How Lauren Boebert built her career on guns, militias and far-right pandering

Congresswoman became a conservative darling despite her history of arrests, legal troubles and association with extreme-right militias and conspiracy theories

Graig Graziosi
Friday 05 March 2021 20:05
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When Representative Lauren Bobert attended a remote Congressional committee meeting with a pile of guns stacked up behind her, the image was less than shocking. Most Americans' first exposure to Ms Boebert occurred on 6 January, when she joined Senate Republicans to challenge the results of the 2020 election, stating that she had "constituents outside the building" as Trump supporters were battling Capitol police officers on the building's steps.

But that is hardly where Ms Boebert's troubled history with law enforcement and extreme right-wing politics began. The Congresswoman rose to notoriety despite dragging a history of criminal troubles, financial malfeasance, and association with militias and conspiracy theories.

Ms Boebert exploded onto the political scene in 2019 after confronting Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke at a campaign stop. In a video that she has used a centrepiece of her campaigns, she grabs a microphone and says "hell no" when Mr O'Rourke asked the crowd if they supported his plan for gun buybacks aimed at limiting the number of military-style rifles in the country.

She has since built her political career on gun worship and ultraconservative railing against Democrats, who she claims “hate our country”.

Her stunt with Mr O’Rourke earned her the attention of Colorado Republicans, drawing her into the world of ultraconservative politics that eventually led to her challenging and defeating Republican Rep. Scott Tipton to represent Colorado's 3rd Congressional district.

Ms Boebert's story, as she tells it, casts her as the victim of a welfare-dependent upbringing in liberal Denver and Aurora, Colorado, before moving to the more conservative Garfield County. She credits her job at a McDonald's of freeing her from the idea that government assistance was necessary.

“McDonald’s afforded me the opportunity to have a good-paying job,” Ms Boebert said, according to the Grand Junction Sentinel. “Because of that, I was able to develop job skills and a work ethic and a passion to put my hand to something to create wealth. It actually was my favourite job.”

The average McDonald's worker's salary is between $9 an hour, with a range between $7 and $13 an hour depending on the location. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, an individual on average must make $19.56 to afford a one bedroom apartment in the US.

She claimed that the experience opened her eyes to the dangers of depending on government.

“I was raised in a Democrat household, very dependent on government. We put all of our trust in government, and it was a very limiting way to live life,” Ms Boebert said. “I depended on government for food and housing and healthcare. I stood in line for government cheese. We were told this was the only way to be successful. You vote this way and we’ll take care of you, and there was no incentive to ever get out of the cycle of poverty that we were stuck in.

“It was complete control that the government had over us. We were made to believe that government was looking out for our best interests all the while I had to be my own defender in everything.”

Political commentators have drawn comparisons between Ms Boebert and Sarah Palin, the progenitor of the populist Republican female candidates that have exploded in popularity in recent years. The Congresswoman sells herself on being a patriot, a mother, a woman who carries a gun for protection in a world that often preys on women, and a self-made business owner (she owns a restaurant and has part ownership of another), free of dependence on government handouts.

While Ms Boebert is quick to point to her upbringing, her successful restaurants, and her staunch stance on gun rights, she is less open about discussing her past, particularly her numerous run-ins with law enforcement.

Long before she disregarded Congressional rules against carrying firearms into the Capitol following the 6 January attacks, Ms Boebert had a history of breaking traffic laws, refusing to show up for court appearances, not paying her debts and, in one instance, getting arrested.

According to Ms Boebert's rap sheet, between 2003 and 2020, she had eight charges brought against her for traffic violations, including several for speeding, two for not wearing her seatbelt and not using child restraints in her car, one for driving with an expired license, and two for careless driving. The most recent charge, January of last year, claimed Ms Boebert was speeding between 10-19 miles over the limit.

Several of the traffic charges were reduced after she agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges.

In 2015, Ms Boebert was arrested for disorderly conduct at a country music festival for interfering with police who were arresting a group of minors who were drinking underage. According to police records, Ms Boebert encouraged the minors to flee from the police. She claimed the arrest was illegal and that the minors had not been read their Miranda rights.

“Lauren continued yelling and causing the underage drinkers to become unruly,” an arresting officer said in a statement about the incident. “Lauren said multiple times that she had friends at Fox News and that the illegal arrest would be national news.”

Ms Boebert missed two court appearances, one tied to the disorderly conduct charge, which was eventually dropped when she paid a $500 bond, and another related to a driving charge, which she was arrested for.

