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Oligarchs for Theocracy: Project Blitz, the Council for National Policy, and God’s Insurrection

“One nation under God.” It’s a famil­iar phrase for mod­ern Amer­i­cans, even if it was large­ly a con­struct of cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca dur­ing the New Deal to sell the pub­lic on the idea the cap­i­tal­ism and Chris­tian­i­ty are insep­a­ra­ble. But how about the phrase “One nation under God, and one reli­gion under God”? That was the eye­brow-rais­ing call made by Michael Fly­nn dur­ing an appear­ance at the “Reawak­en Amer­i­ca Tour” at John Hagee’s Cor­ner­stone Church back in Novem­ber. And while it would be nice to dis­miss this kind of theo­crat­ic lan­guage as just the lat­est unhinged com­ment from Fly­nn, it turns out the con­cept of “One nation under God, and one reli­gion under God” is much more pop­u­lar than many Amer­i­can’s would like to assume. Pop­u­lar among the right-wing oli­garchy in par­tic­u­lar. Theoc­ra­cy is pop­u­lar with the pow­er­ful. Imag­ine that.

Yes, it’s theoc­ra­cy brought to you by the Koch net­work, with fig­ures like David Bar­ton — long the GOP’s theo­crat of choice — lead­ing the way. That’s what we’re going to be look­ing at in this post. The Koch-ocra­cy isn’t just a cor­po­ra­toc­ra­cy. It’s theo­crat­ic too. And long been so, out in the open. For exam­ple, recall some of the Bar­ton high­lights we’ve seen over the years:

* In 1993, Bar­ton spoke at the Con­cerned Women for Amer­i­ca con­ven­tion about the Chris­t­ian Recon­struc­tion­ist creed. He says that the basis for Amer­i­can laws should be ‘what­ev­er is Chris­t­ian is legal. What­ev­er isn’t Chris­t­ian is ille­gal.’

* In 2011, Bar­ton and Newt Gin­grich cre­at­ed a video that claimed the US Con­sti­tu­tion aws based on the Old Tes­ta­ment.

* In 2012, Bar­ton teamed up with Glenn Beck to write a ‘con­tro­ver­sial’ book about Thomas Jef­fer­son that argued Jef­fer­son was an ortho­dox Chris­t­ian who did not believe in the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state.

* In ear­ly 2013, we learn that Beck and Bar­ton were going to “go Galt” and cre­ate an entire­ly self-sus­tain­ing inde­pen­dent com­mu­ni­ty that would pro­vide all its own food and ener­gy. At the cen­ter, David Bar­ton will cre­ate a giant “nation­al archive”/learning cen­ter where peo­ple can send their chil­dren to be “depro­grammed” and elect­ed offi­cials can come to learn “the truth.” They just need­ed a cool $2 bil­lion to get it start­ed, which obvi­ous­ly did­n’t hap­pen. But that was the plan. Depro­gram­ming cen­ters for chil­dren co-found­ed with Glenn Beck.

* As Ed Kil­go­re not­ed in 2014, Bar­ton real­ly is the unof­fi­cial his­to­ri­an of the GOP’s “Con­sti­tu­tion­al Con­ser­v­a­tive” cau­cus of elect­ed offi­cials, rang­ing from Michelle Bach­mann to Ted Cruz. Recall that this is a glimpse at the pre-Trump GOP, when Cruz and Bach­man­n’s in the GOP — led by Ted Cruz before Trump came along and took over the par­ty — fix­a­tion on Bar­ton that under­scores just how bad faith a cau­cus it tru­ly it. The cau­cus lit­er­al­ly relies on a his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ist. It’s not like Ted Cruz and Glenn Beck don’t real­ize Bar­ton is ped­dling garbage. They don’t care. It’s part of what makes this move­ment so chill­ing: its a move­ment intent on cap­tur­ing and con­trol­ling the moral­i­ty of a soci­ety led by peo­ple drip­ping with open bad faith

* In 2016, Bar­ton was brought in to run the “Keep the Promise” pro-Ted Cruz super-PAC. It turns out it was Rebekah Mer­cer who brought Bar­ton in for that posi­tion, as part of a pow­er strug­gle over the direc­tion of the PAC with fel­low mega-donor Tony Neubeauer.

That’s just a sam­pling of the pro­found role David Bar­ton has played in facil­i­tat­ing and fos­ter­ing the worst kinds of theo­crat­ic impuls­es of the GOP. And he’s like a god in the GOP.

But this sto­ry isn’t just about the cyn­i­cal reliance of the GOP and the Koch net­work of mega-donors on peo­ple like Bar­ton to push a merg­er of church and stage. As we’re going to see, one of the biggest play­ers in the efforts to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion results was the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy (CNP), a group lit­er­al­ly found­ed in 1981 as a merg­er of tel­e­van­ge­lists, oli­garchs, and Repub­li­can strate­gists to cap­i­tal­ize on Ronald Rea­gan 1980 vic­to­ry and secure their joint agen­da. A joint agen­da of revers­ing advances in civ­il and polit­i­cal rights for women and minori­ties, tax cuts for the wealthy, and polit­i­cal pow­er. For four decades this group of hun­dreds of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in DC — includ­ing fig­ures like Steve Ban­non and Kellyanne Con­way — have been advanc­ing this cor­po­ratist theo­crat­ic agen­da, cul­mi­nat­ing in a what could only be called pre­emp­tive coup plans for 2020. And yes, David Bar­ton is a CNP mem­ber.

As we’re going to see, CNP mem­bers were some of the most aggres­sive fig­ures in the efforts to find any excuse they could to force the over­turn­ing of the pop­u­lar vote in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. This includes:

* David Bar­ton: You can find an exam­ple of Bar­ton push­ing the now clas­sic ‘Smart­mat­ic vot­ing machines stole the elec­tion’ sto­ry on Clay Clark’s Thriv­e­time show here. Clark orga­nizes the ReAwak­en Amer­i­ca Tour that Michael Fly­nn was speak­ing at when Fly­nn made his call for ‘One Nation Under One Reli­gion’. In doing so, Bar­ton was giv­ing his bless­ing to the wildest vot­er fraud the­o­ries to a large audi­ence who trusts him.

* Cle­ta Mitchell: A Repub­li­can lawyer who has long oper­at­ed as one of the GOP’s long-stand­ing go-to con­ser­v­a­tive for jus­ti­fy­ing the worst kind of ger­ry­man­der­ing and vot­er sup­pres­sion tac­tics. Recall how Mitchell was sit­ting in on the now noto­ri­ous Jan 2, 2021 phone call Trump made to Geor­gia Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fens­burg­er demand­ing that they “find” the votes he need­ed to win the state, result­ing in Mitchel­l’s law firm effec­tive­ly kick­ing her out of the firm. Mitchel­l’s involve­ment in over­turn­ing the 2020 elec­tion arguably goes back to August of 2019, when she co-chaired a high-lev­el work­ing group that end­ed up advo­cat­ing for rad­i­cal read­ing of the con­sti­tu­tion that would enable state leg­is­la­tures to over­ride the pop­u­lar vote.

* Mark Meck­ler: A CNP Gold Cir­cle mem­ber, Meck­ler co-found­ed the Con­ven­tion of States Action (COS) along with long-time Koch asso­ciate Eric O’Keefe. Recall how the Con­ven­tion of States project is a long-stand Koch-financed effort to trig­ger an Arti­cle V Con­ven­tion of States that threat­ens to rewrite the entire US con­sti­tu­tion. After the CNP took the lead in orga­niz­ing anti-COVID-lock­down protests in states around the US, Meck­ler announced that he was tem­porar­i­ly con­vert­ing the COS into “clear­ing­house where all these guys can find each oth­er.” Oh, and David Bar­ton’s Wall­Builders group is part of the COS effort. Yes, it turns out Bar­ton’s his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism comes in handy when one is plan­ning on over­haul­ing the con­sti­tu­tion.

* Lisa Nel­son: The CEO of the Koch-back Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Com­mit­tee (ALEC), Nel­son was at a CNP event in Feb­ru­ary of 2020 — right as the COVID pan­dem­ic was get­ting start­ed — when she informed the group she was already work­ing with GOP attor­neys on meth­ods for over­turn­ing the pop­u­lar vote in the upcom­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. One of the GOP lawyers she told them she was work­ing with was Cle­ta Mitchell.

