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Border Cowboys: Howard Buffett Is a Perfect Fit With Cochise County’s Legacy of Vigilantism
Yann Legendre

Border Cowboys: Howard Buffett Is a Perfect Fit With Cochise County’s Legacy of Vigilantism

Second of two parts:

It’s probably no accident that Howard G. Buffett chose Cochise County as the setting for his border-enforcement efforts. The place shares 83 miles of international border with Mexico and has long been at the heart of the nation’s border-vigilantism and anti-immigrant movements. Central to the latter has been the anti-immigrant network created by John Tanton.

Tanton’s Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), with its legal arm, the Immigration Reform Law Institute, is the flagship organization of a network of more than a dozen anti-immigrant groups founded, co-founded, or funded by the activist. Such organizations include U.S. English, Center for Immigration Studies, Numbers U.S.A., U.S. Inc., and The Social Contract Press.

The Tanton network has provided legal defense for Cochise County border vigilantes and financial support for at least one anti-immigrant group active in the county. The network also arranged for still other Cochise County border vigilantes to deliver testimony before the U.S. Congress, and provided legal impetus and defense for Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant/racial profiling law, SB 1070. The bill passed into law largely on the back of a murdered Cochise County rancher, and was championed by the county’s sheriff.

And, in December 2017, two of Buffett’s primary partners in his Cochise County border defoliation project, Hereford Natural Resources Conservation District and Whitewater Draw Natural Resources Conservation District, along with other Tanton groups as co-plaintiffs, launched federal litigation against immigration policies administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Cochise County conservation districts and their Tanton network co-plaintiffs were represented in this litigation by Tanton’s Immigration Reform Law Institute.

The suit, claiming harmful environmental impact wrought as a result of the immigration policies, sought to curtail avenues of legal immigration into the United States.

Tanton and his network also have a history, ostensibly with environmental concern at its heart, with Howard Buffett’s famous father.

Warren Buffett, one of the world's richest men, supported John Tanton's anti-immigrant group for several years.EXPAND
Warren Buffett, one of the world's richest men, supported John Tanton's anti-immigrant group for several years.
Wikimedia Commons

The story of John Tanton’s network tracks back to the northern Michigan hamlet of Petosky. There, during the 1960s, Tanton, an ophthalmologist freshly graduated from the University of Michigan, became part of the budding environmental movement. Abetted by apparently boundless energy and enthusiasm, the young man set out to save the world.

Central to Tanton’s concern for the environment was the size, and ethnic composition, of the nation’s population. This concern in Tanton had largely been inspired by authors such as University of California – Santa Barbara professor of human ecology Garrett Hardin.

Hardin was an avowed eugenicist, dubbed a “white nationalist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center for his deeply racist views.

The professor, through his writings, provided a cloak of 20th-century academic respectability for some very old ideas. To paraphrase, Hardin believed that intellectually and morally inferior humans, principally from Africa and Latin America, were essentially incapable of managing their environments intelligently. At the same time, these groups were also highly “fertile,” reproducing irresponsibly — at rates far above those of less “fertile” (though otherwise superior) humans of European descent. This imbalance in breeding habits, coupled with emigrating tides of excess populations to Europe and the United States, amounted to a “passive genocide” wrought by inferior black and brown people on the white populations they threatened to displace.

Along his path of development as an activist, Tanton founded Planned Parenthood of Northern Michigan, served on the Sierra Club’s Population Committee, and as head of Zero Population Growth. In 1979, he founded the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Hardin served as an early, and longtime, adviser and director of FAIR.

Both Tanton and Hardin, through the formative years of their anti-immigrant movement, were financed by white nationalist and eugenicist organization the Pioneer Fund. During the 1980s and 1990s, the fund paid out more than $1 million in support to FAIR, other Tanton organizations, and to the works of Hardin.

Tanton had two other very noteworthy funders during these formative years: Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Warren Buffett, and his business partner, Berkshire Hathaway Vice Chairman Charlie Munger.

Tanton donated a wealth of his papers and correspondence, documenting his activities from 1960 through 2007, to the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan. Though the majority of these papers are barred from public view until April 6, 2035, available records, obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Center, afford a valuable glimpse into the early years of the Tanton network.

