116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A gallon of milk costs just 20 cents at Wheatland Grocery & Meats - but only if you pay with coins minted before 1965.
“If we still had real money, that's what milk would be costing,” store owner Rodney Lange said.
The milk promotion is designed to get Lange's customers thinking about price inflation under the state and federal governments. If grocery buyers miss that lesson, they might notice the Ron Paul posters in the store or the “Don't Tread on Me” flag over the meat counter.
Lange, 49, of Lowden, is the newly elected governor of the Republic for Iowa, a state branch of a national group that believes America's original form of government was usurped by what they describe as the United States Corporation.
The Republic for Iowa and the Republic for the United States of America were thrust into the national spotlight last month when Randi Shannon, a 46-year-old home schooling mom and entrepreneur, dropped out of the Iowa Senate District 34 race to become a senator in the Republics.
“This is a lawful form of government,” Shannon told Mike Huckabee, former U.S. presidential candidate turned TV and radio host, in a July 19 interview. “We had this prior to 1871, when our government incorporated. This has been a deception perpetrated on the people.”
National exposure in a presidential election year has given the usually under-the-radar movement a new platform, said Tim Hagle, an associate University of Iowa political science professor.
“These folks are very interested in a smaller government, a much different government,” Hagle said. “They have had an influence in the GOP.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit organization aimed at fighting hate groups, includes the Republic for the United States of America among 1,274 “antigovernment ‘Patriot' groups” active in 2011.
“Generally, Patriot groups define themselves as opposed to the ‘New World Order', engage in groundless conspiracy theorizing or advocate or adhere to extreme antigovernment doctrines,” the center reports.
In isolated cases, some Patriot group members have used violence against government officials, earning them a spot on the center's watchlist.
Lange, a grizzled grocer known for grinding superb sausage, says he follows most laws. He keeps his food fresh and store clean because he wants his customers to be safe. Wheatland Grocery had no critical violations on its 2012 health department inspection.
On a recent Monday morning, a customer wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy” buys five pounds of hamburger, six pork chops and some rib-eye that Lange slices himself.
Another customer, Cheryl Kastantin, of Wheatland, says people drive from as far as Maquoketa and DeWitt for Lange's meat.
“I like Rodney and I don't mind his signs,” she said about the Ron Paul placards. “He's the only grocery store in town.”
Lange, who is not married and has no children, serves on volunteer fire departments for Wheatland and Lowden.
But Lange ran crosswise of the Lowden City Council in 2011 when he didn't get a permit to put a garage on his property.
Magistrate Theresa Seeberger ordered him to pay $250 and bring the garage within compliance of city code. Instead, Lange sued the magistrate, City Council and city attorney in federal court.
“Defendants mean while [sic] attempt to impose totalitarian socialism upon We the People, although such a system is antithesis of the Constitution,” Lange wrote in his June 22 lawsuit filed with the Northern District of Iowa.
Seeberger asked the court this week to dismiss the complaint.
Using passages from historical court cases to bolster the cause is common for members of the Republics, Hagle said.
To support the argument that a corporation has taken over the government, the Republics cite the 1871 U.S. Supreme Court ruling Downes v. Bidwell, in which Justice Marshall Harlan wrote in his dissent: “Two national governments exist; one to be maintained under the Constitution, with all its restrictions; the other to be maintained by Congress outside and Independently of that Instrument.”
The Republic movement in Iowa not only disagrees with the current system of government, but members can't seem to get along with each other.
Lange's and Shannon's group is separate from theRepublic of Iowa (notice “of” instead of “for”), which has 30 to 50 active members and more than 250 people on its mailing list, said Druyor Knight, of Fairfield, who is the governor of that branch.
“They think the federal group should be running the show,” Knight said about Shannon's delegation. “The majority of us have decided to separate from what the national is doing.”
Both groups hold monthly meetings and are recruiting new members.
Lange has recently signed bills to establish a treasury, which collects money and pays expenses, and the Iowa Rangers, which Lange described as a police-type group that enforces the U.S. Constitution. He had little information how this group would work, but he said there are people eager to become rangers.
Promoting the Republic's beliefs in Iowa isn't hard, Lange said. “I talk with more people every day who know something is wrong,” he said.
But not all Republicans want to go this direction.
“I don't know anything about the Republic of Iowa and I don't have an interest in learning about it,” said Steve Armstrong, Linn County GOP chairman.
The group will meet Monday to select a replacement for Shannon in the District 34 race against Democrat Liz Mathis.