* Amy Kre­mer: It was Amy and her daugh­ter Kylie who head­ed up the Women for Amer­i­ca First group that end­ed up orga­niz­ing the Jan­u­ary 6 ral­ly at the Ellipse. Recall how Amy and Kylie obtained three ‘burn­er’ cell­phones that were report­ed­ly used for some untrace­able com­mu­ni­ca­tions with a range of fig­ures involved with the Trump White House and var­i­ous ‘Stop the Steal’ efforts.

* Steve Ban­non: Nuff said.

* Ali Alexan­der: Yes, Roger Stone’s acolyte is a CNP mem­ber too! Recall how Stone found­ed StopTheSteal in 2016 to help Trump win the GOP nom­i­na­tion. But Ali Alexan­der became its pub­lic face and leader dur­ing the post-2020 elec­tion peri­od in the lead up to the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion. And as we saw, the Stop the Steal ral­ly out­side the Capi­tol was seen as the more “wild” ral­ly planned for Jan 6 — as opposed to the Women for Amer­i­ca First ral­ly at the Ellipse — and appears to have been the event from which the insur­rec­tion actu­al­ly emerged. Alexan­der was also mak­ing chants of “Vic­to­ry or Death” at the Jan 5 Stop the Steal ral­ly in DC. Michael Fly­nn spoke at that same Jan 5 ral­ly.

And that’s just a sam­pling of the known CNP mem­bers who were tak­ing active steps to ensure Don­ald Trump won the 2020 elec­tion through any means nec­es­sary. Let’s also recall the crit­i­cal role CNP mem­bers Rus­sell J. Ram­s­land and J. Keet Lewis played in the lead up to the insur­rec­tion. Ramsland’s pri­vate intel­li­gence com­pa­ny, Allied Secu­ri­ty Oper­a­tions Group (ASOG), was start­ed in June 2017 by Adam T. Kraft, a for­mer senior offi­cial at the Defense Intel­li­gence Agency. Start­ing in 2018, Ram­s­land became a lead­ing GOP pur­vey­or of mass vot­er fraud alle­ga­tions. And in the days lead­ing up to the insur­rec­tion, Ram­s­land was joined by retired Army colonel and psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare expert Phil Wal­dron as they oper­at­ed in Steve Ban­non’s and Rudy Giu­lian­i’s “war room” oper­at­ing out of the Willard Hotel.

Also note that while Michael Fly­nn isn’t list­ed on any of the leaked CNP mem­ber­ship lists, he did report­ed­ly speak at a 2016 CNP event. And he’s obvi­ous­ly a theo­crat who net­works with oth­er theocrats. It would be sur­pris­ing if Fly­nn was work­ing extreme­ly close­ly with the CNP. At the same time, his open calls for a theoc­ra­cy might make him a lit­tle to ‘hot’ to have a for­mal mem­ber. But there’s no ques­tion Fly­nn and the CNP share an agen­da.

Project Blitz: It’s Like ALEC for Theocracy

But there’s anoth­er aspect to this sto­ry of the grow­ing theo­crat­ic ambi­tions of this net­work: Project Blitz. Launched in 2015, Project Blitz is like the ALEC of theoc­ra­cy, oper­at­ing as a ‘bill mill’ focused on gen­er­at­ing mod­el leg­is­la­tion designed to be used by fed­er­al and state leg­is­la­tor to fur­ther this same theo­crat­ic agen­da. A bill mill lit­er­al­ly ded­i­cat­ed to get­ting Chris­tian­i­ty enshrined in law as the US’s moral foun­da­tion with spe­cial legal pro­tec­tions for peo­ple act­ing accord­ing to those beliefs.

Run by the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion, Project Blitz works in con­cert with David Bar­ton’s Wall­Builders. It also turns out the sole employ­ee of the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion, Lee Carawan, is a CNP mem­ber too, along with her hus­band Rolfe. She sits on the Project Blitz steer­ing com­mit­tee

Project Blitz is being exe­cut­ed using a three-tiered strat­e­gy. The first tier focus­es on push­ing bills that pro­tect prayer in school and oth­er pub­lic spaces. The sec­ond tier aims at get­ting the gov­ern­ment involved in active­ly “Chris­tian­iz­ing” Amer­i­ca. The third tier then works on laws that “pro­tect” reli­gious beliefs and prac­tices. Specif­i­cal­ly big­ot­ed beliefs and prac­tices. It’s lit­er­al­ly a vision where con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians get spe­cial legal­ly pro­tect­ed rights to be big­ots that no oth­er group would get, based on a vision of the US as a divine­ly found­ed nation that should be fol­low­ing some form of Bib­li­cal law. Extra rights for Chris­tians. Con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians in par­tic­u­lar. As we’ll see, David Bar­ton and many of the rest of these fig­ures are fol­low­ers of Sev­en Moun­tain Domin­ion­ism — a sect of Chris­tian­i­ty that believes it is up to Chris­tians to take polit­i­cal pow­er before Jesus will return — and that’s the kind of Chris­tian­i­ty that will demand com­plete con­for­mi­ty when it takes pow­er. Con­for­mi­ty that will be defined, in part, by the the­o­log­i­cal whims of promi­nent reli­gious lead­ers. A true merg­er of church and state real­ly is what they have in mind. As researcher Fred­er­ick Clark­son put it, the theo­crat­ic end they envi­sion is chill­ing­ly akin to The Hand­maid­’s Tale.

And as we’re also going to see, despite some set­backs, like the insur­rec­tion not work­ing , Project Blitz is mov­ing ahead. The ‘bill mill’ is active and work­ing. So when we’re forced to ask “what’s next?” fol­low­ing what amount­ed to an orga­nized attempt to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion by Amer­i­ca’s lead­ing theocrats, part of the sad answer is “more Pro­ject­Blitz-ing”. That’s what’s next. The attempt­ed theft of the elec­tion and insur­rec­tion is just a once-every-four-years thing. Project Blitz nev­er stops. It’s always what’s next.

It’s that broad­er sto­ry of the long­stand­ing and ongo­ing theo­crat­ic pow­er grab, a cor­po­ratist theo­crat­ic pow­er grab, that we’re going to cov­er in this post. A pow­er grab that arguably start­ed with the for­ma­tion of the CNP on 1981 and cul­mi­nat­ed in the 2020 push to over­turn the elec­tion, capped off with the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion. A pow­er grab that was­n’t actu­al­ly slowed by the fail­ure of the insur­rec­tion. The insur­rec­tion was foment­ed by peo­ple so peo­ple already they could pull off a coup attempt, fail, and still large­ly face no reper­cus­sions. Project Blitz con­tin­ues while the CNP push­es new vot­er sup­pres­sion ini­tia­tives across the US. Onward Chris­t­ian sol­dier.

A Look at God’s Plan. A Plan for More Prayer. Specific Prayer. And Lower Taxes

Ok, so here’s a review of our look at this ongo­ing theo­crat­ic net­work. A net­work play­ing a key role in both col­laps­ing the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state and col­laps­ing the pub­lic’s faith in the integri­ty of US elec­tions.

* Novem­ber 21, 2021: Michael Fly­nn and the Chris­t­ian Right’s Plan to Turn Amer­i­ca Into a Theoc­ra­cy:

Michael Fly­n­n’s call for “One nation under God, and one reli­gion under God,” at the “Reawak­en Amer­i­ca Tour” vis­it to John Hagee’s Cor­ner­stone Church in San Anto­nio, TX, was­n’t just the lat­est exam­ple of Fly­nn trans­gress­ing a line of demo­c­ra­t­ic decen­cy. It was Fly­nn reflect­ing a grow­ing open­ness on the Chris­t­ian right to talk about unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic mea­sures. Includ­ing vio­lence. It also reflect­ed a notable lev­el of sup­port for view­ing the US as a fun­da­men­tal­ly Chris­t­ian nation found across the US pop­u­lace. As of August 2021, a nation­al Pub­lic Dis­course and Ethics sur­vey found that 39 per­cent of Amer­i­cans agree that the found­ing doc­u­ments are divine­ly inspired, 34 per­cent believe that the suc­cess of Amer­i­ca is part of God’s plan, and 25 per­cent believe that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment should go ahead and for­mal­ly declare the U.S. a Chris­t­ian nation.

* Novem­ber 16, 2021: If you’re pay­ing atten­tion to Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism, you won’t be shocked by Michael Flynn’s call for ‘one reli­gion under God’:

As the Bap­tist News also observed fol­low­ing Michael Fly­n­n’s call for “One nation under God, and one reli­gion under God,” Fly­nn was­n’t just echo­ing the gen­er­al pop­u­lar­i­ty in the idea for the idea of for­mal­ly declar­ing the US a Chris­t­ian coun­try. Fly­nn was artic­u­lat­ing the ratio­nale behind Project Blitz, the Chris­t­ian far right’s cur­rent polit­i­cal project ded­i­cat­ed to for­mal­ly mak­ing the US a Chris­t­ian nation, with spe­cial Chris­t­ian pro­tec­tions. Spe­cial pro­tec­tions that trans­late into real polit­i­cal pow­er.