The first available Tanton memo dealing with Warren Buffett and Munger describes a meeting which took place on April 4, 1984, between John Tanton, his wife, Mary Lou, Warren Buffett, and Munger. The meeting, according to Tanton, lasted for four and a half hours, beginning in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway office and ending over dinner in a restaurant located in the Berkshire Hathaway building.

According to the memo, both Warren Buffett and his wife, Susan (Howard’s mother), were deeply concerned with the “population problem” — which they considered to be of the same magnitude as nuclear war. The memo discloses a relationship between Warren Buffett and Hardin at this time, with Hardin often sending Buffett writings.

(Read John Tanton's memos and letters concerning Warren Buffett here)

Tanton materials concerning his relationship with Warren Buffett and Munger disclose steady and substantial financial support for his budding anti-immigrant movement — with this funding being used to operate Tanton’s office, as well as for Tanton’s discretionary spending through a “flexible pool of funds,” which Tanton described as being “one of the most useful tools in our kit.”

Available Tanton records state that the relationship between Tanton spanned at least five years and multiple meetings and conversations (stretching from at least 1984 to some point in 1989). During some portion of this time, according to Tanton records, Warren Buffett served on FAIR’s national board of advisers — including in 1987, the year in which Tanton created the Immigration Reform Law Institute.

In response to questions relating to Warren Buffett’s involvement with Tanton, Buffett’s assistant, Debbie Bosanek, issued this statement:

“Mr. Buffett made several contributions to FAIR more than 30 years ago in connection with his concerns about world population growth.

“He then met with several of the leaders active in FAIR and, after conversations with them, ended all support of any sort for the organization.”

According to Wayne Lutton, editor of The Social Contract Press, Tanton — now 84 and suffering ill health — no longer responds to press inquiries.

Regardless of whether his father shared Tanton’s views on immigration, Howard Buffett found a home in a place where those kind of beliefs are prevalent.

Warning sign in Cochise County, circa 2010.EXPAND
Warning sign in Cochise County, circa 2010.
Paul Rubin

Cochise County has a long history of border-related conflict.

In 1976, Cochise County rancher George Hannigan, along with his two sons, were alleged to have abducted and tortured three undocumented Mexican laborers they found crossing their property. George Hannigan died before trial, and only one son was eventually convicted of a robbery charge in connection with the event.

The county has made national headlines many times since then, largely as the epicenter of the nation’s border-vigilantism and anti-immigrant movements.

Tombstone, situated in Cochise County, was the birthplace of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

Cochise County Concerned Citizens was yet another group of militant area ranchers/residents who organized and executed armed patrols in the county.

So-called “ranch rescue” groups, hailing from locales such as Texas, flooded into the high deserts of southeast Arizona once word got out that Cochise County was the new skirmish line in the battle for America’s ethnic identity.

Another group, American Border Patrol, was the creation of white nationalist-allied, anti-immigrant activist Glenn Spencer, who had traded a career of race-baiting in Southern California for a campaign of surveillance waged on the Cochise County border with Mexico.

Cochise County’s infamous Barnett brothers, Roger and Donald, made headlines, and won accolades from white nationalists for armed patrols on, or near, their border ranch and assaults on immigrants detained at gunpoint.

Howard Buffet has an interesting relationship with the Barnett clan, whose anti-immigrant sentiments have been well-documented.

In his book, Our 50-State Border Crisis: How the Mexican Border Fuels the Drug Epidemic Across America, Buffett thanked Roger Barnett and his wife, Barbara, for their “[generosity] in helping me understand border issues.”

Roger and his brother Don, both former Cochise County Sheriff’s Office deputies, became successful Cochise County businessmen running an auto towing and propane business. They enjoyed big-game hunting, traveling the world and racking up mounted kills for display in a dedicated trophy room.

In 1994, U.S. Border Patrol implemented Operation Gatekeeper, significantly stepping up enforcement in high traffic urban areas, such as San Diego and El Paso, Texas. As a result, much of the traffic in illicit immigration and trade displaced by this effort shifted to more remote areas such as Cochise County.

