RAPID CITY, S.D. — A Black Hills Republican legislator has been linked to an alt-right organization that took part in the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol.
Rep. Phil Jensen, of Rapid City, was outed as a member of the Oath Keepers in a story published Tuesday, Oct. 19, by Rolling Stone. The revelation comes from a trove of documents released to an internet transparency group, according to the Rolling Stone story, about the group that helped fuel the illegal breach of the U.S. Capitol in early January.
The Oath Keepers are a a militaristic organization called an "antigovernment movement" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to the SPLC, Oath Keepers typically support an extreme position on gun rights and have sparked vigilante standoffs by conducting armed patrols of protests.
Jensen is not accused of participating in the D.C. riot or taking part in any way in the Jan. 6 attack. But he is one of only three legislators across the country to be named in the membership rolls, which were secured by a hacker and then released to Rolling Stone.
According to Rolling Stone, Jensen joined the extremist group in 2014, signing up with his government email, though the record release did not show Jensen's current status with the group.
As of September, five members of the Oath Keepers have pleaded guilty to participating in the Washington, D.C., attacks on Jan. 6, according to U.S. News and World Report. Other group members took part in occupation of federal lands in Nevada and Oregon.
Jensen has been a member of both the South Dakota House of Representatives and Senate, first elected in 2009.
Jensen has not responded to a request for comment from Forum News Service to confirm his involvement in the group. The District 33 legislator, however, has earned a reputation in the South Dakota Statehouse as representing an ultra-conservative wing of the Republican supermajority. In the 2021 legislative session, Jensen brought a resolution to celebrate Black History Month that mostly amounted to a partisan attack on Democrats, in which he stated many overlook "or ignore this country's positive record on race and slavery." The bill was eventually voted down almost unanimously by the House chamber.
Jensen also has brought bills to allow business owners to ban transgender persons from the premise and outlaw vaccine mandates.
South Dakota remains one of the few states in the union to yet report an arrested or prosecution for participation in the Jan. 6 attacks, though previous reporting by Forum News Service found South Dakotans, including a handful from the Black Hills, attended a protest that preceded the Capitol breach.