* Sept 28, 2015: Prayer Cau­cus, fund­ed by tax­pay­ers, defends faith in the pub­lic square:

In 2015, USA Today ran a piece on the par­ent orga­ni­za­tion oper­ates Project Blitz. The Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus’s non-prof­it, The Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion, launched Project Blitz in 2016. It’s a tiny oper­a­tion in terms of per­son­nel, with just one paid employ­ee, Lea Carawan, who sits on the Project Blitz steer­ing com­mit­tee. Both Lea and her hus­band Rolfe are mem­bers of the CNP.

* April 13, 2019: The plot against Amer­i­ca: Inside the Chris­t­ian right plan to “remod­el” the nation:

A clos­er look at Project Blitz and the role ‘his­to­ri­an’ David Bar­ton plays in the project. Project Blitz is more or less a three-part plan to enshrine Bar­ton’s his­tor­i­cal­ly warped vision of the found­ing of the US. And at the heart of that three-part plan is an ALEC-like ded­i­ca­tion to oper­at­ing a ‘bill mill’ of mod­el leg­is­la­tion that can be passed along leg­is­la­tors around the nation. It’s why Project Blitz can be so influ­en­tial with just a hand­ful of staff. You don’t need a large num­ber of peo­ple to run a bill mill.

* August 11, 2012: David Bar­ton, Chris­t­ian Schol­ar, Faces a Back­lash:

A look back a brief moment when it appeared David Bar­ton’s star may have fall­en. He was so pop­u­lar back in 2011 that Mike Huck­abee intro­duced Bar­ton at an event by declar­ing, “I almost wish that there would be some­thing like a simul­ta­ne­ous tele­cast and all Amer­i­cans would be forced, forced—at gun­point, no less—to lis­ten to every David Bar­ton mes­sage. And I think our coun­try would be bet­ter for it.” But in 2012, Bar­ton faced a back­lash. This was after a num­ber of con­ser­v­a­tive his­to­ri­ans actu­al­ly took a look at the garbage con­tent Bar­ton was churn­ing out and pub­licly scold­ed him. Now, as time told, Bar­ton’s fall from grace was brief at most. He helped found Project Blitz after this, after all. The whole episode is emblem­at­ic of the role Bar­ton has played through­out his career: he’s warm­ly embraced no mat­ter how much garbage he gets caught spew­ing out because it’s garbage pow­er­ful peo­ple want to hear.

* May 5, 2011: David Bar­ton – Extrem­ist ‘His­to­ri­an’ for the Chris­t­ian Right:

Anoth­er quick look back at the extrem­ist roots of David Bar­ton in this 2011 SPLC Bar­ton pro­file. Yes, it turns out Bar­ton was giv­ing talks at the events of known Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty groups in the ear­ly 90s. That’s where he began his the­o­log­i­cal career. Today, Bar­ton’s the­ol­o­gy is that of the Sev­en Moun­tains Domin­ion­ism, a strain of Chris­tian­i­ty that calls for the church to take polit­i­cal con­trol over sev­en dif­fer­ent spheres of soci­ety before Jesus will return. It’s basi­cal­ly a recipe for a full blown theoc­ra­cy. And also the kind of the­ol­o­gy oli­garchs love: unions, min­i­mum wage laws, and envi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tions are are bib­li­cal­ly pro­hib­it­ed under Bar­ton’s form of Chris­tian­i­ty.

* August 23, 2019: Con­ven­tion of States Fires Up Base for Push to Rewrite U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion:

Not lim­it­ed to pro­vid­ing the­o­log­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the merg­er of church and state, David Bar­ton has been work­ing on anoth­er project that would destroy the US: the Con­ven­tion of States (COS) project. As we’ve seen, the Koch net­work of mega-donors has spent decades invest­ing in trig­ger­ing an Arti­cle V Con­sti­tu­tion­al Con­ven­tion, threat­en­ing to rewrite the con­sti­tu­tion accord­ing to the whims of the Koch mega-donor net­work Bar­ton’s Wall­Builders group has been work­ing with COS, co-found­ed by Mark Meck­ler. Yes, Meck­ler is a CNP mem­ber.

* Feb 22, 2021: How the CNP, a Repub­li­can Pow­er­house, Helped Spawn Trump­ism, Dis­rupt­ed the Trans­fer of Pow­er, and Stoked the Assault on the Capi­tol:

Almost a year ago, The Wash­ing­ton Spec­ta­tor gave us a mas­sive pro­file on one of the most impor­tant orga­ni­za­tion oper­at­ing in DC, the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy (CNP), and the role it played in foment­ing a vari­ety of actions and pro­pa­gan­da designed to con­vince the pub­lic the elec­tion was stolen from Trump and jus­ti­fy the rever­sal of the elec­tion result. The arti­cle describes how the CNP kicked into action as the pan­dem­ic go under­way, pro­vid­ing the White House with a list of 100 busi­ness exec­u­tives who could help guide the White House through kick­start­ing the pan­dem­ic-strick­en econ­o­my. Those actions appeared to most­ly focus on whip­ping up pub­lic oppo­si­tion to anti-COVID pub­lic health mea­sures. But even before the CNP was run­ning its anti-anti-COVID oper­a­tion, key CNP fig­ures like Cle­ta Mitchell and Lisa Nel­son were active­ly plan­ning with groups like ALEC for avenues of over­turn­ing the pop­u­lar vote in the upcom­ing elec­tion.

* July 24, 2021: The Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist assault on democ­ra­cy goes stealth — but the push­back is work­ing:

A July 2021 update on Project Blitz, at that point a rough­ly five year old project. And a much slick­er and more ambi­tious project, with Project Blitz giv­ing ‘bill mill’ advice on how to cloak the intent of the mod­el leg­is­la­tion in sec­u­lar-sound­ing lan­guage. Project Blitz also dis­cov­ered the potent polit­i­cal pow­er of fus­ing its agen­da of grant­i­ng legal pro­tec­tions to con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians with hot-but­ton top­ics like trans­gen­der youth or “crit­i­cal race the­o­ry” (CRT) in schools and libraries. Keep in mind this update came sev­er­al months before Repub­li­can Glenn Younk­in’s CRT-fueled vic­to­ry in the Vir­ginia gov­er­nor’s race.

* Decem­ber 14, 2021: The net­work of elec­tion lawyers who are mak­ing it hard­er for Amer­i­cans to vote:

Final­ly, we’re look at a report from a few weeks ago about a crack team of GOP lawyers work­ing with ALEC and spear­head­ing vot­er sup­pres­sion mod­el leg­is­la­tion for use by state leg­is­la­tor. In oth­er words, a vot­er sup­pres­sion bill mill. Of the five lawyers list­ed as spear­head­ing this effort, three are known mem­bers of the CNP: Cle­ta Mitchell, J Chris­t­ian Adams, and Ken­neth Black­well. Yes, Mitchell is con­tin­u­ing her vot­er sup­pres­sion work despite being kicked out of her law firm for gross mal­prac­tice in rela­tion to her base­less vot­er fraud claims. The oth­er two law­ers are Jason Snead and Hans von Spakovksy. As we’ve seen, Snead and Adams have a fair­ly recent his­to­ry of work­ing togeth­er on vot­er sup­pres­sion experts (with both end­ed up get­ting chas­tised by judges for their inac­cu­rate tes­ti­monies). And Spakovksy is one of the GOP’s long-stand vot­er sup­pres­sion gurus. Mitchell, Adams, and Spakovksy all attend­ed a secret Decem­ber 1 ALEC meet­ing where they strate­gized their vot­er sup­pres­sion plans going for­ward.

Michael Flynn Call for “One nation under God, and one religion under God.”