She also missed a court appearance relating to a debt of $1,368 to Capital One Bank, which was eventually resulted in her defaulting on the debt and having her earnings garnished.

Two weeks before her Congressional run, she paid off more than $20,000 on a tax lien against her restaurant from the state. The restaurant had accumulated eight tax leans for unpaid unemployment insurance premiums between 2016 and 2020.

More recently, Ms Boebert has come under fire for using her campaign war chest to pay herself $22,259, supposedly a reimbursement for driving 38,712 miles during the course of her Congressional campaign.

Kedric Payne, general counsel and senior director of ethics for the Campaign Legal Center, told The Denver Post that the $22,000 payout was "unheard of in my review of monetary reimbursement". For reference, a driver can make it from New York to California in under 3,000 miles.

However, Ms Boebert's district is the largest in the US, and her campaign made 129 stops. An analysis by CPR News found that Ms Boebert could have racked up close to 30,000 miles driving between each event, assuming she also drove home after each event.

Ms Boebert defended her mileage claims, saying she “traveled to every nook and cranny of the district to speak with and hear from the people about their concerns.”

A history of challenging law enforcement and the legal system would be concerning for any politician, but Ms Boebert’s past association with militia movements and conspiracy theories that deeply distrust the government have prompted further concerns from her critics.

The Congresswoman posed for pictures with members of the Three Percenter militia group at a gun rights rally outside the Colorado State Capitol. The Three Percenter militia is consider a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Centre and at least one member of the group has been arrested in connection to the assault on the US Capitol.

One man who was arrested, Robert Gieswein, appeared in a photo with other militia members posing outside Ms Boebert’s restaurant, Shooters Grill, in 2018, and Ms Boebert herself has made comments similar to those of militia movements, including calling Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer a "tyrant" in a Twitter post.

Ms Whitmer was the target of a militia kidnapping plot that was thwarted by the FBI.

During the 6 January riot, Ms Boebert tweeted "today is 1776," although she later walked back her rhetoric and condemned the violence on 6 January.

"I denounced the violence over the summer just as I did the recent events at the Capitol. I defended our Constitution and I always will," she said.

Ms Boebert has also supported some elements of the QAnon conspiracy movement, which alleges a deep-state network of cannibal pedophiles, largely Democrats, secretly run the nation and that only Donald Trump, a disguised and still living John F Kennedy Jr, and a rouge intelligence operative going by the name "Q" are fighting to stop them.

While the Congresswoman never outwardly supported the more fanciful claims made by QAnon, she has say she hopes Q "is real" and that supported actions to break up the alleged deep-state network opposing Mr Trump.

Since the attack on the Capitol, there has been some effort by Democrats to have her investigated for allegedly providing tours of the building to individuals suspected of participating in the attack. The claim suggests Ms Boebert was helping potential rioters scout out the Capitol prior to the insurrection.

Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen told CNN he saw Ms Boebert leading a "large" tour in the days preceding the attack.

"We saw Boebert taking a group of people for a tour sometime after the 3rd and before the 6th. I don't remember the day we were walking in a tunnel and we saw her and commented who she was and she had a large group with her. Now whether these people were people that were involved in the insurrection or not, I do not know," he said.

Ms Boebert has unequivocally denied the claims, saying the group were family members and that she had never led a tour at the building.

"Let me be clear – all of your claims and implications are categorically false," Ms Boebert wrote. "I have never given a tour of the US Capitol to any outside group. As I previously stated, I brought my family to the Capitol on January 2nd for a tour and on the 3rd for pictures to commemorate the day I was sworn in as a Member of the US Congress. Again, the only people I have ever had in the Capitol with me during the 117th Congress are my young children, husband, mom, aunt and uncle."

Despite the controversy around her, it likely Ms Boebert will stay in the public arena for a while. She has taken up the mantle of Trump-supporting populist Republican and run with it, even calling Mr Tipton – who was endorsed by Trump – a member of the Squad for being insufficiently conservative.

Indeed, in addition to the questions surrounding her previous support of QAnon and her past links to militia group, Ms Boebert has recently taken aim at the Equality Act, describing it as the “supremacy of gays”, which prompted widespread backlash, and saw her take the same line on the issue as fellow firebrand and Trump loyalist Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Donald Trump invited her to his Fourth of July celebration at Mount Rushmore, where she was seated next to former White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders. She is a shining example of a new breed of outspokenly populist conservatives running on Mr Trump's brand of fiery populism and conservative victimhood, and there is no indication that brand of politics will fall out of favour with the nation's conservative voters any time soon.

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