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Retired law enforcement officers launch PAC to combat political extremism

A "vote here" sign with an arrow pointing to the left stands in a parking lot where some bikes are parked at bike racks. The Boise foothills can be seen in the distance.
Boise State Public Radio
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America Amplified

A group of former law enforcement officers has raised tens of thousands of dollars to combat extremism in Idaho politics.

Defend and Protect Idaho, led by former Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney, is pushing back against recent efforts by far-right politicians and activists.

That includes gubernatorial hopeful Janice McGeachin, who has embraced the Real 3%ers of Idaho militia group, as well as white nationalist and anti-Semitic figures.

McGeachin didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.

Ron Winegar, Boise Police’s former chief deputy, is among those who joined the group.

“We have to return to civility in politics and stand up against radical extremism, regardless of the source,” Winegar said in an interview with reporters Tuesday.

Both Winegar and retired Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde slammed far-right activists for doxxing private citizens and cops alike in recent years.

Wilde said he worries fewer people will become police officers to avoid that blowback.

“When society goes bat**** crazy, then I think we’re going to have a real problem and who are they going to call?” he asked.

The group has raised $90,000 from Real Idaho Patriots LLC, a business founded in February 2022 that doesn’t name anyone affiliated with the company in its incorporation documents.

Defend and Protect Idaho plans to run video ads ahead of this month’s primary election.

It joins several other similar groups targeting political extremism in Idaho, including Take Back Idaho, which has raised nearly $130,000 according to its most recent campaign finance report.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!