And the Barnetts found new quarry. At some point around 1995, the brothers, Roger’s wife, and their friends began spending weekends and holidays on the expansive Crossrail Ranch they had purchased that year near the county’s border with Mexico.

At Crossrail, the Barnetts set up a network of remote surveillance sensors and cameras, and undertook patrols of the property as well as area public lands and roads. Armed with assault weapons, the Barnetts rounded up, detained, and sometimes assaulted, undocumented immigrants whose paths they crossed, according to court documents.

But, the Barnetts provided more than a mere template of action for border vigilantism; through litigation, the Barnetts and John Tanton’s Immigration Reform Law Institute scored an important legal victory for those looking to take border and immigration enforcement into their own hands.

In March 2004, Roger Barnett came upon a group of immigrants resting in a wash. Menacing the immigrants with a semiautomatic pistol and his dog, Barnett paid special attention to three women sitting aside from the larger group, under the shade of a bush.

Levantate perra!” [“Get up, bitch!”] Barnett shouted at Ana Maria Vicente.

Vicente would later say that she did not stand because she feared the dog. Barnett then kicked her “very hard” in the leg as she lay on the ground, according to court documents. He attempted to kick Vicente a second time, but she successfully blocked the blow with her bag of belongings.

The woman began to cry.

Mi perro tiene hambre, tiene ganas de culo!” [“My dog is hungry, and he’s hungry for ass!”] Barnett reportedly yelled.

With his gun trained on the women’s backs, Barnett persuaded them to join the larger group of immigrants seated in the wash.

Roger then radioed his wife: “Barbara, I got about 20 fucking Mexicans at my location.”

He reportedly laughed as he spoke, shedding a strange ray of levity on the situation.

Barnett was soon joined at the scene by Barbara and two Border Patrol agents, who took the immigrants into custody.

A year later, Vicente and several of her group filed a federal civil suit against the Barnetts, several unidentified vigilantes, and Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever. The suit sought millions of dollars in actual and punitive damages related to claims of civil rights abuses, assault, battery, false arrest and false imprisonment, and emotional distress.

The suit further alleged that an unlawful conspiracy of civil rights abuses and false imprisonment against undocumented immigrants was underway in Cochise County, involving the Barnetts, the unidentified vigilantes, and Dever.

The sheriff had previously voiced support for Cochise County vigilantes at an event held in honor of Roger Barnett and Cochise County Concerned Citizens in May 2000. The event had been organized by California-based activists Glenn Spencer and Barbara Coe.

Spencer, an anti-immigrant activist, was then head of American Patrol. Designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, American Patrol is known to have received funding from Tanton’s anti-immigrant network. In 2002, Spencer founded a new organization, American Border Patrol, in Cochise County.

Coe was a member of the white nationalist Council of Concerned Citizens. She was also founder and chairwoman of Californian Coalition for Immigration Reform — an anti-immigrant organization known to have received funding from Tanton’s anti-immigrant network.

In 2009, a federal jury agreed with the defense presented by Immigration Reform Law Institute General Counsel Mike Hethmon, and others, that the Barnetts were well within the protections of Arizona “citizens’ arrest law” when they detained Vicente and her co-plaintiffs. Roger Barnett died in March 2018. His wife and brother couldn't be reached for comment.

And Tanton’s anti-immigrant network soon had an even greater impact on how law enforcement operated in Arizona.

The U.S.-Mexico border in 2010, near where rancher Rob Krentz was killed.EXPAND
The U.S.-Mexico border in 2010, near where rancher Rob Krentz was killed.
Paul Rubin

In 2010, Cochise County again rose into the national consciousness.

Cochise County rancher Rob Krentz was last heard from on the morning of March 27, 2010, when he radioed family members that he had encountered what appeared to be a migrant in need of help on their ranch. Several hours later, Krentz’s body was discovered slumped over his ATV. Both he and his dog had been shot.

Though the Krentz murder remains unsolved, the rancher’s death was quickly adopted as a clarion call for border warriors, and for those looking to secure the political gains of anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Less than a month later, Arizona’s controversial Senate Bill 1070 was passed in the state Legislature and signed into law by then-Governor Jan Brewer.

