Santa Barbara anti-immigration organization Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) was labeled a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in its new report on the rise of radical right extremism under the candidacy and presidency of Donald Trump.
According to SPLC senior fellow Mark Potok, the listing was based on troubling statements made by CAPS founders and former members about race and eugenics, the group’s recent hiring of two white nationalists as senior writers, and the fresh revelation that for six months last year CAPS employed a closeted neo-Nazi as its director of public affairs.
Headquartered on lower State Street and with thousands of followers across the country, CAPS is a 31-year-old nonprofit organization that advocates for stricter immigration laws in the name of environmental sustainability and economic equity. According to its 2015 tax filings, the most recent available, CAPS collected $1.2 million in public contributions that year. It spent $416,000 on advertising and $195,000 on lobbying.
CAPS executive director Jo Wideman rejected the “hate group” label as a misnomer perpetuated by an organization pushing an open borders agenda. “CAPS has been effective at getting its message out,” she said. “As a result, our opponents want to silence CAPS and millions of Americans that share our views.” Wideman said the SPLC and other left-leaning organizations can’t win the immigration debate with facts. “So, they resort to divisive name-calling,” she said. “They go low. It’s an old tactic that Americans now understand and reject.” CAPS, Wideman declared, is dedicated to creating a better quality of life for all Americans, regardless of race, gender, or religion.
The SPLC report ― released February 15, soon after CAPS media director Joe Guzzardi spoke to The Santa Barbara Independent about his group’s revitalization under Trump ― lists 79 hate groups in California, up from 68 the year before; 917 exist nationwide. “All hate groups have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” the SPLC states on its website. That includes organizations openly critical of minorities, such as the Golden State Skinheads outside Sacramento and Jihad Watch in Sherman Oaks, as well as militant separatist groups, such as the Nation of Islam in Oakland and the New Black Panther Party in Los Angeles. SPLC says its hate index is created using publications, websites, citizen and law enforcement reports, field sources, and news stories.
In an article published February 23 supporting the CAPS “hate group” designation, SPLC research analyst Stephen Piggott describes CAPS cofounder and Malthusian philosopher Garrett Hardin as a “white nationalist” who laid the foundation for today’s U.S. nativist movement. Hardin stated in a 1997 interview: “My position is that this idea of a multiethnic society is a disaster. That’s what we’ve got in Central Europe, and in Central Africa. A multiethnic society is insanity. I think we should restrict immigration for that reason.”
Hardin taught at UCSB and also served on the board of directors for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which, like CAPS, received funding from the now disbanded Pioneer Fund, whose original mandate was to ensure “race betterment” by preserving the genetics of those “descended predominantly from white persons who settled in the original thirteen states prior to the adoption of the Constitution.”
In 2013, CAPS hired John Vinson as a senior writing fellow. According to Piggott, Vinson is a founding member of the neo-Confederate group League of the South credited with drafting the “Kinism Statement” that espouses a white supremacist interpretation of the Bible. CAPS currently publishes Vinson’s blog posts on its website. It does the same for the posts of Frosty Wooldridge, a former CAPS senior writer who frequently blames immigrants for the country’s financial woes. He also identifies Muslims as a source of violence and disruption in communities across the globe. “Wherever Muslims immigrate, they create havoc in their host countries,” he wrote in a December 2015 article for the conservative news site NewsWithViews.com, later declaring, “[A]nyone who follows the Qur’an must ultimately convert or kill all non-believers.”
CAPS director Wideman, who collects $106,000 a year in salary, claimed Vinson and Wooldridge no longer write for CAPS. Of Hardin, Wideman said he “has not been involved in CAPS for decades.” Still, she went on, his environmental writings are celebrated for their insight on topics ranging from climate change to ocean acidification. His 1968 article “The Tragedy of the Commons” about overpopulation and resource depletion is “the most cited article ever in the history of science,” she stated. (That distinction, according to Nature magazine, actually belongs to a 1951 chemistry paper about a new method of measuring protein in a solution.)
“CAPS is not aware of any intolerant rhetoric espoused by Dr. Hardin, and our organization unequivocally and without exception condemns any form of intolerance,” Wideman continued. She also said it’s difficult to believe CAPS’s other founders ― including David Brower, the first executive director of the Sierra Club, famed biologist Paul Ehrlich, and birth control pill inventor Carl Djerassi ― would condone such views. CAPS-sponsored op-eds regularly appear in the Santa Barbara News-Press and on the website Noozhawk.
Wideman, however, expressed deep regret over hiring 26-year-old Parker Wilson last year as her organization’s director of public affairs. Wilson was outed earlier this month as a neo-Nazi with a criminal history in a lengthy exposé published by the El Tecolote bilingual newspaper out of San Francisco. El Tecolote reporter Alexis Terrazas uncovered a long history of Wilson’s association with white supremacist and alt-right groups.
Wilson used aliases to post xenophobic comments on Twitter and the popular white nationalist website Stormfront. He participated in anti-immigrant demonstrations and has more recently voiced support for Trump and his promise of mass deportations. In 2011, Wilson was arrested for punching a man with brass knuckles in a Safeway parking lot in Alameda. A search of his home turned up white pride paraphernalia, firearms, ammunition, and pipe bomb components. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail and placed on probation for three years. Police arrested Wilson 14 months later for violating probation when they found a nightstick in the trunk of his car during a traffic stop.
Wideman said CAPS fired Wilson as soon as Terrazas and El Tecolote made the group aware of Wilson’s past affiliations and activities. He’d been employed for six months. Wideman said CAPS “had no idea” of his history. “We use routine due diligence in all of our hiring practices,” she explained, “but our processes obviously need to be dramatically improved.” Wilson’s relationship with CAPS dates back to at least 2012 when he won an iPad during the group’s California Population Awareness Awards that year. He was finishing up his master’s degree in history at CSU Chico when he left school early to take the job with CAPS.
Wideman admitted CAPS has been actively purging Wilson’s name from its website because he “no longer works at CAPS and so there is no need to list his name.” The organization also recently deleted the identities of those serving on its board of directors and advisory board. The Independent previously reported that the board of directors members living in Santa Barbara are interior designer Judith Smith, investor Kenneth Pasternack, art dealer Keith Mautino Moore, and urban planner Marilyn Brant Chandler DeYoung. A cached version of the CAPS website reveals the advisory board members residing in Santa Barbara are activists Denice Adams, Carolyn Amory, Herbert Barthels, and Karen Peus.
President Ben Zuckerman, an astronomy professor at UCLA, has sat on the CAPS board for 17 years. He characterized his fellow board members in all that time as motivated by “love, rather than hate.” “The ‘love’ that I refer to,” he explained, “relates principally to a healthy environment and to the well-being of poor Americans.” Zuckerman said California is already more densely populated than the continent of Europe and in another 40 years will be more crowded than China. It’s the mission of CAPS to help end this runaway population growth, he said.
Wideman concluded her own comments by questioning the credibility of the SPLC, claiming that the FBI no longer uses the Alabama-based organization as a resource to root out extremism. The FBI’s own website, however, lists the SPLC as a current partner alongside the Anti-Defamation League, the Human Rights Campaign, and other civil rights organizations. Wideman also criticized the SPLC for labeling current Housing and Urban Development nominee Ben Carson an extremist back in 2015. “Ben Carson a bad guy?” asked Wideman. “C’mon.” The SPLC wound up issuing a retraction and apologizing to Carson.
“The irony here is that CAPS is the group standing up for working-class Americans but being attacked by left-leaning, open border organizations who want more immigration regardless of the cost to the average American,” said Wideman. “That’s just not right.”