “will pay by the people casting you out of your honored position,” according to James.

“But if you do, one day you will look behind you and you will see we six, and on that day, you will reap it. And we will ensure the people know of your deceit and your corruption.”

Conflicts

Senator James’ Boondock Saints post came just a day after he penned a long post suggesting that a dozen state senators are violating the Government Ethics Act, and stating, “To anyone reading this, if any of these individuals reside in your county, you can turn this information over to your county attorney for investigation and prosecution.” James noted that violation of the law “constitutes sufficient cause for termination of a public employee’s employment or removal of a public official or public member from his office or position.”

James had a long list of supposed violators, calling out Dan Dockstader, Larry Hicks, Ogden Driskill, Jim Anderson, Ed Cooper, Affie Ellis, Dan Furphy, Dave Kinskey, R.J. Kost, Tara Nethercott, Drew Perkins, Jeff Wasserburger. While these are all Republican colleagues, James also named Democrat Mike Gierau.

Although James cites the Wyoming Government Ethics & Disclosures Act (9-13-101 to 9-13-109), he apparently doesn’t understand the law, which states: “A public official, public member or public employee shall not make an official decision or vote on an official decision if the public official, public member or public employee has a personal or private interest in the matter. In determining whether he has a personal or private interest in a matter the public official shall recognize the importance of his right to represent his constituency and shall abstain from voting only in clear cases of a personal or private interest as defined in this subsection.”

The statute is clear about what constitutes a personal or private interest by noting it is “an interest which is direct and immediate as opposed to speculative and remote” and “is an interest that provides the public official, public employee or public member, a greater benefit or a lesser detriment than it does for a large or substantial group or class of persons who are similarly situated.”

To suggest that a legislator should not vote on anything for which that person is remotely involved in is ludicrous, but that is pretty much what James’ suggests. For example, James suggests that because Senator Dan Dockstader owns a media company, and a communications provider places advertisements with that media company, Dockstader should declare a conflict of interest when serving on the Wyoming Business Council (WBC) broadband advisory board. That’s ridiculous. 

Similarly, James complains that since Drew Perkins is attached to numerous businesses and some of those businesses have participated in disaster recovery funding through WBC, Perkins should declare a conflict of interest when it comes to funding WBC. Likewise, since Jeff Wasserburger works for a local Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Wasserburger should declare a conflict of interest “on funding of education topics since that is what they do.”

I think James’ allegations of unethical behavior by his senate colleagues reveals more about James and his lack of understanding the basic rules and functions of the government for which his is elected than it reflects on the work of his colleagues.

Pot, Meet Kettle

The state legislative website lists James’ occupation as “surface miner,” yet a quick search of recent mining legislation in 2020 found that James didn’t declare a conflict of interest in voting on legislation for mining permit applications. Nor did he refrain from voting to reduce the number of WBC voting members, even though the company he works for received $500,000 in “Coronavirus Mitigation Stipend” through the WBC – from a program that James voted in favor of a few months earlier.

There is a reason James could freely vote on these issues: he didn’t have a conflict of interest. Neither did his senate colleagues, and James’ allegations are hypocritical.

James’ post also confuses voluntary service on a board or foundation with providing a financial benefit that would be reason to declare a conflict of interest, and included a laundry list of other grievances, sticking to his allegation that “The Majority Floor Leader assaulted me, but not before calling me a vulgar name and a liar.” Cowboy State Daily previously reported on this incident.

James concluded: “In summary, I believe these people have no room to talk about the actions of another senator when they themselves are doing things that are far worse than anything Bouchard is accused of. These people should be investigated for what they have done and are currently doing and at the very least remove themselves from this honorable position as it is clear (if found guilty) they do not have the people’s best interest at heart.”

A Trend

James’ fellow “we-sixer” Bouchard was removed from his legislative committee assignments as was detailed here. These kerfuffles are the latest public viewing of uncivil behavior involving distinct factions of elected members of the Wyoming GOP, complete with public name calling and claims that veiled threats are simply hyperbole and aren’t to be taken literally.

Last fall Bouchard created a social media post suggesting White House Chief Medical Advisory Dr. Anthony Fauci be tried and executed. A few months later, McKeown posted a meme with a “fix bayonets” and “Remember it’s the 3rd rib” when expressing frustration over mask mandates.

Back in November, state senator and Congressional wannabe Anthony Bouchard named the same group of six men James referred to as the “we six” as Wyoming’s “Senate Six-Pack.”

Last month James posted Wyoming Senate rankings from the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), with James holding the #1 spot, French #4, Biteman #5, McKeown #6, Bouchard #7, and Salazar #11.

For a person who doesn’t understand the law he’s bound by, it’s interesting that James also runs a Wyoming Voter Education website that claims to be “a non-profit dedicated to informing voters on our processes.”

As part of that initiative, James travels around the state “presenting vital information to public schools, private schools, and to anyone who would like to become an informed voter.” According to his schedule, that included a presentation to the John Birch Society in Evanston earlier this year.

Not familiar with JBS? The group’s current crusade is to “Defund Public Schools.” The JBS advocates three actions to “reclaim America’s children and its future:

  • Get our children out of public schools
  • Encourage faith leaders to form a cohesive crusade against public education
  • Defunding all state and local public-school programs and abolishing the federal Department of Education.”

So what should a voter in Wyoming make of all this? I suggest that when it comes to Wyoming’s version of the Boondock Saints, when they show you who they are, believe them.

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