It is every astroturf special interest front group’s worst nightmare: the moment when, despite their best efforts to carefully orchestrate each facet of the campaign, reality comes crashing down–sending the movement careening into crackpot-ville for good.
This is that moment for Americans for Prosperity, the group funded by the Koch brothers to trick people into thinking that the TEA Party was a grassroots uprising. Rumors are circulating that the front group has selected a new leader for the Montana chapter. Henry Kriegel is to be the group’s new figurehead, replacing Scott Sales, if the rumors are true. Right now, Kriegel is the organization’s number two, but word is he’s getting called up for prime time.
Montana Cowgirl readers know Henry Kriegel well. He’s a right-wing nutjob, former New Yorker, radio-host, and the leader of the Bozeman TEA Party.
A few years ago, Henry Kriegel was busted by the IRS for failing to pay a fortune in income taxes. Somehow, he got a bankruptcy court to let him off the hook on a large portion of it. Kriegel told reporters that he didn’t believe his tax history should keep him from speaking out about tax reform (in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on June 15, 2009). It may not keep him from speaking out, but it keeps him from doing so with any credibility. Having Kriegel lead the charge against taxes is like tapping Bernie Madoff to campaign against tighter securities regulation.
That’s not the only skeleton in Kriegel’s closet. It turns out that Kriegel has been a high-ranking member of the Church Universal and Triumphant, also known as CUT. In fact, Kriegel was actually featured a while back in an LA Times article about people who wander off and get caught up in cult-like religious movements. An “out-of-stater” (to use a Republican phrase), Kriegel is from New York and left the east coast on a soul search, came to Montana, and joined up with CUT. During the 1990s, Kriegel spoke out against the deprogramming efforts of anti-cult activists, saying he was the “victim of an attempted deprogramming” by people opposed to his CUT membership. (Bozeman Daily Chronicle, March 15, 1992.)
Wikipedia says that CUT members worship, among other things,
“esoteric mysticism, the paranormal and alchemy, with a belief in angels, elves, fairies, and other beings…such as Sanat Kumara, Maitreya, Djwal Khul, El Morya, Kuthumi, Paul the Venetian, Serapis Bey, the Master Hilarion, Lanto, Lady Master Nada, Godfre, Lady Master Lotus, and Lanello, Enoch and Elohim.”
But even better, CUT was the bunch who believed that the world was going to end of a nuclear holocaust at a particular hour and minute on April 23, 1990. They built a massive underground bomb shelter up near Gardiner, MT and stocked it to the rafters with illegally purchased semi-automatic weapons, in preparation for The End (as reported by the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, Feb. 27, 1995; Bozeman Daily Chronicle, March 14, 1995).
But I guess none of this was enough wacky for Kriegel, so he went looking for another fringe sect. He definitely found it in Americans for Prosperity.