Ok, first, here’s a Rolling Stone piece writ­ten about week after Michael Fly­nn made his jar­ring speech at the “Reawak­en Amer­i­ca Tour” at John Hagee’s Cor­ner­stone Church in San Anto­nio, TX, open­ly call­ing for the Unit­ed States to for­mal­ly become a Chris­t­ian nation. As the piece points out, it was­n’t jar­ring because of the con­tent of Fly­n­n’s speech. It was jar­ring because Fly­nn appar­ent­ly felt com­fort­able open­ly mak­ing this call, reflect­ing what is a pal­pa­ble grow­ing rad­i­cal­iza­tion of Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist move­ments. Accord­ing to a Pub­lic Reli­gion Research Insti­tute study pub­lished in Novem­ber, 26 per­cent of white evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tants (and 30 per­cent of Repub­li­cans) agree that “true Amer­i­can patri­ots may have to resort to vio­lence if that’s what it takes to save the coun­try.” That’s paired with polling from August 2021 that found 39 per­cent of Amer­i­cans agree that the found­ing doc­u­ments are divine­ly inspired, 34 per­cent believe that the suc­cess of Amer­i­ca is part of God’s plan, and 25 per­cent believe that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment should go ahead and for­mal­ly declare the U.S. a Chris­t­ian nation. That’s what made Michael Fly­n­n’s speech so jar­ring. When he called for an offi­cial state reli­gion, he was speak­ing for A LOT of oth­er peo­ple:

Rolling Stone

Michael Fly­nn and the Chris­t­ian Right’s Plan to Turn Amer­i­ca Into a Theoc­ra­cy

As Alex Jones put it, “We’re gonna win in the end because… God WINS!”

By Alex Mor­ris
Novem­ber 21, 2021 12:05 PM ET

This past week­end, infa­mous FBI fib­ber Michael Fly­nn stood on a stage at Cor­ner­stone Church in San Anto­nio and spoke his truth: “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one reli­gion. One nation under God, and one reli­gion under God.” Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist mic drop. He’d final­ly said the qui­et part out loud.

Which, to be fair, was maybe not even the cra­zi­est thing that hap­pened at Cor­ner­stone last week­end as it host­ed pod­cast host Clay Clark’s “Reawak­en Amer­i­ca Tour” — a shit­show so very spec­tac­u­lar that Cor­ner­stone, the church of famed end times Chris­t­ian Zion­ist John Hagee, had to release a face-sav­ing state­ment say­ing that maybe, just maybe, things had gone a lit­tle too far even for them (“Cor­ner­stone Church is not asso­ci­at­ed with this orga­ni­za­tion and does not endorse their views.”) There was a woman wear­ing a Jew­ish-themed prayer shawl and blow­ing on a ram’s horn, because, as she explained it, “Demons trem­ble at the sound of the sho­far.” There was My Pil­low CEO Mike Lin­dell and dis­graced polit­i­cal oper­a­tive Roger Stone on hand to pro­vide the event with a legit­i­mate dose of ille­git­i­ma­cy. There was Alex Jones growl­ing at atten­dees that “the devil’s reign on this plan­et is com­ing to an end” and that Bill Gates and Hillary Clin­ton and Barack Oba­ma know that “they chose SATAN! AND THEY! ARE GOING! TO FAIL!” There were rous­ing rounds of the odd­ly-devised anti-Biden chant “Let’s go, Bran­don” and wor­ship music pro­vid­ed by Sean Feucht, gra­cious­ly in atten­dance thanks to his failed run for California’s state leg­is­la­ture. There was also, pre­sum­ably, nary a vac­ci­nat­ed per­son in the house.

But Flynn’s state­ments were notable not just because the qui­et part was said out loud but because the qui­et part has been get­ting loud­er and loud­er, with polit­i­cal and reli­gious lead­ers call­ing explic­it­ly for what amounts to a theoc­ra­cy. Just last month, Ohio GOP Sen­ate can­di­date Josh Man­del used the debate stage to opine that “we should be instill­ing faith in the class­room, in the work­place, and every­where in soci­ety” because, as far as he’s con­cerned, “there’s no such thing as a sep­a­ra­tion of church and state.” (“We stand with Gen­er­al Fly­nn,” Man­del tweet­ed on Sat­ur­day.) Last year, Bill Barr informed the Nation­al Catholic Prayer Break­fast that, to the extent such a sep­a­ra­tion does exist, it’s thanks to “mil­i­tant sec­u­lar­ists” who don’t under­stand that Amer­i­ca would be bet­ter off if we just let Chris­tians run the show. “It’s been a while since peo­ple were will­ing to say so loud­ly and so pub­licly that Amer­i­ca is a Chris­t­ian nation,” says Philip Gors­ki, a soci­ol­o­gist of reli­gion at Yale. “You didn’t hear George Bush, senior or junior, say­ing any­thing like that. Cer­tain­ly they had a way of allud­ing to Chris­t­ian ele­ments of the Amer­i­can exper­i­ment, and they could speak to Chris­tians in a lan­guage that was a lit­tle bit veiled. But they nev­er would have said any­thing like what Michael Fly­nn said the oth­er day—surely not in pub­lic and prob­a­bly not even in pri­vate.”

Nat­u­ral­ly this kind of Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist talk ruf­fles major feath­ers, and with good rea­son. It sounds crazy because it is crazy. What would a for­mal­ly Chris­t­ian Amer­i­ca actu­al­ly look like? How would it be achieved? How would it get around the Con­sti­tu­tion? Which ver­sion of Chris­tian­i­ty would we use? And what would we do with the mil­lions of cit­i­zens who hap­pen to dis­be­lieve in that “one reli­gion under God?”

On the sur­face, such ques­tions may seem like a log­i­cal retort to Flynn’s, but they also dis­tort the fun­da­men­tal issue. In point­ing out the imprac­ti­cal­i­ties of the logis­tics, such ques­tions basi­cal­ly imply that Fly­nn can’t real­ly mean what he’s say­ing. “Hell yes, he means it,” says Anthea But­ler, pro­fes­sor of reli­gion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and author of White Evan­gel­i­cal Racism. “And whether or not he means it, some­body hear­ing it will mean it and believe it. What mat­ters is that it’s being said, and some­body is receiv­ing that mes­sage.”

More to the point, some­body is out there look­ing to receive it. The mes­sage that Amer­i­ca should be a Chris­t­ian nation, tak­en quite lit­er­al­ly, is foun­da­tion­al to the Chris­t­ian right. It is not a fringe belief but rather a ral­ly­ing cry, the prin­ci­ple that ani­mates — and excus­es — their for­ay into the messy polit­i­cal realm, into the low­ly things of this world. Accord­ing to Matthew 25:31–46, when Jesus returns to earth, “All the nations will be gath­ered, and he will sep­a­rate them one from anoth­er, as a shep­herd sep­a­rates the sheep from the goats.” In this so-called Judg­ment of the Nations, god­ly coun­tries will be reward­ed and ungod­ly ones pun­ished, which means that in a con­ser­v­a­tive Christian’s mind, their own fate may in some way be wrapped up in the U.S.’s rela­tion to cer­tain wedge issues like abor­tion or LGBTQ rights. That, in turn, goes a long way toward explain­ing why, in 2018, 61 per­cent of evan­gel­i­cals said the coun­try was head­ed in the right direc­tion while 64 per­cent of every­one else begged to dif­fer.

Though theo­crat­ic views range from a desire to sim­ply elect “god­ly” lead­ers to a mil­i­tant call for a nation-state gov­erned entire­ly by Old Tes­ta­ment law (includ­ing a return to the prac­tice of ston­ing), some form of theo­crat­ic think­ing now runs through a large swath of the pop­u­lace. As of August 2021, a nation­al Pub­lic Dis­course and Ethics sur­vey found that 39 per­cent of Amer­i­cans agree that the found­ing doc­u­ments are divine­ly inspired, 34 per­cent believe that the suc­cess of Amer­i­ca is part of God’s plan, and 25 per­cent believe that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment should go ahead and for­mal­ly declare the U.S. a Chris­t­ian nation.

That desire may be ahistorical—most founders were clear that a theoc­ra­cy was exact­ly what they did not want—but it has per­va­sive­ly pep­pered Amer­i­can his­to­ry. One of the Confederacy’s com­plaints when seced­ing was that the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion did not suf­fi­cient­ly namecheck God — a con­cern that was appar­ent­ly shared by some in the Union. In 1864, a del­e­ga­tion of the Nation­al Reform Asso­ci­a­tion (the OG NRA) met with Lin­coln to request the addi­tion of a Chris­t­ian amend­ment to the doc­u­ment “humbly acknowl­edg­ing Almighty God as the source of author­i­ty and pow­er in civ­il gov­ern­ment, the Lord Jesus Christ as the ruler among nations.” Lin­coln polite­ly blew them off, but the idea gained trac­tion again after the school prayer rul­ings in the 1960s, and again after R.J. Rush­doony pub­lished his Insti­tutes of Bib­li­cal Law in 1973, advo­cat­ing not just Amer­i­can theoc­ra­cy but an even more hard­core theon­o­my — a nation gov­erned by bib­li­cal law.

