Minnesota House Republican’s name appears on Oath Keepers membership roster

Rep. Donald Raleigh of Blaine says he disavows the extremist group, and only signed up years ago in the course of conducting market research.

By: - September 8, 2022 1:27 pm

Republican Donald Raleigh represents Minnesota’s District 38A. Photo courtesy of Citizens for Donald Raleigh.

The names of 514 Minnesotans appear in a leaked membership roster of the Oath Keepers, a violent extremist group thought to play a key role in the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, according to a new report released by the Anti-Defamation League.

Among those names: Six law enforcement officers, three members of the military, and two first responders, a reflection of the group’s efforts to recruit people with military and law enforcement experience. 

Also on the Oath Keepers’ membership list: Rep. Donald W. Raleigh, a first-term Republican House representative from Blaine. But Raleigh said in an interview that he disavows the group and its beliefs, and that he only signed up for a membership years ago as part of a project to conduct market research on organizations targeting veterans.

In 2013, during the process of co-founding a company called TrustVets, which works to connect veterans with business opportunities, Raleigh signed up using his business email address to a number of different veterans’ groups. He provided the Reformer with emails showing membership confirmations in 2013 and 2014 for VetFriends.com, the Association of the United States Army and the Air Force Association

As part of that effort, he said, he also signed up for an Oath Keepers membership.

“Their pitch at the time was for veterans,” Raleigh said. “One of the things that caught my eye was a signup packet that was designed by or packaged by disabled veterans. It seemed innocuous to us.”

He added, “We signed up for a whole bunch of these different organizations because we wanted to know what interesting cool marketing they were doing.”

In its report, the ADL notes that “an individual’s inclusion in the Oath Keeper database is not proof that they were or are still an Oath Keeper, that they hold or held all or some of Oath Keeper ideology or viewpoints, or that they ever actively participated in Oath Keeper activities.”

But, they add, “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.”

By the time Raleigh signed up for the organization in October 2013, the Oath Keepers had established a reputation as a fringe group with some violent tendencies. Multiple members had been arrested on charges ranging from weapons to explosives to sexual assault of a minor, according to a 2010 article by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

In 2012, the ADL labeled the Oath Keepers an “anti-government extremist group.” The group’s revolutionary rhetoric and militia-style organization was drawing the attention of mainstream news outlets including ABC, Reuters and the New York Times. They had also received coverage in the law enforcement outlet POLICE Magazine, as well as in right-wing news sources.

Jake Hyman, a representative for ADL, said they would not be disclosing the names of other Minnesotans who appeared in the database in order to protect the identities of private citizens. The database — along with chat logs and other materials — was initially obtained by Distributed Denial of Secrets, an independent investigative reporting group. 

None of the Minnesota law enforcement officers who appeared in the roster were police chiefs or sheriffs. Hyman added that “ADL has been in contact with each law enforcement agency affected by our report and we continue to work with them in addressing the challenges of extremism within their ranks.”

Raleigh says he has “no idea about” what the Oath Keepers are up to today, but he added that “from what I’ve heard they’ve taken a very dark turn and I absolutely do not support anything that has to do with insurrection.” 

Unlike other officeholders who have proudly advertised their affiliation with the fringe group, Raleigh has not promoted or spoken favorably about the Oath Keepers in public appearances.  

Part of his re-election pitch to voters in his district is that his “voting record has been very, very bipartisan.” 

Raleigh acknowledged that in 2021 he went to a South Dakota conference where prominent election denier Mike Lindell repeatedly made false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Raleigh said he came away unconvinced of Lindell’s claims and told his Republican colleagues that when he returned home. He added he believed Joe Biden was elected legitimately and he has no concerns about the integrity of the 2020 election.

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Christopher Ingraham
Christopher Ingraham

Christopher Ingraham covers greater Minnesota and reports on data-driven stories across the state. He's the author of the book "If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now," about his family's journey from the Baltimore suburbs to rural northwest Minnesota. He was previously a data reporter for the Washington Post.