But in fact, SB 1070 had been drafted long before the Krentz murder, largely by Immigration Reform Law Institute lawyers Mike Hethmon and Kris Kobach.

For his part, in the year following the Krentz murder, Howard Buffett began quietly buying up agricultural properties in Cochise County — ostensibly to study alternative agricultural methods for use in drought-stricken portions of Africa.

Many of the border ranchers Buffett would gather around himself were friends, neighbors, and colleagues of Krentz.

Some of this group were also unabashed champions of Cochise County’s border vigilantes and traffickers in far-right conspiracy theories.

Ed Ashurst, a neighbor of the Krentzes who would in early 2016 publish a book, Alligators in the Moat: Politics and the Mexican Border, strongly suggested that the Obama administration had covered up the murder of Border Patrol agent Nick Ivie by drug smugglers (the agent had actually been accidentally shot in the head by a fellow agent) for the benefit of his 2012 presidential campaign. Additionally, an entire chapter of the book was dedicated to defending and praising Cochise County vigilantes Roger Barnett and Cochise County Concerned Citizens founder Larry Vance. Ashurst, by his own admission, drives around with an AK-47 machine gun in his ranch truck.

In 2015, Larry Dempster, another in Buffett’s circle, co-authored, Dever: The Life and Death of America’s Sheriff — Accident or Murder? The book suggests that Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever had been murdered by the Obama administration as a result of the sheriff’s commitment to border security.

Furthermore, several of the ranchers in Buffett’s far-right circle seemingly embraced the dark cause of their celebrity, signing on as “cast members” of a nascent reality TV show, Border Cowboys. They included Ladd, Whitewater Draw Natural Resources Conservation District leaders Fred and Peggy Davis, and Malpai Borderlands Group founding director Warner Glenn (a neighbor of the Krentzes).

The series would have, if sold, centered largely on matters of illegal immigration and border security, and was apparently conceived of by a Scottsdale producer in the year following Krentz’s murder.

In September 2015, Buffett arranged for members of his cadre of far-right ranchers, including several of the Border Cowboys cast members plus Ashurst, and Dempster, to educate law-enforcement personnel and retired Marine Corps General Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis as part of a “ranchers’ perspective” panel on border security. This was held during the Southwestern Border Sheriff’s Coalition 2015 annual meeting, which took place in Cochise County and was bankrolled at more than $23,000 by Buffett.

Buffett apparently imported Mattis to the event as a speaker. Email records show that Buffett’s personal assistant booked Mattis’ hotel room for the conference. What’s more, in 2015, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation gave $50,000 to the SEAL-Naval Special Warfare Family Foundation — a charity which, in 2017, drew criticism for selling access to Mattis, who by then was serving as secretary of the Trump administration’s Department of Defense.

“It was a pleasure to gain the ranchers’ education and to engage with the sheriffs at your conference,” wrote Mattis in a September 18, 2015, email to Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels and Buffett. …

“I could not have had a better introduction to the situation you all face.”

In late 2018, Mattis oversaw the Trump administration’s deployment of military personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas, California, and Arizona, including Cochise County, before he resigned in protest of some of Trump’s other policies.

SB 1070, sponsored by then-state Senator Russell Pearce, a Republican lawmaker from Mesa, mandated that local law-enforcement officers act as enforcers of federal immigration law. Critics argued that the law would essentially codify racial profiling.

On July 6, 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a federal civil suit against Arizona, seeking to enjoin enactment of SB 1070. In short, the Department of Justice argued that it was not the place of state and local law enforcement agencies to pre-empt federal agencies, such as Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in the execution of their duties.

On July 20, 2010, Immigration Reform Law Institute counsel joined the litigation, filing a brief in support of SB 1070, with the backing of more than 80 Republican members of Congress.

On July 28, 2010, Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever joined the litigation, filing a brief arguing for the implementation of SB 1070. By the end of the litigation, Dever had been joined in support for the racial profiling law by only one other Arizona sheriff, Maricopa County’s Joe Arpaio.

On June 25, 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision — heralded as a victory by the Tanton anti-immigrant network, Dever, Arpaio, and other proponents of SB 1070 — allowing enactment of the law’s most controversial provision, pertaining to the questioning, detention, and arrest of suspected undocumented immigrants by local law enforcement.