If there is any­thing dif­fer­ent this time around, it’s in the vio­lence of the rhetoric. Here, there are no gen­teel del­e­ga­tions or aca­d­e­m­ic tomes. In indis­crim­i­nate­ly pulling the fringi­est ele­ments of Amer­i­can Chris­tian­i­ty into his polit­i­cal coali­tion, Trump meld­ed theo­crat­ic think­ing with reli­gious rad­i­cal­iza­tion. The effect? Accord­ing to a Pub­lic Reli­gion Research Insti­tute study pub­lished ear­ly this month, 26 per­cent of white evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tants (and 30 per­cent of Repub­li­cans) agree that “true Amer­i­can patri­ots may have to resort to vio­lence if that’s what it takes to save the coun­try.” For the atten­dees of Reawake Amer­i­ca, civ­il war is now a quaint con­cept; Holy War is more what they’re after these days. Or as Alex Jones put it this week­end, “We’re gonna win in the end because…God WINS!”

Which is why, among reli­gious schol­ars, there’s a grow­ing frus­tra­tion with the con­stant pearl-clutch­ing over what some­one like Fly­nn might say paired with an osten­si­ble lack of belief that he real­ly, lit­er­al­ly means it. Like­wise, and espe­cial­ly after Jan­u­ary 6, there’s a grow­ing frus­tra­tion with a polit­i­cal fac­tion that believes it is fight­ing on the side of the angels going up against a polit­i­cal fac­tion that still oper­ates like a com­pro­mise can be made. “I mean, I want infra­struc­ture,” says But­ler. “I’m sick of the pot­holes in Philadel­phia. But nobody seems to under­stand the real dan­ger. It’s nice to build bridges, but you’re build­ing bridges for them to come and get you.”

Per­haps the real motives of those like Fly­nn can be seen when one takes into account the fact that theoc­ra­cy actu­al­ly runs counter to the sort of faith these folks pro­fess to espouse. “What con­founds me is that under­min­ing the First Amend­ment, under­min­ing the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state, real­ly is an attack on reli­gion in Amer­i­can life,” says Ran­dall Balmer, an Epis­co­pal priest and his­to­ri­an of Amer­i­can reli­gion at Dart­mouth Col­lege. “The effect of the First Amend­ment was to estab­lish a free mar­ket­place for reli­gion that has lent an ener­gy and a dynamism to reli­gion in Amer­i­ca unmatched any­where in the world. Why would those groups that have ben­e­fit­ed most from this marketplace—namely evan­gel­i­cals because they know how to com­pete bet­ter than any­one else—turn around and try to under­mine the very sys­tem that has giv­en them so much cur­ren­cy in the cul­ture?”

One answer could be that the cul­ture — the mar­ket­place of pub­lic opin­ion — no longer mat­ters to the Chris­t­ian right. This is no longer a hum­ble com­pe­ti­tion for souls. This is about pow­er. And, quite pos­si­bly, vio­lence. “There needs to be some kind of under­stand­ing when this kind of lan­guage ramps up that you have to pay atten­tion to that,” says But­ler. “Hon­est­ly, we’ve got jihadists in this coun­try. They’re just Chris­t­ian ones.” It’s the threat of vio­lence implic­it in Flynn’s words — rather than the explic­it absur­di­ty — that we should care about.

...

———–

“Michael Fly­nn and the Chris­t­ian Right’s Plan to Turn Amer­i­ca Into a Theoc­ra­cy” by Alex Mor­ris; Rolling Stone; 11/21/2021

But Flynn’s state­ments were notable not just because the qui­et part was said out loud but because the qui­et part has been get­ting loud­er and loud­er, with polit­i­cal and reli­gious lead­ers call­ing explic­it­ly for what amounts to a theoc­ra­cy. Just last month, Ohio GOP Sen­ate can­di­date Josh Man­del used the debate stage to opine that “we should be instill­ing faith in the class­room, in the work­place, and every­where in soci­ety” because, as far as he’s con­cerned, “there’s no such thing as a sep­a­ra­tion of church and state.” (“We stand with Gen­er­al Fly­nn,” Man­del tweet­ed on Sat­ur­day.) Last year, Bill Barr informed the Nation­al Catholic Prayer Break­fast that, to the extent such a sep­a­ra­tion does exist, it’s thanks to “mil­i­tant sec­u­lar­ists” who don’t under­stand that Amer­i­ca would be bet­ter off if we just let Chris­tians run the show. “It’s been a while since peo­ple were will­ing to say so loud­ly and so pub­licly that Amer­i­ca is a Chris­t­ian nation,” says Philip Gors­ki, a soci­ol­o­gist of reli­gion at Yale. “You didn’t hear George Bush, senior or junior, say­ing any­thing like that. Cer­tain­ly they had a way of allud­ing to Chris­t­ian ele­ments of the Amer­i­can exper­i­ment, and they could speak to Chris­tians in a lan­guage that was a lit­tle bit veiled. But they nev­er would have said any­thing like what Michael Fly­nn said the oth­er day—surely not in pub­lic and prob­a­bly not even in pri­vate.””

Yes, when Michael Fly­nn called for “One nation under God, and one reli­gion under God”, he was­n’t just say­ing the qui­et part out loud. He was join­ing a grow­ing cho­rus of peo­ple mak­ing sim­i­lar calls. For­mal­ly end­ing the sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State is an increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar idea in the Unit­ed States.

But it’s not just that a grow­ing num­ber of US con­ser­v­a­tives are open to the idea of end­ing the sep­a­ra­tion of church and state. It’s that this same demo­graph­ic is also increas­ing­ly open to the idea of using polit­i­cal vio­lence to secure polit­i­cal pow­er per­ma­nent­ly. It’s a par­tic­u­lar­ly potent con­ver­gence of author­i­tar­i­an impuls­es:

...
Though theo­crat­ic views range from a desire to sim­ply elect “god­ly” lead­ers to a mil­i­tant call for a nation-state gov­erned entire­ly by Old Tes­ta­ment law (includ­ing a return to the prac­tice of ston­ing), some form of theo­crat­ic think­ing now runs through a large swath of the pop­u­lace. As of August 2021, a nation­al Pub­lic Dis­course and Ethics sur­vey found that 39 per­cent of Amer­i­cans agree that the found­ing doc­u­ments are divine­ly inspired, 34 per­cent believe that the suc­cess of Amer­i­ca is part of God’s plan, and 25 per­cent believe that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment should go ahead and for­mal­ly declare the U.S. a Chris­t­ian nation.

That desire may be ahistorical—most founders were clear that a theoc­ra­cy was exact­ly what they did not want—but it has per­va­sive­ly pep­pered Amer­i­can his­to­ry. One of the Confederacy’s com­plaints when seced­ing was that the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion did not suf­fi­cient­ly namecheck God — a con­cern that was appar­ent­ly shared by some in the Union. In 1864, a del­e­ga­tion of the Nation­al Reform Asso­ci­a­tion (the OG NRA) met with Lin­coln to request the addi­tion of a Chris­t­ian amend­ment to the doc­u­ment “humbly acknowl­edg­ing Almighty God as the source of author­i­ty and pow­er in civ­il gov­ern­ment, the Lord Jesus Christ as the ruler among nations.” Lin­coln polite­ly blew them off, but the idea gained trac­tion again after the school prayer rul­ings in the 1960s, and again after R.J. Rush­doony pub­lished his Insti­tutes of Bib­li­cal Law in 1973, advo­cat­ing not just Amer­i­can theoc­ra­cy but an even more hard­core theon­o­my — a nation gov­erned by bib­li­cal law.

If there is any­thing dif­fer­ent this time around, it’s in the vio­lence of the rhetoric. Here, there are no gen­teel del­e­ga­tions or aca­d­e­m­ic tomes. In indis­crim­i­nate­ly pulling the fringi­est ele­ments of Amer­i­can Chris­tian­i­ty into his polit­i­cal coali­tion, Trump meld­ed theo­crat­ic think­ing with reli­gious rad­i­cal­iza­tion. The effect? Accord­ing to a Pub­lic Reli­gion Research Insti­tute study pub­lished ear­ly this month, 26 per­cent of white evan­gel­i­cal Protes­tants (and 30 per­cent of Repub­li­cans) agree that “true Amer­i­can patri­ots may have to resort to vio­lence if that’s what it takes to save the coun­try.” For the atten­dees of Reawake Amer­i­ca, civ­il war is now a quaint con­cept; Holy War is more what they’re after these days. Or as Alex Jones put it this week­end, “We’re gonna win in the end because…God WINS!”
...

