Friends of the San Juans styles itself an environmental protection group. It might better be described as a protection racket.
When the owners of the modest Lopez Islander Resort decided to spruce up and slightly expand their facility, they filed for the appropriate permits in anticipation of a reasonable process. After all, the resort has been around since the end of World War II and its success is tied to the natural environment around it. No one, least of all the resort owners, want to despoil that environment.
Yet the Friends of the San Juans jumped into action to oppose the upgrades. The group has a reputation for looking the other way when Friends supporters actually violate environmental rules, but for bringing vicious harassment against others. Perhaps revealingly, the Friends quickly started soliciting for donations to help it stop the local business. The implication seems to be that financial support for the Friends buys protection.
The Friends benefit from a system of environmental laws and rules that subvert basic standards of justice. People are not innocent until proven guilty, but complaints are assumed valid unless a property owner can show otherwise. Often it costs tens of thousands of dollars.
In the Lopez Islander Resort case, the owners finally won. The only result of the Friends action? The owners reportedly lost over $100,000—money wasted on an unnecessary court battle. Again, that money was wasted in a process that, unlike normal economic transactions, did not create wealth.
Wait, there was one other result. The Friends raised an undisclosed sum of money, which went to pay their own friends to harass their neighbors and damage their community’s economy.
With Friends like these, who needs the mafia?
Watch the stories of real people hurt by bureaucracy, often teaming up with radical groups like Friends of the San Juans, in the Freedom Foundation’s Tales of Tyranny series.