In the same year, Howard Buffett approached Dever and struck up a friendship — as well as what would prove to be a lasting patronage of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office.

By the end of the year, Dever would be dead — less the product of an Obama administration conspiracy, and more the product of a drunk-driving misadventure. On September 18, 2012, the supposedly teetotaling Mormon sheriff, accompanied by a half-emptied bottle of peppermint schnapps, drove his Cochise County-owned vehicle off a quiet Coconino County mountain road (sans seatbelt) while on a family hunting trip.

Meanwhile, the Tanton network continues to reach the far into the corridors of American government.

Jay Alan Sekulow, who, as an attorney employed by the far-right American Center for Law and Justice, worked with Tanton’s legal group on its brief in support of SB 1070, became the personal attorney to President Donald Trump.

Immigration Reform Law Institute counsel Kris Kobach was elected to the office of Kansas Secretary of State in November 2010. Kobach worked as an adviser to the 2016 Trump presidential campaign, and as vice-chair of the administration’s controversial Presidential Commission on Election Integrity during 2017 and 2018. Kobach lost a Kansas gubernatorial bid in November 2018.

In May 2017, the Trump administration appointed former FAIR executive director Julie Kirchner as DHS Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman.

And White House Senior Adviser Stephen Miller — credited as being the source of the administration’s immigrant family separation policy ­— had worked closely with Tanton’s Center for Immigration Studies while working with then-Senator Jeff Sessions (who would become Trump’s first attorney general) to defeat attempts at immigration reform legislation in 2013.

Howard Buffett and associate Chad Larner circulated his video through emails.
Howard Buffett and associate Chad Larner circulated his video through emails.
podblanc.guru

Howard Buffett did not respond to requests for comment or to written questions sent by email. So we don’t know his views on his father’s past relationship with Tanton, the anti-immigrant movement, or the nature of his relationship with the Barnetts. Buffett also did not respond to requests for comment on why he is focusing on border security in Cochise County.

But another photograph and more emails provide at least some insight into his beliefs. The documents are among several thousand pages of records reviewed during the reporting obtained from several agencies through public records requests.

On October 11, 2015, Buffett sent an email containing a photo to his associates, Decatur (Illinois) Police Department Detective Chad Larner, Macon County (Illinois) Sheriff’s Office K-9 deputy T.W. Houk, and a Buffett employee named Mark Rigel. Rigel would serve as manager of Iroquois LLC’s field operations in Cochise County. Iroquois is a Buffett-controlled entity apparently dedicated to private law-enforcement training and private border-enforcement efforts.

The email is barren but for its subject line and a photographic attachment.

The photo depicts Buffett, standing in the center of a small, rough-hewn wooden boat, being ferried across Lake Edward in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Buffett has long been involved in philanthropic activities in Africa.

Standing at the bow is a black man, piloting the boat with a long wooden pole. Another black man sits in the hull, behind Buffett.

Sitting at Buffett’s feet is another man — wearing some sort of uniform, holding what appears to be a rifle with a modified folding stock slung across his chest.

Buffett’s face is blank, save for the possible hint of a smirk, his eyes hidden behind black aviator shades, arms stuck out to either side of the black tactical vest covering his torso. The stance is odd, reminiscent of an Old West gunfighter pose.

The email subject line reads: “Great white man arrives.”

To avoid any confusion as to who Buffett believed the “great white man” to be, he is the only white man in the photograph.

Where Buffett’s attitudes on race are concerned, email correspondence between Buffett and his associates, while typically tight-lipped on overtly racial matters, sheds some light.

For example, on April 29, 2016, Buffett sent a piece of Center for Immigration Studies propaganda to a number of Macon County Sheriff’s Office and Decatur police personnel. CIS is another anti-immigrant organization founded by John Tanton. The article, authored by CIS Director of Policy Studies Jessica Vaughan, decried the number of “criminal aliens” released by the Obama administration’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2015.

Vaughan would go on to aid in the lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security by Tanton’s Immigration Reform Law Institute on behalf of Whitewater and Hereford Natural Resources Conservation Districts in December 2017.