It’s that con­ver­gence of author­i­tar­i­an impuls­es that we’re going to be focus­ing on in the rest of this post. A con­ver­gence of author­i­tar­i­an impuls­es is hap­pen­ing at the high­est lev­els of real polit­i­cal pow­er. And as we’re going to see, while some man­i­fes­ta­tions of these author­i­tar­i­an impuls­es are rel­a­tive­ly new, the orga­ni­za­tions and net­works behind it are so deeply embed­ded in the US polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment that you almost can’t dis­tin­guish between these move­ments and the broad­er Repub­li­can Par­ty. A fusion of the Koch mega-donor net­work with the pow­er­ful Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy (CNP), an orga­ni­za­tion that itself was formed in 1981 as a coali­tion of busi­ness inter­ests and the reli­gious right. The most pow­er­ful net­works inside the Repub­li­can Par­ty and the broad­er con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment in the US have aligned around and agen­da of per­ma­nent­ly cap­tur­ing polit­i­cal pow­er under the ban­ner of pre­serv­ing Chris­tian­i­ty in Amer­i­ca. That’s who Michael Fly­nn was speak­ing to when he made that call for the US to fall under one reli­gion. The reli­gious of pow­er.

Project Blitz: Stealth Theocracy, ALEC-style, Brought to You by the Congressional Prayer Caucus

And as the fol­low­ing piece in Bap­tist News points out, when Michael Fly­nn made that call for “One nation under God and one reli­gion under God”, he was­n’t just echo­ing a grow­ing gen­er­al sen­ti­ment with­in the Chris­t­ian evan­gel­i­cal com­mu­ni­ty. He was artic­u­lat­ing the ratio­nale behind Project Blitz, the Chris­t­ian far right’s cur­rent polit­i­cal project ded­i­cat­ed to for­mal­ly mak­ing the US a Chris­t­ian nation, with spe­cial Chris­t­ian pro­tec­tions. Spe­cial pro­tec­tions that trans­late into real polit­i­cal pow­er. Project Blitz is basi­cal­ly the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­sel (ALEC) for Chris­t­ian Nation­al­ists: the group oper­ates as a ‘bill mill’, cre­at­ing tem­plate leg­is­la­tion for wide­spread use by state leg­is­la­tors. And as we’re going to see, it’s not just that Project Blitz is mod­eled after ALEC. It’s effec­tive­ly the same net­work of con­ser­v­a­tive power­bro­kers behind both net­works. That’s why Michael Fly­n­n’s tar­get audi­ence for the ‘one reli­gion under God’ com­ment was­n’t just Chris­t­ian con­ser­v­a­tives. That tar­get audi­ence includ­ed the cor­po­rate pow­er bro­kers best posi­tioned to cap­i­tal­ize and prof­it from a Chris­t­ian Nation­al­ist rev­o­lu­tion:

Bap­tist News

If you’re pay­ing atten­tion to Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism, you won’t be shocked by Michael Flynn’s call for ‘one reli­gion under God’

Opin­ion Aman­da Tyler
Novem­ber 16, 2021

At a ral­ly in San Anto­nio as part of the “ReAwak­en Amer­i­ca” tour, for­mer Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Advis­er Michael Fly­nn said the qui­et part out loud: “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one reli­gion. One nation under God and one reli­gion under God.”

His week­end state­ment sent shock­waves over social media, but for those of us who have been watch­ing the accel­er­a­tion of Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism over the past sev­er­al years, the admis­sion was hard­ly sur­pris­ing. It echoes explic­it efforts that would dam­age our democ­ra­cy.

Such lan­guage, empha­siz­ing non-spe­cif­ic reli­gious lan­guage in offi­cial set­tings, is not sim­ply a mis­guid­ed appeal to patri­o­tism or nation­al uni­ty. Project Blitz, a project of the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion, explained the ratio­nale behind a mod­el bill for states to man­date the post­ing of “In God We Trust” in pub­lic schools: “More than just a mot­to, though, it is our country’s foun­da­tion and an impor­tant part of our iden­ti­ty as Amer­i­cans.”

Flynn’s longer speech reveals how much he relies on one of the hall­marks of Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism — the empha­sis of a myth­i­cal his­to­ry of the Unit­ed States as found­ed as a “Chris­t­ian nation,” by God’s prov­i­den­tial hand that gives our coun­try a spe­cial place in his­to­ry, the present and a pre­mil­len­ni­al­ist future. “There is a time, and you have to believe this: that God Almighty is like involved in this coun­try because this is it. This is it. This is the last place on Earth. This is, this is the shin­ing city on the hill,” he said.

The reli­gious ref­er­ence of “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Alle­giance since the 1950s acknowl­edges reli­gion as part of our country’s his­to­ry but cer­tain­ly does not negate our country’s pro­tec­tions for reli­gious free­dom or give the gov­ern­ment (much less Michael Fly­nn) author­i­ty to define “the country’s reli­gion.”

One main prob­lem with Flynn’s ver­sion of “one nation under God” is that no one reli­gious iden­ti­ty or belief ever has unit­ed Amer­i­cans. The idea of a nation­al reli­gion is direct­ly at odds with the promise of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion that our gov­ern­ment stays neu­tral when it comes to reli­gion. In Flynn’s Unit­ed States, many Amer­i­cans are exclud­ed — those who don’t prac­tice what­ev­er the cho­sen nation­al faith would be, those who are not monothe­is­tic and those who do not affil­i­ate with reli­gion at all.

...

———–

“If you’re pay­ing atten­tion to Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism, you won’t be shocked by Michael Flynn’s call for ‘one reli­gion under God’” by Aman­da Tyler; Bap­tist News; 11/16/2021

“Such lan­guage, empha­siz­ing non-spe­cif­ic reli­gious lan­guage in offi­cial set­tings, is not sim­ply a mis­guid­ed appeal to patri­o­tism or nation­al uni­ty. Project Blitz, a project of the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion, explained the ratio­nale behind a mod­el bill for states to man­date the post­ing of “In God We Trust” in pub­lic schools: “More than just a mot­to, though, it is our country’s foun­da­tion and an impor­tant part of our iden­ti­ty as Amer­i­cans.”

It’s Project Blitz, brought to you by the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion. Yes, the group behind Project Blitz has close ties to the US con­gress. In par­tic­u­lar, the Repub­li­can del­e­ga­tion in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Cre­at­ed in 2005 by Repub­li­can con­gress­man Randy Forbes, the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus sounds like a gener­ic non-par­ti­san prayer group for mem­bers of con­gress. And to some extent that’s true. The group is paid for with dona­tions from the office accounts of sev­er­al con­gres­sion­al mem­bers. But as the fol­low­ing 2015 USA Today piece makes clear, it’s basi­cal­ly a Repub­li­can oper­a­tion. That year, the Cau­cus had 90 House mem­bers, and one mem­ber in the Sen­ate. Near­ly all Repub­li­cans.

But Project Blitz isn’t tech­ni­cal­ly a project of the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus. It’s a project of the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus’s non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion, the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion. Oper­at­ing out of a build­ing Rep Forbes owns in Chesa­peake, VA, the foun­da­tion has one paid staff mem­ber, exec­u­tive direc­tor Lea Carawan. Carawan sits on the Project Blitz steer­ing com­mit­tee. Impor­tant­ly, both Lea and her hus­band Rolfe are mem­bers of the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy (CNP).

And as we are going to see, you can’t real­ly sep­a­rate the exten­sive plan­ning and efforts that went into over­turn­ing the 2020 elec­tion results — efforts that start­ed ear­ly on in 2020 in antic­i­pa­tion of a Trump elec­toral loss — from the CNP. This is the larg­er sto­ry here: Project Blitz is just one part of a much larg­er agen­da of cap­tur­ing and per­ma­nent­ly secur­ing polit­i­cal pow­er for the Chris­t­ian Right, and the orga­ni­za­tion long at the heart of that agen­da is the CNP. The same orga­ni­za­tion that, as we’ll see, was at the heart of the orga­ni­za­tion­al efforts to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion results. So while Project Blitz is tech­ni­cal­ly a project of the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion, it’s impor­tant to rec­og­nize that the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion is just one of the many enti­ties through which Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist net­works oper­at­ing at the high­est lev­els of pow­er orga­nize their activ­i­ties. Project Blitz is a group effort with exten­sive back­ing by the right-wing oli­garchy:

USA TODAY

Prayer Cau­cus, fund­ed by tax­pay­ers, defends faith in the pub­lic square

Paul Singer
Pub­lished 3:57 pm ET Sept 28, 2015 | Updat­ed 4:22 pm ET Sept 28, 2015

WASHINGTON — When Pope Fran­cis left the Capi­tol last week, prayer did not leave with him.

