A group of far-right operatives within the Republican Party in northern Idaho is scheming to perform a hostile takeover of the local Democratic Party apparatus that would enable them to install a notorious white nationalist as the Kootenai County party chairman, and then use party funds to support GOP candidates.
The scheme, first reported by Kaye Thornburgh in the Coeur d’Alene Press, has been openly acknowledged by Dave Reilly, the “antisemitic troll” at its center, though the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee (KCRCC) chair—who one of the operatives claimed is “totally on board” with the plan—has denied involvement. Naturally, they all blame Democrats for their plot to victimize them.
Thornburgh’s report was based on a recording of a phone conversation between Dan Bell, the KCRCC’s “Youth Chair,” and a conservative Republican named John Grimm, that Grimm recorded Tuesday, which is permitted under Idaho law. On the call, Bell outlined the scheme he was organizing to have Republican activists pose as Democrats so they can run for open precinct-captain positions, upon which they would control the Kootenai Democrats.
“Long story short, we want to take over the Democrat Party,” Bell said on the call.
Democrats are already thin on the ground in Idaho; Kootenai County has 49 out of 70 precinct positions vacant and unfilled, which means that Republicans would only need to surreptitiously install 21 of their faux Democrats to have control of the party in the county, which is the state’s third-most populous. Bell told Grimm that he had recruited 25 Republicans to run as Democrats so far, and hopes to have as many as 40.
Once they have control, Bell said, the plan calls for the faux Democrats to install Reilly as the county chairman. Then, he said, the operatives would take over the county Democrats’ website and social media channels, and Reilly would take money donated to Democrats and give it to Republicans.
Bell told Grimm that KCRCC chair Brent Regan is “totally on board” with the plan. “If we pull this off, this will be national news,” Bell said.
Bell was particularly keen on seeing Reilly elevated to the chairman’s role: “A guy that they call racist, antisemitic, Holocaust denier,” Bell said. “That same guy would be the chair of the Kootenai Democrat Party.”
Reilly, in fact, only moved to Idaho in 2020 from Pennsylvania, and promptly ran for a position on the school board in Post Falls. His views first attracted attention in 2017, when he avidly promoted the deadly “Unite the Right” white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, while ostensibly covering the event for WHLM-AM radio in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, a station owned by his father.
Over the ensuing years, Reilly then embarked on a career of rubbing shoulders with racists, notably the white nationalist “Groyper” movement led by Nicholas Fuentes and embraced by pundit Michelle Malkin, who has endorsed Reilly’s candidacy in Post Falls as well. Reilly attended one of their conferences. He also made multiple appearances on the white nationalist YouTube channel “Red Ice.” He tweeted that “Judaism is the religion of anti-Christ,” that “all Jews are dangerous,” and opined that more Americans should believe antisemitic stereotypes.
After leaving WHLM, Reilly worked as an editor for E. Michael Jones, the leader of an antisemitic “traditionalist Catholic” group based in Indiana and the publisher of Culture Wars magazine, which is noted for running such articles as "Judaizing: Then and Now," "John Huss and the Jews," "The Converso Problem: Then and Now," "The Judaism of Hitler," and "Shylock Comes to Notre Dame.” Reilly has mainly claimed martyrdom at the hands of the media and liberals. He told the Coeur d’ Alene Press that he has “been subjected to incredible financial, social and personal hardships because he was a public supporter of Donald Trump.”
Despite being an utter newcomer, the KCRCC’s endorsement of Reilly was powerful enough that he only lost his Post Falls school board race by 134 votes, 1,058-924 (53%-47%). Now his plans involve taking over the local Democratic Party.
In a Twitter post on Wednesday, Reilly confirmed that he’s part of the scheme:
Idaho Republicans Plan Take Over of Democrat Party — Switch Party Affiliation, Fill Democrat Committees, Expelling Abortion From State Forever
A follow-up tweet on Thursday went into more detail:
Today, I registered as a Democrat and filed to become a Precinct Captain.
