In 1996, Rife Kimler served as chairman of the Texas chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which, he said, is not racist.
The Beaumont Enterprise, Oct. 22, 2002
BEAUMONT – Rife Kimler, the Republican candidate for state House District 21, has a history of participation in activities that civil rights groups consider racist.
In 1996, he served as chairman of the Texas chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that monitors hate activity.
“They are plain nasty,” said Mark Potok, spokesman for the Montgomery, Ala.-based center. “They are a straight-up racist group.”
Kimler, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Allan Ritter in the Nov. 5 election, confirmed that he served as chairman of the council, which, he said, is not racist. He said his involvement in the council lapsed a few years ago.
The council, he said, is based on “traditional American values” that were prevalent in the 1950s: family, country and God.
“I think they’re doing a pretty good job of promoting traditional values,” he said.
The council opposes government-sponsored “race-preference programs” such as affirmative action, quotas and forced integration “that are bestowed on nonwhites and other preferred minorities at taxpayer expense,” according to its Web site.
It also stands against “the tide of nonwhite, Third World immigrants swamping this country,” the Web site states.
The Web site also says, “There is no acceptable substitute for the civilization that has evolved through the Greeks, Romans, Celts and Anglo-Saxons.” It goes on to say that it does not support oppression or exploitation of other races or ethnic groups.
The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that combats anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, describes the council as a white supremacist group that is more polished than traditional extremists.
The Jefferson County Republican chairman defended Kimler. State party officials did not return telephone calls seeking comment.
Kimler’s activities are monitored and documented in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s database, Potok said.
The database shows that Kimler, 39, attended a June 1999 skinhead concert that was sponsored by the Hammerskins, which Potok described as among “the scariest of white supremacist groups.” The Hammerskins, he said, are extremely violent and largely prison-based.
Kimler, a criminal defense lawyer, confirmed that he went to the concert but thought the event took place before 1999.
He said he went because he had become friends with Charles Lee, the man who owned the property where the concert was held. He represented Lee, a leader in a Ku Klux Klan faction, in a 1994 lawsuit with the Texas Commission on Human Rights.
Lee was a Klan write-in candidate for governor in 1986. He was grand dragon of the White Camelia Knights of the Ku Klux Klan when Kimler represented him in the lawsuit.
“I don’t have any problem representing unpopular people,” Kimler said.
Kimler also said he went to the concert because he was curious to see what it would be like.
“I’ve never been willing to take other people’s word for anything,” he said.
Kimler has a tattoo on his right arm of the Nazi insignia and a Flemish volunteer who fought with the Germans in World War II. He can’t remember when he got it, but it was many years ago, he said.
The Flemish volunteer joined the Germans to combat Soviet communism, Kimler said.
“He’s just a guy that I admire a great deal because of his determination and loyalty to his comrades,” said Kimler, noting that the soldier once stayed behind in battle to ward off the Soviets.
Ritter said he had heard Kimler had some tattoos.
“But I don’t know him, don’t know anything about him,” he said. “I don’t know what to say other than I’m running on what we’re going to do here in Southeast Texas and not running on what my opponent has or has not done.”
The Texas Republican Party did not return phone calls for comment.
“I know Rife is by no stretch of the imagination a racist or a bigot,” said Larry LaRousse, chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party.
Kimler has never said anything to give him that impression, he said.
LaRousse said he had never heard of the Council of Conservative Citizens and wondered how long ago Kimler got the tattoo.
“I was a long-haired hippie 30 years ago,” LaRousse said. “That doesn’t mean that’s how I am now.”
LaRousse said Kimler is well-respected within the black community because he has represented its members well.
About half of Kimler’s clients are black, the lawyer said.
“What you have to look at is how you conduct your practice on a day to day basis,” he said.