One night a week, the tax­pay­er-fund­ed con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus meets in an ornate room in the U.S. Capi­tol to defend the role of (most­ly) Chris­t­ian faith and prayer in the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

The cau­cus was cre­at­ed by Rep. Randy Forbes, R‑Va., in 2005, and now includes about 90 mem­bers of the House, near­ly all Repub­li­cans, one U.S. sen­a­tor and one paid staff mem­ber.

“In addi­tion to their com­mit­ment to putting aside polit­i­cal dif­fer­ences and unit­ing in prayer for our nation, mem­bers of the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus work togeth­er engag­ing the leg­isla­tive process to pro­tect free exer­cise for Amer­i­cans of every faith or no faith,” Forbes said in a state­ment. “Some recent issues Prayer Cau­cus Mem­bers have engaged on include rein­forc­ing reli­gious free­dom for all faiths in the mil­i­tary, sup­port­ing and pro­tect­ing the auton­o­my of church­es and faith based orga­ni­za­tions, and work­ing to ensure every Amer­i­can is free to live accord­ing to their beliefs with­out fear of pun­ish­ment by the gov­ern­ment.”

...

Like oth­er con­gres­sion­al cau­cus­es, sev­er­al mem­bers kick in shares from their tax­pay­er-fund­ed office accounts to cov­er the approx­i­mate­ly $50,000 annu­al salary of the staff mem­ber, Amy Vitale, who tracks leg­is­la­tion, drafts let­ters and gen­er­al­ly sup­ports the work of the cau­cus.

The Prayer Cau­cus also has an out­side non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports its efforts, as are many oth­er cau­cus­es. The Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion oper­ates out of a Chesa­peake, Va., build­ing Forbes owns that also hous­es his cam­paign office. His wife, Shirley Forbes, is one of three unpaid direc­tors of the foun­da­tion. The foun­da­tion has one paid staff mem­ber, exec­u­tive direc­tor Lea Carawan, but oper­ates entire­ly on pri­vate funds. Carawan declined a request for an inter­view.

The cau­cus is part­ly about prayer. The mem­bers gath­er in the House major­i­ty lead­er’s cer­e­mo­ni­al office and pray for the nation and also pray for con­stituents who are in dis­tress, sign­ing a card of sup­port that is then sent to them..

But the group also aims to extend the reach of faith and prayer in pub­lic life.

“We do what we can to make sure that leg­is­la­tion emerges with what we believe to be Amer­i­can, Chris­t­ian val­ues,” said cau­cus mem­ber John Flem­ing, R‑La. “We believe that a democ­ra­cy is only func­tion­al if there is a cer­tain lev­el of vir­tu­ous­ness among the nation. Free­dom also requires a cer­tain respon­si­bil­i­ty and that requires a cer­tain moral code. The moral code that we as Amer­i­cans have lived by for over 200 years is based on what? The Ten Com­mand­ments.”

...

The foun­da­tion encour­ages indi­vid­u­als to orga­nize “Room 219” prayer groups — named for the room in the U.S. Capi­tol where the Prayer Cau­cus meets — and urges the cre­ation of sim­i­lar cau­cus­es in state leg­is­la­tures. There are affil­i­at­ed Prayer Cau­cus­es in at least a dozen state leg­is­la­tures.

Forbes and a dozen oth­er Prayer Cau­cus mem­bers trav­eled to North Car­oli­na in March to launch an ini­tia­tive called PrayUSA, ask­ing gov­ern­ment offi­cials and oth­er to sign a res­o­lu­tion call­ing for prayer. The ini­tia­tive is part of “a tac­ti­cal strat­e­gy to effec­tive­ly chal­lenge the grow­ing anti-faith move­ment in our Coun­try,” the foun­da­tion says.

...

Roy Speck­hardt, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Amer­i­can Human­ist Asso­ci­a­tion, said “It’s clear that this enti­ty is push­ing to merge church and state when it comes to mak­ing prayer — par­tic­u­lar­ly Chris­t­ian prayer — a part of gov­ern­ment respon­si­bil­i­ty.”

The cau­cus “is try­ing to use the pow­er of gov­ern­ment to be on the side of a par­tic­u­lar reli­gious view­point,” he argued. “They are try­ing to give the appear­ance that cer­tain types of reli­gious activ­i­ty and cer­tain types of reli­gious belief are endorsed by the gov­ern­ment.”

———–


Prayer Cau­cus, fund­ed by tax­pay­ers, defends faith in the pub­lic square” by Paul Singer; USA TODAY; 09/28/2015

The cau­cus was cre­at­ed by Rep. Randy Forbes, R‑Va., in 2005, and now includes about 90 mem­bers of the House, near­ly all Repub­li­cans, one U.S. sen­a­tor and one paid staff mem­ber.”

A con­gres­sion­al cau­cus con­sist­ing near­ly entire­ly of House Repub­li­cans. That was the com­po­si­tion of the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus in 2015. But it’s not the cau­cus itself that’s run­ning Project Blitz. That’s done by the cau­cus’s non-prof­it foun­da­tion, the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion. Which has just one paid employ­ee: Exec­u­tive direc­tor — and CNP mem­ber — Lea Carawan:

...
Like oth­er con­gres­sion­al cau­cus­es, sev­er­al mem­bers kick in shares from their tax­pay­er-fund­ed office accounts to cov­er the approx­i­mate­ly $50,000 annu­al salary of the staff mem­ber, Amy Vitale, who tracks leg­is­la­tion, drafts let­ters and gen­er­al­ly sup­ports the work of the cau­cus.

The Prayer Cau­cus also has an out­side non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that sup­ports its efforts, as are many oth­er cau­cus­es. The Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion oper­ates out of a Chesa­peake, Va., build­ing Forbes owns that also hous­es his cam­paign office. His wife, Shirley Forbes, is one of three unpaid direc­tors of the foun­da­tion. The foun­da­tion has one paid staff mem­ber, exec­u­tive direc­tor Lea Carawan, but oper­ates entire­ly on pri­vate funds. Carawan declined a request for an inter­view.
...

Keep in mind that the above arti­cle was writ­ten in 2015, a year before Project Blitz was for­mal­ly start­ed. But it was already clear to observers that a merg­er of church and state was at the of the group’s agen­da. Giv­ing cer­tain reli­gious groups spe­cial gov­ern­ment endorse­ments was clear­ly the goal for the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus and its non-prof­it Foun­da­tion.

Project Blitz: The Christian Right’s Plan to “Make America Great Again” By Making it Officially Christian for the First Time Ever

It was in 2016, with the cre­ation of Project Blitz, that the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus’s agen­da became unde­ni­able. Launched under the lead­er­ship of one of the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s favorite ‘his­to­ri­ans’, David Bar­ton, Project Blitz start­ed off as both a ‘bill mill’ project but also a project in his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism. The kind of his­tor­i­cal revi­sion­ism that is David Bar­ton’s spe­cial­ty: revis­ing our under­stand­ing of the Found­ing Fathers. Revis­ing out of Amer­i­can his­to­ry all of the ugly truths that might dam­age the Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist utopi­an vision of a divine­ly-guid­ed nation found­ed by Found­ing Fathers with deep Chris­t­ian beliefs and a sense that the Unit­ed States was intend­ed to be a nation run by and for con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians. As Fred­er­ick Clark­son put it, the theo­crat­ic end they envi­sion is chill­ing­ly akin to The Hand­maid­’s Tale. Yes, Project Blitz is essen­tial­ly an ALEC-like enti­ty that exists to gen­er­ate the kind of ‘mod­el leg­is­la­tion’ that would remod­el the US into The Hand­maid­’s Tale:

Salon

The plot against Amer­i­ca: Inside the Chris­t­ian right plan to “remod­el” the nation

Reli­gious right’s blue­print for theo­crat­ic state laws keeps creep­ing for­ward. Is the left ready to fight?

By Paul Rosen­berg
Pub­lished April 13, 2019 12:20PM (EDT)

On April 3, USA Today pub­lished an array of sto­ries under the ban­ner, “Copy, Paste, Leg­is­late,” explor­ing the polit­i­cal impact of mod­el bills on state-lev­el leg­is­la­tion — more than 10,000 bills from 2010 to 2018 — based on a two-year joint inves­ti­ga­tion with the Ari­zona Repub­lic and the Cen­ter for Pub­lic Integri­ty. The lead sto­ry head­line said it all: “You elect­ed them to write new laws. They’re let­ting cor­po­ra­tions do it instead.

