By Bob Ferris
“AMRA is different than all other non-profit associations, we don’t give you a T-shirt or a bumper sticker for a donation, we give you access to our gold claims. Proven claims. We own these claims, and most have been used to provide us with our incomes. We are expanding our claim holdings in as many states as we possibly can and access to these claims will be provided to our members. Our wish would be that every member who mines our claims makes back any donation to us in gold.” AMRA website
Those who have read my blogs and other writings know that I do not suffer bullies (real or cyber), truth-benders, fools or those who purposely ignore laws gladly. And with Shannon Poe of the American Mining Rights Association we have all four.
My first encounter with Mr. Poe (and his present or one-time fiance Ms. Grossman) was when someone told me that he was challenging me to a debate on the AMRA Facebook page. As he never directly contacted me and I was unaware that there was a virtual chair waiting for my posterior, I was a little bothered when he publicly criticized me for not having the courage to show up—I believe there was even a mention of some missing body parts at one time. He riffed on that for a while until I found out and actually visited his site. I then asked him to defend several statements he made in one of his too, too long video rants.
I had many issues with his video that was circulated during the debates on Oregon suction dredge legislation. But the one gem that I really wanted an answer on was his statement that people along the rivers in Oregon—if those rivers were designated as state scenic waterways—would have to go through an environmental impact process to plant tomatoes. Really?
We had some give and take on this and I kept asking the same questions, which he never answered. His response was to insult me personally (again) and when he realized that he could not defend his statements and respond to rational questions, he banned me from the AMRA site and removed that portion of the dialog. The whole incidence bothered me so I took a few minutes to try to figure out who and what AMRA was.
My research led me to the fairly functioning AMRA website and on the site they claimed to be a non-profit company. But in other areas of the site and elsewhere they describe themselves variously as a 501(c)3 entity or as having applied for non-profit status with the IRS. Since it is illegal in California to solicit funds for non-profit purposes unless you are a registered non-profit, I thought that I would check in with the State of California and the IRS (see above status report). As he was not registered with either, I filed a simple complaint form with the Attorney General’s Office in Sacramento (see below result). And that was that. Until I saw a video posted on our friends and campaign partners the Fish Not Gold site in Washington State.
Not satisfied with the non-profit violations, Mr. Poe thought that he would rip a page out of Cliven Bundy’s play book and publicly suction dredge in Idaho without the required EPA permit. His video even stated that he did not have a permit and it included captioning identifying AMRA as a non-profit, which is clearly not the case. Now I will admit that the federal and state law enforcement agencies have their hands full with a bumper crop of public land duffuses at this point, but the fact that Mr. Poe seems to beg for it and provides his own video evidence should move him to the front portion of this large class. I would add that given the challenges that salmonids in the West are facing with water flows and temperatures at this juncture, his “my rights were given me by God” action was particularly poorly timed for the fish.
Now I suppose he could use the Glenn Beck I-got-caught-up-in-the-moment-and-was-spewing-crap defense for his earlier video statements. After all the camera was running and he therefore had to say something—but his actions in Idaho are something different. That is also true for his continued claims of being a non-profit even after being sent a notice by the California Attorney General’s Office of problems with his operation and being rejected on similar grounds when he applied for a raffle permit earlier this year (see below).
And I am still trying to sort out all the problems with the opening statement of this piece from the AMRA website. All I can conclude is that Mr. Poe is a big fan of Tom Sawyer. My conclusion is drawn from his concept that people will pay him to be able to work his claims and then give him back the fruits of their labor—in gold, mind you—so that he can buy more claims, pay legal fees or protect their rights as he sees fit. But the fact that he and others are not required to return their findings to the “non-profit” indicates that he is self-dealing and that they are getting value for the contribution which means it is not a donation nor is it tax deductible even if they were legally a 501c3 non-profit. In point of fact it makes him exactly like every other mining club selling access, only he wants his miners to return what they find.
Now I will be the first to admit that running a non-profit is complicated. It isn’t simply a case of paying LegalZoom and then getting a tax number so you can open a bank account. There are federal filings and state applications as well as officers, meetings, bylaws and minutes to deal with. Believing a $149 payment gets you a soup-to-nuts solution and a fully-fledged non-profit not needing care and feeding is a lot like thinking having sex is all there is to raising kids. As we can see by the above dialog on the AMRA Facebook page, Mr. Poe is clearly out of his depth when it comes to the legal requirements for non-profits and thinking that these bare minimum, cookie-cutter Articles of Incorporation are a "license" of any type is telling and indicates his lack of sophistication in this arena.
"showing that miners are not just uninformed, uneducated folks with scratchy beards and missing teeth as our opposition seems to picture us." AMRA Website
On one of their pages AMRA bemoans the fact that the public does not have a good impression of suction dredge miners and others who search for gold (see above). I can understand that concern. But exactly what impression should the public have of a group of people that continually and publicly misrepresent the science, disregard the laws of our country and act in a threatening, belligerent and bullying manner? This is not really a matter of underpowered public relations, but a consistent and well documented pattern of behavior that makes the rest of us less and less willing to tolerate these machines and this we-are-beyond-the-law culture in our precious waterways.