In February 2016, the Southern Poverty Law Center dubbed CIS an “anti-immigrant hate group,” noting the organization’s repeated publication of works by white-nationalist and anti-Semitic writers.

But, one email is particularly elucidating where the question of Buffett’s racial views is concerned.

Through 2015 and 2016, Buffett and his associates in law enforcement exchanged a number of emails critical of the Black Lives Matter movement and reforms made in response to it.

BLM is a grassroots social movement, initiated primarily in response to widespread and disproportionately high killings of black Americans by police officers.

(Read the podblanc emails here)

On April 18, 2015, in response to the death of an unarmed black man, Freddie Gray, following a false arrest by Baltimore police, protests erupted in Baltimore. Clashes between protesters and police were reported as actions wore on through that month.

On May 11, 2015, Buffett sent Decatur Detective Chad Larner an email in which he voiced criticism of progressive community and problem-solving-based policing practices in response to numerous police killings.

At 6:30 the following morning, Larner responded. While stating that those in the community expect to be policed with respect and dignity, the detective concluded:

“Have to stay the course. Any cop that allows the media to dictate how they’re going to Police the cities they work in....should hang up their belt and badge and give it to another guy/gal who wants the job. [sic]

“This is the big stage. Every day is a rock concert. If these ‘once proactive’ cops are ‘slowing down’......they weren’t worth a shit in the first place. I’ll be god damn if I will allow left wing liberal lunatics to ever dictate how I operate in the city that I was raised in, and now police. Fuck em’......Nuff said [sic].”

To this, Buffett responded, “I think you need to run for office -:) ........nuff said [sic].”

When his friend declined the notion of running for office, citing economic constraints, the son of a billionaire retorted:

“Oh, come on man ... don’t be so selfish, serve the public, support those on welfare and probation. Be a sport!”

According to email records obtained from the Decatur Police Department, following this email (which had been sent at 7:30 a.m.), Buffett sent only one more email to Larner’s police email account on May 12, 2015. This email seemed to put a fine point on who Buffett believes are society's dead wood.

The email, sent to Larner from Buffett’s personal Gmail account at 5:55 p.m., bore the subject line:

“Little Black Ghetto Bastards of Baltimore.”

The email’s sole content was a link to a video published on podblanc.guru.

Podblanc is a website and video-sharing forum founded and operated by one of the U.S.’s most notorious white supremacists and neo-Nazis, Paul Craig Cobb. Cobb, who once proudly published video footage of Russian skinheads decapitating immigrants on Podblanc, founded the website in 2007 as the white-supremacist/white-nationalist community’s answer to YouTube (referred to by Cobb as “JewTube”).

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Cobb is a longtime member of the Creativity Movement, a quasi-religious faith that holds that the white race is the superior race — comprised of living gods on whose prosperity the fate of the entire human species hinges. In 2004, Creativity Movement leader Matt Hale was sentenced to 40 years in prison for soliciting the assassination of federal Judge Joan Lefkow. Cobb then published Lefkow’s address, a map to her home, and information about her husband and children on the world’s largest white-supremacist internet forum, stormfront.org.

Cobb gained national notoriety in 2012 after revealing that he had bought up several properties in the small town of Leith, North Dakota. Cobb had distributed these properties among the leadership of the white-supremacist/neo-Nazi movement in the United States, with the intent to establish a white-supremacist ruling majority in the small town. The place was, in Cobb’s vision, to become an Aryan utopia (“Cobbsville,” complete with an Adolf Hitler commemorative park).

Border Cowboys: Howard Buffett Is a Perfect Fit With Cochise County’s Legacy of Vigilantism
Screen shot from podblanc.guru

But, the dream didn’t last. In November 2013, Cobb was arrested on multiple counts of “terrorizing” the people of Leith during a “patrol” he and a fellow neo-Nazi had taken of the town while brandishing rifles. In February 2014, Cobb pleaded guilty to a felony count of “terrorizing” and multiple misdemeanor counts of “menacing.” He was sentenced to four years of probation.

In March 2017, a church Cobb had purchased in Nome, North Dakota, burned to the ground. Investigators stated the fire was possibly an act of arson. Upon learning of the fire, Cobb told the New York Daily News that he intended to rebuild the church — as “The President Donald J. Trump Creativity Church of Rome.” Cobb went on to describe Trump as being “like a god emperor [who] can do no wrong.”

