Congressman Clay Higgins of Louisiana arrived at this year's Expanding Global Gas Infrastructure seminar with a message.
“Welcome to the war for the future of our planet,” Higgins said to the gathered officials from liquefied natural gas (LNG) firms and other fossil fuel companies.
“My role as your representative is to be not just your ally,” Higgins added, “but your warrior. Please allow the service of my office to represent the point of the spear that you wield. We'll knock down every bureaucratic wall. We'll kick down every federal barrier. We'll work with you. We'll work for you.”
Higgins, who represents Louisiana’s Third District in the U.S. House of Representatives, offered up a very specific idea of where the LNG industry, which exports gas from wells drilled and fracked in the U.S. to other countries, should fit into that planetary war.
“Some of you know, some of you perhaps do not, that the Revolutionary soldiers that gave birth to this nation, represented only three percent of the populace, the colonists,” he said. “Some of us refer to ourselves as 'Three Percenters.'”
“You, ladies and gentlemen, are the Three Percenters of the modern era,” he continued, “where wars are fought with monies and strategies and energy.”
He asked the crowd to “harken back to the courage and the faith represented by the three percent that you now join.”
What Higgins didn’t mention during his talk is that the Three Percenter ideology (sometimes written as 3%er or III%er) has its roots in a loosely organized right-wing militia movement with a troubling history of violent attacks and attracting white supremacists to its ranks.
The Three Percenter Movement and Its Ties to White Supremacy and Violence
The Three Percenter movement was founded in 2008, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which notes that claim that three percent of American colonists took up arms is “disputed” by scholars and historians.
Because the network is loosely organized, Three Percenter groups represent a range of beliefs which are at times contradictory. Some Three Percenter organizations appear to focus heavily on gun rights. Some have said they are preparing for civil war while others describe themselves as “true patriots” or say they’re “very pro-government, so long as the government abides by the Constitution.”
Some Three Percenter groups have publicly disavowed racist ideology, while an Alberta-based chapter has been labeled Canada’s “most dangerous” extremist group and a Georgia-based branch is considered an “anti-Muslim hate group,” according to CBS News.
Nationwide, Three Percenter adherents have engaged in self-appointed, heavily armed “border patrols,” attempted to detonate a car bomb outside a bank in Oklahoma City last year, and bombed a mosque in Minnesota in March.
Three Percenters also provided self-appointed “security,” via an armed presence, during the deadly Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.
Parts of the Three Percenter network sought to distance themselves from white supremacists following the deaths in Charlottesville last year. The Three Percenters National Council issued a “stand down” order, writing that while their group would “support and defend everyone's right to free speech, we will not align ourselves with any type of racist group.”
It’s not clear whether Rep. Higgins counts himself as a member of any particular Three Percenter chapter or organization. A spokesperson for Higgins had not replied to questions from DeSmog as of publication time. But it’s not the first time Higgins has been connected to the Three Percenter movement.
In May, Higgins drew scrutiny over t-shirts with what appeared to be a Three Percenter logo on the back. The shirts were distributed to participants in the “Redemption Ride,” a motorcycle and jeep ride featuring Higgins and Dog the Bounty Hunter. Registration payments were processed online as individual donations to Higgins’ congressional campaign.
The t-shirts for attendees/riders. pic.twitter.com/7a9HpATC6N— Elizabeth Crisp (@elizabethcrisp) May 12, 2018
Three Percenter logos commonly feature the roman numeral three surrounded by a circle of thirteen stars.
Higgins, a former police officer, resigned from the Opelousas, Louisiana, police department in 2007 while facing disciplinary action for “unnecessary force on a subject” and making “false statements during an internal investigation.”
He went on to work for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s office, but, as the Washington Post reported, “resigned after he appeared in a viral video calling a group of predominantly black gang members ‘thugs,’ ‘heathens,’ and ‘animals.’”
Rep. Higgins referenced his role in law enforcement — but not the reasons he’d resigned — during his talk to the gas exporting industry, held in Washington, D.C. on March 22. “Before I became a Congressman, I was a street cop, for twelve years,” he said. “It was a hell of a demotion from Captain to Congressman, I would like you to know. But I have embraced this path because I love my country and I serve my fellow man.”
