UPDATE: Jason K. Cornett, of the Watauga County Board of Education, does not work at App State Police Department as his Twitter biography information had previously indicated. The biography has been changed as of 9/15/22.
HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — Thousands of names in all 50 states were found on the database of members of the right-wing extremist militia group the Oath Keepers leaked in September of 2021 by Distributed Denial of Secrets.
Among those names were hundreds of police officers, elected officials, military members and first responders, the ADL reported last week in an extensive breakdown.
That includes over a thousand possible members of the group here in North Carolina, with multiple police officers and elected officials appearing on the breakdown.
The ADL is not disseminating the names of citizens who appeared on the database with the exception of elected officials. Being listed on the database is not an indication of active, current membership or participation with the Oath Keepers.
Two of the three elected officials on the database discussed their inclusion in some capacity in 2021 after the initial leak. Keith Kidwell is quoted as telling RawStory: “I am not going to exacerbate a theft of data from any organization, I’m going to refuse comment since the information was ill-gotten. That is just protection of people’s rights.”
ProPublica reported in 2021 that Representative Mike Clampitt “went to a few Oath Keepers meetings when he joined back in 2014, but the way he participates now is by being a state legislator.”
Keith Kidwell, House Majority Deputy Whip
Keith Kidwell is a Republican representing the 79th District, including Beaufort and Craven Counties, in Eastern North Carolina. He was elected in 2019 and has served two terms and is currently listed on the NC Legislature website as the House Majority Deputy Whip.
Information from the Oath Keepers database indicates his potential or purported involvement since 2012, three years after the group's founding.
Kidwell is listed as a member of several standing House committees, including agriculture, commerce, environment, 'Judiciary 4,' marine resources and aquaculture and regulatory reform. He is listed as a chairman of the banking and finance committees.
The most recent bill Kidwell is listed as a primary sponsor of is called "Parent's Right to Know and Student Welfare," introduced on May 27, 2022. This bill would prevent school health officials from withholding information about a child from their parents, with the exception of if a "reasonably prudent" person thought that the information would lead to abuse.
It also seeks to prevent education about sexual orientation and gender identity at any grade level below sixth, and limit instruction on it to what is deemed "age-appropriate" beyond that.
These types of bills have been proposed in other states and have faced criticism for concerns that they would give school officials an avenue to "out" young people questioning their gender or sexual orientation.
Rep. Kidwell has not responded to a request for an updated comment.
Mike Clampitt is a Republican who represents the 119th District, which encompasses parts of Jackson, Haywood and Swain Counties, who was elected first in 2016 and again in 2020. NC Legislature's website identifies him as a retired fire captain in the Charlotte area.
Information from the Oath Keepers database indicates involvement since 2014, which is seemingly confirmed by comments to ProPublica where he indicated he "attended some meetings" in 2014. Clampitt is also a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
Rep. Clampitt is listed as a member of several committees: appropriations, agriculture and natural and economic resources, education and 'judiciary 3.' He is the chairman of the committee of federal relations and Indian Affairs and the vice chairman of wildlife resources.
His most recently introduced bill, introduced on July 26th, was a revision to concealed carry permit laws, which passed but was vetoed by Governor Cooper. The bill would have allowed concealed carry permit holders who allowed their permit to get another permit without taking an additional firearms safety and training course.
Rep. Clampitt has not responded to a request for an updated comment.
Jason K. Cornett
There is no available biography on the Watauga County Schools website for Cornett. His public Facebook page says in the extended about section, "Being a law enforcement officer for almost 15 years I bring a competent perspective to the Board of Education." North Carolina voting records indicate Cornett is registered as a Republican, and he has consistently voted Republican since 2006 when he was registered in Avery County.
"I am not a politician. I am a member of this community," he wrote on his Facebook. A Twitter page that appeared to be connected to Cornett indicated that he works for the App State Police Department and is a pastor at Three Forks Baptist Church in Creston, however App State clarified that Cornett has not worked for the university's police department since 2020.
Watauga County Schools had no comment when reached for a response.
Jason K. Cornett has not responded to a request for comment.
What are Oath Keepers?
The Southern Poverty Law Center says that the Oath Keepers were founded in 2009 by Elmer "Stewart" Rhodes, a former paratrooper and Yale Law School Graduate. The group was officially launched with a rally in Lexington, Massachusetts, on Apr. 19, 2009, as a reaction to the election of President Barack Obama.
The SPLC says that the group, a highly militaristic anti-government militia, consists of national leadership and state, county and local chapters.
Nearly two dozen Oath Keepers have been charged in connection with the January 6 insurrection at the capitol, including a former police officer from Thomasville, Laura Steele.
According to the ADL, someone identified on the database as "an educator and pastor based in White Oak, North Carolina" wrote to the group that "his skills include, 'Public speaking, membership drives, have current access and interaction with many current and retired servicemembers through church and my current work as quality control director for a [sic] assault weapons manufacturer.'"
North Carolina House Majority Whip Jon Hardister, who represents Guilford County, House Speaker Tim Moore and the North Carolina GOP have all been reached for a comment and have not responded.