“It appears this is the latest of a series of attacks perpetrated by militant extremists who believe they can advance their extreme agenda by destroying lives and jobs.” Those are the words of U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), responding in an official statement yesterday to Monday morning’s $1.5 million arson of a commercial lumberyard in his home state. “These are criminal acts,” Hatch continued, “and we need to put a stop to eco-terrorists and to any group giving them aid or comfort.” We’ve added the emphasis to this last phrase, because it’s worth emphasizing. The domestic terrorists of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) — the shadowy, violent group that claimed responsibility for Monday’s arson in a fax to Salt Lake City radio station KSL — have exactly one known source of material support. The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) made a $1,500 donation to the ELF in 2001. KSL News is also reporting that the ELF has merged with its long-time sister group the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) “into one anarchist collective.” (The same ALF that PETA has called “The Army of the Kind.”)

PETA’s other financial support of terrorists includes a $45,200 gift to convicted animal-rights arsonist Rodney Coronado and a $7,500 payment to Fran Stephanie Trutt, who pleaded guilty to trying to kill a medical research executive. PETA also paid $2,000 to David Wilson, who was the ALF’s “spokesperson” in 1997 when it claimed responsibility for firebombing the Utah Fur Breeders Agricultural Co-op — an institution that’s (literally) just down the street from Monday’s arson target. Wilson, incidentally, cut his teeth on animal rights as a PETA intern.

PETA’s $1,500 gift to the ELF may have bought a lot of mayhem. Just last year, Rodney Coronado himself demonstrated how to build an incendiary firebomb — in front of an American University activist crowd — for “about two dollars.” PETA, of course, denies that its gift was earmarked for anything violent. When asked by reporters to explain the purpose of funding America’s biggest domestic terrorist threat, PETA reps have given eight different and contradictory answers.

We presume Senator Hatch is serious about putting a stop to those who provide “aid and comfort” to domestic terrorists, so we have a modest proposal. It’s time to cancel the tax-exempt status of groups like PETA who support violence on the public’s dime.