James M. Knott Sr.

Heritage member James M. Knott, Sr. started a small business—and had to face down regulators.

No one knows better than James Knott, Sr. the dangers and frustrations overzealous regulatory agencies impose on small business owners. In fact, among the issues that concern him most is our “lack of control over bureaucrats.”

And no wonder: Knott, a Heritage Foundation member since 1999, has faced challenges from both OSHA and the EPA at Riverdale Mills Corporation, where he serves as president. However, having “experienced attempted brutality by bureaucrats” has only strengthened his conservative beliefs.

Knott represents many Americans who have worked hard as entrepreneurs. Ever since his honorable discharge in 1956 from the United States Army as a first lieutenant, he has been self-employed. Riverdale Mills provides products used for lobster traps, erosion control, poultry farm flooring and security fencing.

But in 1997, bureaucrats in Washington butted in.

When the EPA raided his business that year, Knott fought back. Facing a $1.5 million dollar fine and up to six years in prison for alleged environmental pollution at Riverdale, he stood up to the agency. They “threatened me . . . with falsified evidence,” Knott says. “I proved it in court.”

Knott refused to cow to their bullying: “They offered me five or six hundred thousand dollars if I would not expose them.” Instead, his case received national attention, airing on 60 Minutes.

He faced down a later challenge from OSHA, the agency charged with enforcing workplace safety rules.

There is a place for regulations, Knott acknowledges. “If someone is, in fact, polluting the environment illegally or subjecting employees to hazardous working conditions, then they ought to face the music,” he says.

But when small business owners are subjected to excessive regulation, he adds, they are unable to use “their limited resources on capital investment, product development, job creation and worker training.”

Perhaps appropriately, Knott and his business have received awards for excellence in both areas government regulators have challenged. In 1999, he received the Massachusetts Governor’s Award for Toxics Use Reduction, and in 2002 Riverdale Mills received an Industrial Award of Merit from the National Safety Council’s Central Massachusetts chapter.

Today, Knott devotes his time and energy to the conservative cause. He knows firsthand the importance of issues like regulatory reform and uses Heritage resources to inform others. “I study [Heritage reports] and forward them on to dozens of friends, relatives, and acquaintances,” he says.

Comments (26)

Bill Parrott - January 6, 2012

The way the bureaucrats (unelected honchos) run rough shod over the constitution and laws in our nations is mind boggling. I fear them and would like to see them go away. Maybe their agencies. HA!

Everett L. Easley - January 6, 2012

Hooray for Mr Knott. We need people like him in, and we should be putting people of his character, and willingness to stand up for the constitution and oppose the brashness of people who are our employees.

Richard Summerville - January 6, 2012

Bless you, Mr. Knott.

Ralph & Mary Kay Duerden - January 6, 2012

My hat is off to you for fighting them. Keep it up. Makes me sick what is happening to the U.S. citizen.

RMart - January 6, 2012

I have sent an e mail to my representative and also to Mitch Mcconnell strongly urging them to take immediate steps to stop the presidents unconstitutional actions..The congress MUST step up this power grab by Obama otherwise the Constitution will be meaningless..I urge everyone to do the same

D Bryson - January 6, 2012


What has happened to those who wanted to sue Him ?

Gary L Thompson - January 6, 2012

It is stories like this that makes me impatient with the lassitude of the House of Representives elected by the Tea Party in 2010, and with the mindless bleating by bloggers of “Impeach Obama” (that’s what was done with Clinton, starting at the top with three narrowly tailored charges against an administration whose top members were all facing indictment, and we all saw how well that worked).

The Tea Party should start kindling a fire under the seat of the U.S. House members they are most closely tied with, to draw up indictments of impeachment of low-level bureaucrats engaged in egregious persecution of American citizens (such as as the example presented here of falsifying evidence and bribery in a criminal investigation). Sen. Ted Stevens was able to get away with pronouncements that the Senate had no intention of convicting Clinton even if rape was proved against him–but would he have, if the impeachment was actually the culmination of hundreds of impeachments targeting anonymous low-level officials guilty of outrageously illegal and cruel abuse of average taxpayers, complete with these underlings starting to give up their superiors to save their own hides? If the Senate had cavalierly shown contempt and indifference to those types of impeachments over a long time, an aroused public would have tossed them out of Washington long ago. If some determined House members start coming to the defense of victimized citizens like James Knott Sr., it makes no difference if Baynor-led leadership refuses to indict, and the Senate refuses to convict, and the media tries to cover up–if the House members who truly care about their constituents were to be canny in selecting cases which were consistently egregious and flagrant, eventually the voters would catch on that large segments of the Congress and media are perfectly fine with citizens being abused–and punish them accordingly in 2012.

Bert Crawford - January 6, 2012

I salute this man for his courage and dedication not to give into the threat of government regulations. The dep has tried to run over me a couple times in regards to our drinking water distribution system, with threats and intimidation that were not true??

