Who is “commissioning” anti-diversity art across Idaho?
On Monday, July 22, 2019 over a dozen Idaho lawmakers received a postcard in their mailboxes from an unknown sender. The postcard depicted the newly hired Boise State University (BSU) President, Marlene Tromp, in a clown costume flanked by the members of the Idaho Board of Education.
“Idaho State Board of Education invites Clown World to Idaho in the personage of new BSU President Marlene Tromp.”
The back of the postcard reads:
“Clown World features scholarships for illegal aliens. Alt-gender cult center for LGBTQ creep clowns. A gaggle of diversity clowns to gobble up fat paychecks while violating Idaho students. Pronoun scramble on the rainbow stage.”
The postcard was illustrated by Dan Brannan, a resident of Hayden, Idaho, who claimed the depiction to be his artwork on his Facebook page. Brannan’s other works include images disparaging lesbians, depicting Hillary Clinton as a serial killer, and Barack Obama as a terrorist.
The postcard interestingly arrived in mailboxes shortly after 28 Idaho Republicans signed a letter asking President Tromp to end diversity programs at BSU. The website listed at the bottom of the postcard, infocomms.org, bills itself as the “Infowars Army,” a “peaceful, lawful and legal citizen activism operation.”
Hardly a week earlier on June 14th, 2019, the Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) published a column saying BSU had “joined the legion of left-leaning institutions that are using their campuses as state-sponsored platforms for intolerance, division, and victimhood.” This article has since been edited with a new, less offensive, title and picture and this quote has been removed from the article. It was this column that appears to have begun the contentious conversation regarding Boise State’s diversity programs. IFF spokesman Dustin Hurst told the Idaho Statesman that they were not behind the postcards, “We had no knowledge of these postcards and were not consulted about them.” It turns out this was not the first time Brannan’s art had been used in this way in Idaho.
In 2015, Responsible Cd’A PAC mailed postcards from Hayden, Idaho which included a cartoon drawn by Brannan which attacked elected city council members for their support of urban renewal districts. According to public campaign finance reports, Brent Regan paid Brannan $250 for “Preparation & Production of Advertising” on behalf of Responsible Cd’A PAC. Brannan has also publicly taken credit for this work. Regan and the IFF have also been critical of urban renewal districts.
So who is Regan? He is the Chairman of the IFF. Additionally, he is friends with the artist, Brannan, which is confirmed by their Facebook pages. Regan has also posted original art from Brannan on his personal Facebook page (March 9th, 2019). Quoting that he directly received it from Brannan. Regan has a long history of homophobic and disparaging posts on his Facebook, which is open to the public.
He spoke at a Post Falls Legion event in 2013 where he made a racist joke, “They can’t figure out what an assault weapon is – it’s just black and it looks scary,’ and she looks at me and said, ‘Well, so is Obama.'” At the time, Regan was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Coeur d’Alene School District. Soon after this comment, voters rejected him in favor of Christa Hazel. In defense of this statement, he explained his beliefs in an article penned for the Coeur d’Alene Press, “The election of Barak Obama as the first black president has defined America as no longer a “racist” country and his re-election has confirmed that fact. However, criticism of the Commander and Chief’s actions are now frequently falsely characterized as ‘racist’.”
Regan, isn’t just the chairman of the IFF, he is also the Chairman of the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC). Regan begins each monthly meeting of the KCRCC with a 20-minute diatribe extolling the truths, as he sees them, reported by Breitbart and Fox News, while raging against liberalism, Democrats and the media, among other topics. This monthly speech occurs before the meetings are even called to order. His ranting between these meetings is frequent and typically happen on his Facebook page. The Chairman of the KCRCC often posts articles penned by Breitbart, the famed white nationalist website founded by Andrew Breitbart, now made famous by host Alex Jones. He rails against transgender “degeneration” and the many faults of Democrats while also praising President Trump. The website listed on the July 22, 2019 postcard regarding BSU, infocomms.org now forwards directly to inforwars.com. A quick Google search will also find Brannan’s art featured on the well-known white supremacists website stormfront.org as well.
Even with all these links between Regan (the chairman of both the IFF and KCRCC) and Brannan’s racist, hate-filled artwork there is silence from the Idaho Republican Party and local leaders.
But not all Republicans see eye to eye with Regan. In fact, candidates within the local Republican party have been the targets of political cartoons by Brannan. Coincidentally, Luke Malek and Paul Amador have both been criticized verbally by Regan and lampooned by Brannan.
Last month, on October 31st, 2019, days before a city council election (as was the case with the 2015 postcard) a Brannan signature postcard arrived in mailboxes in North Idaho. The new cartoon also depicts public officials as clowns and included caricatures of a transgender person, Muslim, and a black person as a primate. Again tagged as a “commissioned cartoon for the local political scene,” this piece was apparently based on a photograph from a proclamation made by Coeur d’Alene Mayor Steve Widmyer dedicating the city as an inclusive community.
All this information raises the question of who continues to “commission” these hateful images? And, considering the October 2019 postcard’s timing, just days before local elections, was sending it a violation of campaign finance laws? Of course, we know the 2015 art was paid for by Regan via the Responsible Cd’A PAC. Is this newest piece with city council candidate Christy Wood in it subject to campaign finance disclosure?
Coeur d’Alene and North Idaho are all too familiar with the history of white supremacy and the bigotry in our own backyard. So with such open and clear connections between local Republican leadership and Brannan’s white supremacist art will there be any accountability? Or will we allow our politics to sink even lower?
Can anything positive come from these disgusting hate-filled cartoons? I think so. The Love Lives Here CDA campaign has recruited over 100 businesses in just over a month to support a statement of diversity. Also, a local event, held at the Human Rights Education Institute, remembering Transgender people who lost their lives to violence in the past year had a record turnout. During the recent elections, every candidate running for the city council espoused Coeur d’Alene as a welcoming place.
This positive community pushback is in stark contrast to the message of the anti-diversity cartoons and the goals of whoever is responsible for paying for them. At, least the ones we don’t have a direct paper trail for (like the 2015 card).
When asked again if the IFF was involved with the postcards that made statements so closely aligned with their past messages, Dustin Hurst, spokesman for IFF, reasserted that they had no knowledge of the postcards. And, when asked if Regan was involved with sending them Hurst replied, “if he did it, he did it on his own.”
Coeur d’Alene is a growing city. People are moving here every day and it’s up to all of us to resist this hateful redirect and stand up for love, kindness, and tolerance. Will citizens embrace diversity, in the vein of Love Lives Here, or will some continue to try and drag us in the shadows of our past?
Sadly, we can predict these hateful political smears will continue as long as Kootenai County political players have no consequences for their actions. I think it’s fair to expect even more “commissioned” political cartoons drawn by Brannan as we move into the 2020 election cycle.
Correction: I incorrectly stated that Regan was a former LAPD officer, information I incorrectly sourced from a Buzzfeed article which described him as “one of thousands of ex-LAPD officers, doomsday preppers, “traditionalist” Catholics and right-wing evagelicals who’ve flocked to the white, conservative utopia of North Idaho over the last 20 years.” Regan moved to the area from California in 1993 and is not a former police officer.