The Democrat Party has veered towards Left Wing Extremism, working with groups like BLM & Antifa, while promoting Abortion, Transgender ideology, & anti-2A policies.
Idaho needs a Pro-Life Democrat party.
Reilly has deep connections to Fuentes and the Groypers, as well as to Idaho’s militia-friendly lieutenant governor, Janice McGeachin, who created an uproar in the state recently by speaking to Fuentes’ annual America First PAC convention in Florida. Dan Bell posed with Reilly and McGeachin at a February campaign event, along with notorious white nationalist Vincent James Foxx.
Foxx (who goes by Vincent James in his public appearances) was a member of the mob that attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. He also was a featured speaker at Fuentes’ recent convention in Florida, talking about how he and other white nationalists are working to overthrow the old GOP establishment and replace it with their far more radical and white version.
“People like us are going to primary every last spineless and traitorous member of the Republican Party in 2022,” Foxx told the crowd. “We are going to completely transform the party by 2024 and out of its ashes will finally rise true, right-wing, reactionary force.”
Regan has so far not spoken with a reporter, but he has denied everything in his Facebook posts, including one responding to Thornburgh’s queries:
The KCRCC has not "recruited Republican volunteers to run for Democrat positions" as you falsely assert. Our meetings are open to the public and our minutes have no reference to any discussion of this topic. Claims to the contrary are false.
Whatever efforts or statements Mr. Bell made, he did so as a private individual and not in any official capacity as a member of the KCRCC. All actions by the KCRCC are either prescribed in our bylaws, or motioned, seconded, debated and voted on in our committee meetings.
Asked if he supported making Reilly—who he strongly endorsed in the Post Falls race—the county Democratic chair, he demurred. “No, it is not true. I really don't care who the Democrats elect as chairman,” he responded. “I have no idea where this idea originated. The Democrat central committee can spend money on wherever the law allows and the majority of the members decide. We call that ‘democracy.’”
Regan, like Reilly, blamed Democrats for creating the problem by supposedly encouraging Democratic voters to register as Republicans in the primary election in order to dilute support for extremist candidates—although no Democratic Party entity has suggested doing so (though some progressive activists in the state have been supporting the practice).
“Democrats, socialists and hacks in the media are openly calling for democrats and their sympathizers to infiltrate the Republican Party so they can vote in the Republican Primary,” Regan complained in a follow-up post. “They are even running prominent democrats as Republican candidates for office. … Now, just like all bullies, they are upset when Republicans fight back.”
Grimm told the Press that he recorded Bell’s call to avert denials. “I know from personal observation that certain members of the KCRCC are masters of deception with an ability to twist the meaning of even their own statements,” he said.
He emphasized that he has been a lifelong conservative Republican, but believes the KCRCC has “gone too far.”
“They have become what they profess to hate: liars, cheaters, thieves and worse — establishment Republicans,” Grimm said.
Democratic Party officials denounced the underhanded campaign and vowed to fight back.
“We are looking into every option, legal and otherwise, to fight back against this plot by the radical and dangerous Kootenai County Republicans to infiltrate the Kootenai Democratic Party,” Jared DeLoof, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, told the Press. “Just when you think they can’t go any lower, they do. They have tried to use these nefarious tactics in the past and are fooling no one.”
Evan Koch, chair of the Kootenai Democrats, said the news of the takeover attempt had awakened local Democratic activists. The party, he said, is rapidly recruiting precinct captain candidates.
“We’re pretty darn close to filling the county now,” he said Thursday. “The threat of a takeover has galvanized us.”
As for Regan’s claims that Democrats were engaged in their own underhanded tactics by encouraging voters to switch parties in the primaries, Koch while party officials are aware that some Democrats make the switch, they don’t consider it a good idea.
“If anything, we encourage them to remain Democrats, because it doesn’t do us any good if they become Republicans,” he said.