To be clear: The email containing the podblanc.guru video URL was not a forwarded communication originating with some other source; it was a unique email created by Buffett for Larner. And, where the vast majority of Buffett’s email communications with Larner took place through Buffett’s foundation or Macon County (Illinois) Sheriff’s Office email accounts, this particularly incendiary set of emails was one of the few contained in records obtained from Decatur police in which Buffett opted to use his own personal Gmail account.

Following the URL provided to Larner by Buffett, a visitor to Podblanc was met with the Podblanc logo, containing symbology common to the white-supremacist movement — in the form of the Celtic cross and the Eye of Odin, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Also displayed at the top of the page was Cobb’s motto for the site: “podblanc: white now.”

The “Little Black Ghetto Bastards” video appears to have been created by a black woman calling herself “Battlecat,” around the time of police/protester clashes and rioting in Baltimore during the period following the Gray killing.

Podblanc had republished the video from the YouTube channel of “Blaine Cooper,” who had published the video on April 28, 2015. In his YouTube posting of the video, "Cooper" stated that the video had been produced by a woman named Lena Pullum. This YouTube channel appears to have been that of Stanley Blaine Hicks (also known as "Blaine Cooper"), an Arizona-based right-wing militant who, in January 2016, along with other armed right-wing militants, seized the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon.

Upon publication by Podblanc, “Little Black Ghetto Bastards of Baltimore” was disseminated throughout white-supremacist circles on the Internet, becoming Podblanc’s most popular video.

As found on Podblanc, the video had been published by a user known as “Admin” under a number of categories, including “White Genocide.”

“Admin’s” profile avatar contained a doctored image depicting the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, holding a large gun to his own head. The avatar bears the words, “THE DEPRESSION PREZ.”

According to SPLC, it is not known whether Podblanc had multiple administrators, but Cobb was believed to be the site’s primary administrator.

In the video, “Battlecat” absolved police and race relations of any role in Baltimore’s civil unrest, stating instead that the problem lay in the raising of “little black ghetto bastards” by their “ghetto parents, or ghetto uncles and aunts.”

“Real black people need to wake up. They need to wake up, they need to come together — and go against these little black horde pieces of shit. These little nigga — niggas — I, I can’t stand ’em, I can’t fuckin’ stand ’em. I can’t stand ’em,” Battlecat said. “[Y]ou can call me a black person hater. I don’t care what you call me, but the facts is the facts – what’s goin’ on now is not white people’s fault. It’s not white people’s problem. It’s a black problem — and it’s one that needs to be fixed. It needs to be dealt with today. Battlecat signing off.”

At 6:44 the following morning, May 13, Larner responded to Buffett and the “Little Black Ghetto Bastards of Baltimore” video:

“So true. It’s the parents. Unless irresponsible refrain from reproduction, it will only get worse.”

Neither Buffett nor Larner responded to requests for comments about emails concerning the video.

Such racial, or eugenical, sentiments do not seem to have impeded Larner’s ascent within the Buffett organizations.

According to email records obtained from DPD, at some point in 2015, Larner began to work as a dog trainer at an Iroquois LLC-owned training facility in Macon County, Illinois.

In a December 8, 2015, email, Buffett and Larner discussed the planned erection of a statue in honor of Larner’s dog, Neko, at the training facility. This was to be placed alongside a statue of Buffett’s pet German Shepherd, Bolek.

Of Larner’s role at the facility, Buffett wrote, “you are the leader in my mind.”

And by early 2016, Buffett, Larner, and another Illinois officer, T.K. Houk, would have boots on the ground in Cochise County, at Iroquois’ Christiansen Ranch.

Armed to the teeth, the three friends posed for glamour shots — as an associate of the men put it: a “rag tag group of macon county sheriff vigilantes,” who showed up to “kick some ass” down on the borderline.

Part I: Howard Buffett's border war: Billionaire's son spending millions in Cochise County

The Fund for Investigative Journalism, Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, and the Center for Media and Democracy contributed financial support to this reporting.

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