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Angle Backers Sending Death Threats, Suggests Her NV Tea Party Rival Scott Ashjian

A secret recording released publicly for "protection." Allegations of death threats. A leaked audio tape released by John Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun on Sunday, of a meeting between Nevada Republican Senate candidate Sharon Angle and her Tea Party opponent for US Senate, Scott Ashjian, is reminiscent of a scene from The Godfather. The objective of the Nevada meeting, from Sharron Angle's point of view at least, was to convince Scott Ashjian to drop out. During the talk, Angle emotionally declares she's "not sure I can win" against Harry Reid with Ashjian still in the race.

Ashjian's agenda was more complex. He emphasized his principled desire to change American political culture through a third party effort and stressed that he is dead-set against both the Republican and Democratic parties, which he considers hopelessly corrupt - though he also made clear that he and Sharron Angle have a great deal in common ideologically. But there were darker undertones too.

CNN National Political Correspondent Jessica Yellin, quotes Scott Ashjian as saying he recorded the meeting "for my own protection." As the audio recording shows, Ashjian has been deeply offended by personal attacks and lawsuits launched against his candidacy from pro-Angle forces in Nevada.

"death threats over the phone from constituents, not from Democratic constituents"

Regardless of ideological affinity, Scott Ashjian seemed deeply upset at what he describes as death threats and harassment, which he suggested are not coming from Democrats who, he notes, are probably thrilled about his candidacy. Ashjian seemed to suggest he's getting death threats from Sharron Angle supporters, though he makes clear he doesn't hold Angle in any way responsible.

As Ashjian states at 5:05 in the conversation,

"I have been, for the last year, verbally, physically threatened, had to hire private security, had have to... have had people at my daughter's dance, have been followed, have had my phone tapped, etc., etc., etc."

Later during the nearly 38 minute recording, a notably irritated Ashjian states, at 26:25,

"Understand the harassment and - even today, even last night, even the death threats over the phone from constituents, not from Democratic constituents, because they're probably happy that I'm in the race, is, is such that it's very difficult to get behind people that think like that."

Sharron Angle's advisers assured Scott Ashjian that the harassment and threats are coming from the Republican Party establishment, and they plead with him to support Angle who represents "ultimately what we want to accomplish." Ashjian seemed skeptical.

Meanwhile, Angle and her faction faction stressed that they are not the Republican Party but, instead, are part of a faction working to take over the party both in Nevada and nationally. As Angle told Ashjian, "we have taken over the Washoe County Republican Party [in Nevada]" and Carson City as well.

Taking Over the Republican Party

The insurgent effort to take over the Republican Party, by the religious right, was launched in earnest during the mid 1980's, as leftwing activist Joan Bokaer describes,

The year was 1986. I was on a speaking tour of Iowa, talking about the Religious Right's support for nuclear weapons. As usual, after the talk several people approached me. But this time one woman stood out. She was wearing a mink coat. I remember her because it wasn't often in the nuclear disarmament movement that you see someone wearing a mink coat, especially indoors. As she spoke to me, she was visibly shaking, fighting to hold back tears. She said that she couldn't bear to go to Republican Party meetings anymore and handed me a memo from Pat Robertson. It read:

How to Participate in a Political Party

- Rule the world for God.
- Give the impression that you are there to work for the party, not push an ideology.
- Hide your strength.
- Don't flaunt your Christianity.
- Christians need to take leadership positions. Party officers control political parties and so it is very important that mature Christians have a majority of leadership positions, God willing.

By 1992, as journalist Frederick Clarkson reported that year for Church and State in an article titled The Christian Coalition: On The Road To Victory? - A Special Report From Inside The Pat Robertson Political Machine, the effort had progressed far. In 1994, Robertson's machine helped propel the GOP's takeover of both seats of Congress.

According to a survey commissioned by Campaigns and Elections, conducted in 2000 and published in 2002, by the year 2000, the religious right had established a "strong" position within 18 state Republican Party structures, a "moderate" position within 26, and a "weak" position within seven.

In Nevada, as is common across the United States, a major springboard for lofting religious right political candidates such as Sharron Angle to power is a growing network of megachurches and, as nationally, a major part of the political agenda pushed from rightwing evangelical megachurches in the state has been a sustained attack on gay rights.

At the end of his meeting with Sharron Angle, Scott Ashjian seemed less than convinced, and though it is unlikely mainstream media journalists will notice this, Ashjian's purported death threats from the right were part of an eliminationist political undercurrent - playing would-be fixer at the meeting, in an attempt to smooth over the Angle/Ashjian impasse, was Nevada political eminence Richard Ziser - Harry Reid's opponent for Senate in the 2004 election, whose Nevada megachurch has been linked to an alleged effort to eliminate an entire segment of society in the African nation of Uganda.

Antigay godfather of Nevada

Playing godfather in the drama, as a mediator between the two rightwing rivals at the meeting between Ashjian and Angle, was Nevada businessman-turned culture warrior Richard Ziser - who ran against US senator Harry Reid in the 2004 election. Ziser, who hosted the meeting at his house, has served as president and chairmen of elders at the Canyon Ridge Community Church in Las Vegas which, as evangelical Christian professor Warren Throckmorton has chronicled, has been funding Ugandan evangelist Martin Ssempa, one of the point leaders accused of leading an anti-gay campaign of hatred in Uganda and helping launch the so-called "kill the gays bill" which opponents of the bill accuse of being designed to imprison or execute most or all homosexuals in the country.

As noted in a 2002 Reno News Review story, in 2000 while serving as a top leader at the Canyon Ridge church, Ziser's Coalition For The Protection of Marriage campaigned for Proposition 2, one of the earliest anti-gay marriage state Constitutional amendment ballot initiatives in the United States.

In 2004, when Richard Ziser led an outmatched effort to unseat Democratic Senator Harry Reid, Canyon Ridge Community Church members contributed $2,000 to Ziser's campaign according to OpenSecrets.org, a project of The Center For Responsive Politics.

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