Derek Skees’ Oath to the Constitution isn’t Optional
It came as no surprise that Rep. Derek Skees published a guest opinion that tried to cast himself as the victim after legislators and community members rallied to hold him accountable for his attack on Montana’s esteemed constitution. You don’t need a legal degree to understand why Skees’ recent statements are dangerous and misleading, but it’s important to speak plainly about why people should be alarmed. It’s too easy to get drawn into unrelated issues that Skees tossed around in his op-ed.
When Skees took his oath of office, he literally pledged to uphold the constitution. It’s a fundamental requirement of his duties as a state legislator. If he doesn’t believe in that oath or the state’s guiding document, then his district should be served by someone who does. We cannot allow legislators who refuse to uphold the state or U.S. constitutions to serve.
When an editorial by Lee Newspapers suggested that Skees should be “forcibly removed” from office, it’s clear that they were referring to an orderly legislative process to end his time as an elected official since he will not voluntarily resign.
It is tempting to laugh off Skees’ actions or dismiss his flippant statement as a fringe idea. However, he and other extremists are working to set the stage for a GOP supermajority in the 2023 Montana Legislature. Their attempts to attack people’s basic rights keep failing in the courts due to Montana’s robust and balanced constitution, and their response is to amass political power that could allow them to “throw out” (Skees’ own words) Montana’s constitution altogether.
Sadly, Skees is not alone in this effort. Several operatives are trying to normalize the idea that, back in 1972, community-minded delegates got it all wrong when they established strong, thoughtful protections for freedom and liberty in Montana.
If a constitutional convention happened in our current, politically hostile environment, it could mean the end to many basic rights. We could lose essential protections for:
Freedom of speech
Equal protection under the law
A clean and healthful environment
Privacy regarding health care
It is disappointing to see Skees try to garner sympathy when he is held accountable for his own actions, but this is a pattern in his behavior. In July 2021, Skees served as the emcee for the Red Pill Festival , which featured various conspiracy mongers and a keynote address by domestic terrorist Matt Shea , who was involved in three armed conflicts with law enforcement officers. The event also showcased multiple speakers warning about imminent civil war against “the government”.
In a 2010 interview, Skees alluded to attending the “Liberty Convention,” which featured antisemitic tax protestor Red Beckman and various speakers from the militia movement. One speaker, Alaska’s Schaeffer Cox, told attendees that his home state was “on the edge of blood in the streets,” and his militia of 3,500 men was ready. By June 2012, Cox had been convicted and sentenced for conspiracy to kill federal law enforcement officers and possession of illegal weapons.
In 2010, Skees also attended a conference sponsored by the militia-based Oath Keepers in Helena. Oath Keepers was one of the main organizers of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. It’s not surprising to see Skees’ contempt for the Montana Constitution, considering the amount of time he spends with anti-government activists who dream and fantasize about war with “the government.”
Here in Montana, we tend to trust people’s oaths and promises. Skees can’t have it both ways. If he wants to default on his oath to uphold Montana’s constitution, then he should vacate his seat and find another line of work where he doesn’t violate his oath of office.
Please contact your representative plus Democratic and Republican leaders and tell them that violating the oath of office is grounds for removal from office.