Despite his law enforcement background and current role as a lawmaker, Rep. Higgins — who still refers to himself online as “Captain” Higgins — seemed to ignore the distinction between being suspected of wrongdoing and being guilty, and to connect being Muslim to crimes meriting death, when he wrote in a June 2017 Facebook post:
“Not a single radicalized Islamic suspect should be granted any measure of quarter. Their intended entry to the American homeland should be summarily denied. Every conceivable measure should be engaged to hunt them down. Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.”
He later told the Washington Post that he didn’t expect those comments to be controversial and that he stood by what he wrote.
The following month, Higgins released a video in which he narrated his walk through the Auschwitz-Berkenau Memorial and Museum, including inside the Auschwitz gas chambers — despite signs at the entrance requesting that visitors maintain silence in that building. The video concludes with an image of Higgins above the logo for his congressional campaign website.
The video drew international condemnation, including from the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, which called the video a “global disgrace.” Higgins subsequently issued an apology and retracted the video.
Fossil Fuel Industry Funds Higgins
Higgins’ record has not appeared to deter some companies in the gas industry from funding his political campaign.
Tellurian, Inc. plans to begin construction on the Driftwood LNG export terminal, sited in Higgins’ district, next year. The Driftwood terminal will have the capacity to export 3.4 billion cubic feet of natural gas a day from the Gulf Coast, fed by pipelines connecting the terminal to the Permian and Haynesvilles shales in Texas and Louisiana.
In 2018, Higgins was Tellurian’s second biggest recipient of political contributions in the House of Representatives, just after Jacky Rosen, a Nevada Democrat, according to The Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org.
In April, Higgins signed onto a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), urging the commission to “review the [Driftwood LNG project’s] application as expeditiously as possible” and asserting that “the project enjoys substantial community and state support.”
“We're going to bring pressure at every opportunity,” Higgins said in a public statement accompanying that letter.
All told, Higgins received $51,850 from the oil and gas industry from 2017 to 2018, making the industry Higgins’ second largest source of campaign contributions after Leadership PACs, or political action committees run by politicians.
On his website, Higgins strikes a different tone than he did in his talk to the industry, when he pledged to be “not just your ally but your warrior” and to “kick down every federal barrier.”
“While unnecessary regulations will be removed,” his issues page says, “it is important that a balanced approach is taken that results in real economic benefits but also considers environmental impacts.”
Higgins has expressed doubts in climate science, telling PBS News Hour in August 2017: “Climate change has always happened, that's my argument, well before, you know, we had four-wheel drive trucks and boats and Suburbans rolling around or, you know, large industrial plants and whatnot.”
(NASA's website on the causes of climate change points out that “In its Fifth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of 1,300 independent scientific experts from countries all over the world under the auspices of the United Nations, concluded there's a more than 95 percent probability that human activities over the past 50 years have warmed our planet.”)
Paving the Path for LNG Exports
Last year, Higgins introduced a bill that would streamline the approval process for LNG export projects.
“While the United States has a strong and transparent regulatory process for the approval of LNG export terminals, there is no question that this process is expensive and time-consuming,” LNG Allies, the organization that sponsored the seminar where Higgins made his comments about the Three Percenters, said in a July 2017 statement commending Higgins and a Senate sponsor of the bill. “Thus, LNG Allies supports measures — such as the LNG Now Act — that would lessen the time and expense of securing LNG project authorizations.”
In September, when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission moved the Driftwood project one step further along by releasing an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, Higgins praised the commission. “Under President Trump’s leadership, FERC has demonstrated that it is determined to work past the bureaucratic barriers that have delayed project approvals,” Higgins said in a press release.
During the industry seminar in March, Higgins made his stance on exports of American fossil fuels clear.
“LNG exports must grow,” Higgins said. “The sun should not set upon the expansion of LNG.”
And he again sought to connect the gas industry to the Three Percenters.
“Because together, as the Three Percenters, we represent everything that's right about this world,” he told the industry representatives, “and we stand against everything that's wrong.”
Some of his listeners appeared receptive to Higgins’ message.
“I think we're all Three Percenters now, aren't we?” a panel moderator said as the Congressman from Louisiana left the microphone, to a smattering of applause.
Main image: Rep. Clay Higgins. Credit: Dana Barciniak, Official House Photographer, public domain