Ellen Huet - January 6, 2012

Thank God for leaders like this!

Jim Lovell - January 7, 2012

What do you expect from this administration, they appear to have no understanding, or don’t care, about the consequences of excessive regulations on business and the economy. Their motivation appears to be to increase their power, influence, and to placate their own special interests.

Delfin J Beltran MD - January 7, 2012

Why are these government employees and officers not brought to trial for thier criminal, dictatorial actions?

Peter - January 7, 2012

Should not those bureaucrats who bring such malicious suits be punished? These folks must be held accountable in much the same way a private citizen is accountable. For that matter, a bureaucrat must be held to a higher standard.

Allen - January 7, 2012

I thank God for men like James Knott!

Ronald k. Sherbert - January 7, 2012

Thank you mr. knott for your courageto stand up to
OSHA. what the Goverment does not understandis
that small bussiness create 40% of average paying
jobs. Barrak Obasma mst be Impreached!
Yours Ronald K Sherbert

A. M. Echols - January 7, 2012

Yes, conservatives appreciate the front line battles of Mr. Knox. Yet, what what made me stop and THINK were the comments by Gary L. Thompson. I recognize a kindred soul whose wisdom that must be based on experience and which stands out above the usual run of the mill comments. I hope that the Heritage Foundation truly examine his comments and perhaps further elucidate upon the matter.

Grant Richter - January 7, 2012

Thank you Mr. Knott for standing up against the bureaucrats. Additionally our elected representatives should be firing EPA and OSHA senior people when their agencies make unfounded charges. These agencies should make sure they have ALL, ALL the facts before moving forward to shut down a business. Most of these bureaucrats have never worked in private business. They need to realize their jobs are also NOT set in concrete and they need to perform their work based on facts and not on quotas set by office chair managers in Washington.

Lincoln Craighead - January 7, 2012

It seems that the Obama people have been trained in the Chicago atmosphere where the corrupt system routinely
bends or violates the rules without challenge. Obama is owned by the unions and his moves to appoint union
people to the NRLB are outrageous evidence of it.

Chester Buras - January 7, 2012

I nominate Mr Knott to run for the US Senate seat
representing Massachusetts!

Grant Hansel - January 7, 2012

My Two OSHA “inspections” closely followed disciplinary
situations – Neither was random, and both involved large penalties – the 1980 inspection attempted to fault machinery that had been passed at its previous owners site, – the second (2003) offered to cut penalties in half if they were not protested – (has that practice been exposed??)
I closed my business (Taunton, Mass) in 2006 – It was founded in 1844, and we employed up to 100 each year, and manuufactured school products. Mr Knott and I both began in our companies at about the same time – My biggest failing has been to trust that the laws and practices which existed in the 50’s have survived – they HAVE NOT

Stephen Bernardy - January 8, 2012

Until there is a deterrent to bullying by “our government”, either in the form of monetary, although this is kind of like paying ourselves, or jail time, in the same prisons we would be sent, there will continue to be governmentatl jack booted thugs.

robert louis parkhill - January 8, 2012

When the government is provably wrong they should pay a prison penalty’. Of course the truly responsible government officials will shield themselves and throw some lower level schmuck into the fire. Agency heads must learn that deniability does not excuse their actions.

Nick King - January 9, 2012

Thanks for standing strong. Those of us trying to do the job right seem to be the primary target of OSHA, CMS, Dept. of Labor, etc. Every fired employee can file a false claim at no expense and cost us 10 to 20 K to have it dismissed or file a fair practices complaint looking for a quick whistle blower settlement. I used to settle to save expense, now we go the distance. Only problem is the system does not allow me or you to recoup the expense for beating legal blackmail claims.

HistorianMI - January 10, 2012

Two comments: Someone has said that the power to tax is the power to destroy; I posit that the power to regulate is also the power to destroy. Both claims have been proven, I believe, often.
Second: I believe that bureaucrats such as those who victimized Mr. Knott also know this; Weakening small businesses is their intent.. Small businesses are, indeed, the creators of jobs; Obama and his cohorts have no interest in helping small businesses be successful, and have minimal interest in lowering the double-digit actual unemployment rate.

robert louis parkhill - January 13, 2012

I thought all governmental funding came through Congress.
Does Obama have some special source of funding? If so what is it?.He is opening new agencies right and left- How is he funding them?

Marie Fraley - March 1, 2012

I echo RMart–our voices need to ring in the ears of
our representatives. We need to be as active as Mr.
Knott (and I wish to thank him) in defending
our liberties when and where it is demanded. Never before has there been such demand.

Karen Kilgore - March 6, 2012

Looks like you’re still going strong and fighting the fight.
I moved to California (Gold Country) in 2008 so I wouldn’t have to commute.

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