A Chapter of the Oath Keepers Militia Group Is Raising Money Through Amazon Smile [UPDATE]

Illustration for article titled A Chapter of the Oath Keepers Militia Group Is Raising Money Through Amazon Smile [UPDATE]
Photo: Jon Cherry (Getty Images)

Militia members are tapping at least one revenue stream through Amazon’s charity partnership program, Amazon Smile. As of Tuesday evening, Amazon shoppers can choose to donate 0.5% of their purchase costs to the Indiana chapter of the armed anti-government group Oath Keepers, one member of which was just charged with conspiracy related to the Capitol attack.

The group Sleeping Giants, which flags online promotion for far-right groups, spotted the connection today. Amazon Smile is listed on the Indiana Oath Keepers’ site as an affiliate.

Multiple other charities referencing Oath Keepers and other far-right groups are also listed as participating in the Amazon Smile program, but we were unable to confirm key details about these accounts prior to publication.

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This morning, the Washington Post reported that a 66-year-old alleged to be an Oath Keeper member has become the first to be charged with conspiracy in connection to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. FBI documents, including personal communications, suggest that he had attempted to organize 30-40 followers to coordinate a siege. One message amongst the group urged a “citizen’s arrest” of lawmakers.

The Oath Keepers, who count law enforcement officers amongst their ranks, have been a mainstay at armed protests over the years with fellow travelers like Boogaloo Bois and the Three Percenters. They also self-promote at climate disaster sites.

It is not clear how the Indiana Oath Keepers are using funds raised through Amazon Smile. That, however, is likely irrelevant. Amazon Smile’s terms specifically prohibit groups that “engage in, support, encourage, or promote intolerance, hate, terrorism,” and “violence.”

Amazon did not yet respond to a request for comment. The Indiana Oath Keepers and OathKeepers.org have also not responded to a request for comment.

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Last month, the UK-based investigative outlet openDemocracy found that Amazon was hosting over 40 hate evangelizing anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion groups. These include the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, which has reportedly spent more than $96 million since 2008 on international campaigns to block abortion access and suppress LGBTQ rights; the Trump-linked American Center for Law and Justice, which provided legal arguments for banning abortion in Poland; and the Indiana chapter of the American Family Association, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group that has blamed Naziism on homosexuality. At this writing, none of the 40+ groups investigated, and alerted to Amazon, have been removed.

An Amazon spokesperson said in an email last month that charitable organizations that violate its eligibility terms, which include promoting illegal activities, will no longer be able to participate in the Smile program. It added that Amazon relies on the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control and the SPLC “to provide the data for these determinations.” The SPLC has designated the Oath Keepers an extremist group deserving of a lengthy profile.

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Commendably, Amazon has stood by its policy forbidding violent content by revoking hosting services for Parler. After Parler filed a motion for Amazon Web Services to reinstate the site, Amazon submitted a list of horrendous sample posts, including death threats laced with racial slurs. Amazon said that it had already approached Parler about its failure to moderate rampant hate speech in November 2020.

The Indiana Oath Keepers site also directs visitors to choose them as a beneficiary for Kroger’s community rewards program, where it can no longer be found. The supermarket chain said in an email that it was “dismayed” to learn that Oath Keepers had benefited from the program and promptly delisted them today.

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1/23/2021 2:14pm ET: Amazon told Gizmodo via email that it has removed Oath Keepers as well as 3 Percenters, a similar militia movement, from Amazon Smile due to violations of the Amazon Smile participation agreement. This includes the Delaware Iii Percent, American Patriot Vanguard Iii Percent - Texas Inc., Oath Keepers United, Indiana Oath Keepers Inc., and Oath Keepers Educational Foundation.

Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

Question: How difficult is it to create my own charity? If hate groups like these can have one, I figure I can make one for people to donate to my pizza fund. No hate here, just pizza. Donate today!

Seriously though, charities in America seem to be a minefield. You find one you like the mission of like, “Oh, this one knits sweaters for dogs” or some random thing and then later you find out the organizer was using most funds to buy mansions or do some evil shit. Some regulations and oversight would be nice.