INDIANAPOLIS — Six Indiana elected officials, including a sheriff and a state representative, have appeared on leaked membership lists of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
More than 38,000 names were included on the leaked Oath Keepers membership list, which was published by the nonprofit transparency collective Distributed Denial of Secrets. The Anti-Defamation League has pored over the names on the membership list and identified hundreds of U.S. law enforcement officers, elected officials and military members from across the nation.
The results of their findings can be seen here.
Appearing in the Oath Keepers’ database doesn’t prove that a person was ever an active member of the group or shares its ideology. Some people on the list contacted by The Associated Press said they were briefly members years ago and are no longer affiliated with the group. Some said they were never dues-paying members. A commissioner contacted by FOX59 said he had been a member of the media who had been writing an article about the group nearly a decade ago.
The ADL found nearly 700 Hoosiers on the membership list, including six elected officials, nine law enforcement members, three military members and five first responders.
All six Indiana elected officials identified on the Oath Keepers membership list ran as Republicans in their respective races.
The following six elected officials were identified by the ADL as appearing on the membership list:
- Michael Vanover, Wells County Commissioner
- Bradley Dean Rogers, Elkhart County Commissioner
- Christopher Judy, Indiana House of Representatives
- Joe Haney, La Porte County Commissioner
- Jamey Noel, Clark County Sheriff
- Michael Sweney, Root Township Board Member, Adams County
State Rep. Christopher Judy represents District 83 encompassing parts of Whitley and Allen counties. Judy assumed office in September 2014 and is up for reelection in November. FOX59 reached out to Judy for a statement but received no response.
Bradley Rogers is a current commissioner and previously served as Elkhart County sheriff. Rogers said he has not been a member of the Oath Keepers in over eight years.
Rogers stated when he joined the Oath Keepers the group centered around non-violent non-compliance with orders that violated individuals’ rights. He said he and many others left the organization once leaders began to talk about there being “blood in the streets” and encouraging or promoting civil war.
“I am an advocate for the protection of individual rights and the Constitution as our rule of law – something that Oath Keepers now stand opposed to. This is why I left the organization those years ago,” Rogers said.
Sheriff Jamey Noel is retired from the Indiana State Police and has served as sheriff of Clark County since 2015. He also appeared on A&E’s television show 60 Days In. Sheriff Noel denied being part of the Oath Keepers.
“I’m not now and have never been associated with this group. I didn’t even know there was a group called the Oath Keepers until I read about it in the news,” Noel wrote.
Wells County Commissioner Michael Vanover was selected by the Wells County Republican Party in January 2021 during a caucus to replace a previous commissioner who resigned. Vanover is up for reelection this November. He did not respond to a request for comment.
La Porte County Commissioner Joe Haney was elected in November 2020. Haney stated the Oath Keepers likely had his information because he was a credentialed member of the media from 2010 to 2020. Haney stated he used to write articles on firearms and spoke with members of the Oath Keepers via email in 2013 and 2014.
“I am not a member,” Haney said. “I’ve never been to any of their events or protests.”
Haney has previously been questioned about his association with the group due to referring to himself as an Oath Keeper in his profile on a firearm review website. The La Porte County attorney publicly called on Haney to denounce the group in 2021. Haney denied being a member of the Oath Keepers at that time as well, saying the term had been taken out of context and not used to reference the official Oath Keeper organization.
Michael Sweney ran in the Republican primary for Root Township Board, Adams County, in May. He couldn’t be reached for comment.
The ADL did not release the names of the Indiana law enforcement officers or military personnel who appeared on the membership list, stating the report is not meant to “dox rank-and-file personnel.” The ADL has contacted the law enforcement agencies affected by the report, however, and stated they will “continue to work with them in addressing the challenges of extremism within their ranks.”
The data leak raises fresh concerns about the presence of extremists in law enforcement and the military who are tasked with enforcing laws and protecting the U.S. It’s especially problematic for public servants to be associated with extremists at a time when lies about the 2020 election are fueling threats of violence against lawmakers and institutions.
“Even for those who claimed to have left the organization when it began to employ more aggressive tactics in 2014, it is important to remember that the Oath Keepers have espoused extremism since their founding, and this fact was not enough to deter these individuals from signing up,” the report says.
The Oath Keepers, founded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, is a loosely organized conspiracy theory-fueled group that recruits current and former military, police and first responders. It asks its members to vow to defend the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” promotes the belief that the federal government is out to strip citizens of their civil liberties and paints its followers as defenders against tyranny.
More than two dozen people associated with the Oath Keepers — including Rhodes — have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Rhodes and four other Oath Keeper members or associates are heading to trial this month on seditious conspiracy charges for what prosecutors have described as a weekslong plot to keep then-President Donald Trump in power.
Armed Oath Keepers have also been involved in armed standoffs with the government prior to Trump being elected. These standoffs include Lincoln, Montana, in 2015 along with joining the Bundy Ranch standoff against the Bureau of Land Management in 2014.
The Oath Keepers had grown quickly along with the wider anti-government movement and used the tools of the internet to spread their message during Barack Obama’s presidency, said Rachel Carroll Rivas, interim deputy director of research with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project. But since Jan. 6 and Rhodes’ arrest, the group has struggled to keep members, she said.
“The image of being associated with Jan. 6 was too much for many of those folks,” she said.
Other national elected officials identified on the Oath Keeper membership list included New Hampshire State Senator Bob Giuda (who claimed to have left the group after the Bundy Ranch standoff); Idaho State Representative Chad Christensen, Alaska State Representative David Eastmen, South Dakota State Representative Phil Jensen, Arizona State Senator Wendy Rogers and Sanders County Montana Sheriff Thomas Rummel.
ADL said it found the names of at least 10 people who now work as police chiefs and 11 sheriffs.
Read the full report here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.