OK, it was­n’t quite all. While cor­po­rate influ­ence was the strongest, fig­ures revealed that con­ser­v­a­tive groups weren’t far behind: There were 4,301 bills from indus­try and 4,012 from con­ser­v­a­tive groups, far more than the 1,602 from lib­er­al groups or the 248 clas­si­fied as “oth­er.” The hid­den ori­gins of these bills often hides their true intent. The most noto­ri­ous such group, the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil, or ALEC, for instance com­bines busi­ness inter­ests with move­ment con­ser­v­a­tives.

But with­in the fold of “con­ser­v­a­tive groups” there’s a whole oth­er sto­ry to be told about the orga­niz­ing of extrem­ist reli­gious con­ser­v­a­tives, whose polit­i­cal mobi­liza­tion, as I’ve not­ed in the past, played a cru­cial role in elect­ing Don­ald Trump. Indeed, just the day before “Copy, Past, Leg­is­late” was pub­lished, the Texas Sen­ate passed SB-17, a bill that would pro­tect anti-LGBTQ dis­crim­i­na­tion by all licensed pro­fes­sion­als who claim to act on a “sin­cere­ly held reli­gious belief.”

“It’s time for Amer­i­cans to wake up to the harsh real­i­ty that the reli­gious right, fueled by their fear of loss of pow­er from the chang­ing demo­graph­ics in our coun­try and their sup­port from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, is embold­ened and aggres­sive­ly pur­su­ing all means pos­si­ble to main­tain white Chris­t­ian pow­er in Amer­i­ca,” Rachel Laser, the pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans Unit­ed For Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State, told Salon. “Project Blitz, for exam­ple, has already intro­duced over 50 bills in at least 23 states this year alone,” she added.

One spin-off sto­ry pub­lished in the Nashville Ten­nessean dealt specif­i­cal­ly with an anti-LGT­BQ adop­tion mod­el bill. (Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, NBC report­ed such bills were “‘snow­balling’ in state leg­is­la­tures.”) The Ten­nessee bill came from Project Blitz, which was described as “a leg­isla­tive effort with the stat­ed aim to ‘bring back God to Amer­i­ca.’” But as Salon has report­ed in the past, Project Blitz is much more sin­is­ter than that.

Fred­er­ick Clark­son, senior research ana­lyst at Polit­i­cal Research Asso­ciates, was the first to dis­cov­er its three-tier play­book, pro­duced by a coali­tion of right-wing activists he’d long been fol­low­ing, includ­ing Texas Repub­li­can activist and pseu­do-his­to­ri­an David Bar­ton, whose book, “Jef­fer­son Lies,” which tried to remake Thomas Jef­fer­son as an evan­gel­i­cal hero, was can­celed by its pub­lish­er under with­er­ing crit­i­cism from con­ser­v­a­tive and evan­gel­i­cal schol­ars (fol­lowup here)..

“The authors of the Project Blitz play­book are savvy pur­vey­ors of domin­ion­ism,” Clark­son told Salon at the time. “They are in it for the long haul and try not to say things that sound too alarm­ing. But they live an imma­nent theo­crat­ic vision.” Not all their allies would go all the way with them, Clark­son told me, but the theo­crat­ic end they envi­sion is chill­ing­ly akin to “The Hand­maid­’s Tale” — rea­son enough to war­rant far more atten­tion than they’ve got­ten so far.

The first tier of Project Blitz aims at import­ing the Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist world­view into pub­lic schools and oth­er aspects of the pub­lic sphere, the sec­ond tier aims at mak­ing gov­ern­ment increas­ing­ly a part­ner in “Chris­tian­iz­ing” Amer­i­ca, and the third tier con­tains three types of pro­posed laws that “pro­tect” reli­gious beliefs and prac­tices specif­i­cal­ly intend­ed to ben­e­fit big­otry.

“Although cat­e­go­ry three is divid­ed in three parts, you could also see it as hav­ing two main under­ly­ing inten­tions,” Clark­son explained. “First to den­i­grate the LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ty, and sec­ond to defend and advance the right to dis­crim­i­nate. This is one way that the agen­da of theo­crat­ic domin­ion­ism is reframed as pro­tect­ing the right of theocrats to dis­crim­i­nate against those deemed sec­ond-class, at best. As the late theo­crat­ic the­olo­gian R.J. Rush­doony said, ‘Only the right have rights.’ ”

The broad­er find­ings revealed in “Copy, Paste, Leg­is­late” help to expand our under­stand­ing by high­light­ing three sig­nif­i­cant pat­terns shared in var­i­ous ways with Project Blitz, which are used to advance their theo­crat­ic agen­da, often hid­ing it in plain sight:

1) Mis­lead­ing Lan­guage That Inverts Com­mon Sense Project Blitz does this repeat­ed­ly with the most fun­da­men­tal terms: “reli­gious free­dom,” “First Amend­ment,” and so on. In doing so, it mir­rors what cor­po­ra­tions and insur­ance com­pa­nies did with “trans­paren­cy” in the “Asbestos Trans­paren­cy Act,” switch­ing the roles of vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors, cast­ing them­selves as “vic­tims of lit­i­ga­tion filed by peo­ple harmed by asbestos,” and requir­ing mesothe­lioma vic­tims to seek mon­ey from an asbestos trust — a lengthy process many won’t live long enough to ben­e­fit from. How’s that for “trans­paren­cy”?

2) Goal­post Mov­ing The entire Project Blitz con­cept is premised on mov­ing the goal­posts. It’s built into the very struc­ture of its three-tiered play­book, as well as the log­ic of the sup­port­ing argu­ments. A sim­i­lar strat­e­gy was involved in pro­mot­ing vouch­ers in Ari­zona, begin­ning with a vouch­er for stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, then fol­low­ing up with bill after bill offer­ing vouch­ers to more and more stu­dents, even­tu­al­ly all of them, with no guar­an­tee pro­tect­ing the first group of recip­i­ents from get­ting lost in the process.

“Every sin­gle, lit­tle expan­sion, if you look at who’s behind it, it is the peo­ple that want to get that door kicked open for pri­vate reli­gious edu­ca­tion,” the moth­er of two chil­dren on the autism spec­trum said. “All we (fam­i­lies with dis­abled stu­dents) are was the way for them to crack open the door.”

3) Pre-emp­tion Project Blitz doesn’t use the term “pre-emp­tion,” but since state-lev­el law rou­tine­ly pre-empts local laws — which often pro­tect LGBTQ rights, for exam­ple — it’s implic­it­ly inte­gral to their strat­e­gy. Mod­el bills tracked by USA Today often focused on such pre-emp­tion:

These laws, in effect, allow state leg­is­la­tors to dic­tate to city coun­cils and coun­ty gov­ern­ing boards what they can and can­not do with­in their juris­dic­tion — includ­ing pre­vent­ing them from rais­ing the min­i­mum wage, ban­ning plas­tic gro­cery bags, and destroy­ing guns.

North Carolina’s noto­ri­ous bath­room bill was an exam­ple of the kind of bill that Project Blitz could take up in the future, and politi­cians asso­ci­at­ed with Project Blitz have already copied it — most notably, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, whose efforts last ses­sion ulti­mate­ly failed. Last month, Texas was at it again, when an ALEC-inspired effort to pre-empt local work­er pro­tec­tions was hijacked by Patrick allies to pre-empt LBGTQ pro­tec­tions as well.

With these pat­terns in mind, let’s first con­sid­er how the reli­gious right has attempt­ed to rein­vent big­otry as free­dom, and then take a look at con­tem­po­rary state bat­tles in Texas and else­where.

Bigot’s Rights: Theocracy’s Foun­da­tion

As I not­ed here in 2016, this new homo­pho­bic dis­crim­i­na­to­ry vision exact­ly echoes the racist dis­crim­i­na­to­ry vision that birthed the reli­gious right in the 1970s. The con­nec­tion is trans­par­ent­ly obvi­ous. When Mis­sis­sip­pi passed a “reli­gious free­dom” law that year, which only pro­tect­ed the free­dom of big­ots, the Jack­son city coun­cil unan­i­mous­ly passed a res­o­lu­tion rebuk­ing the law, and May­or Tony Yarber explic­it­ly con­nect­ed big­otry past and present:

As a pre­dom­i­nant­ly black city in Mis­sis­sip­pi, the Jack­son com­mu­ni­ty has endured racism, dis­crim­i­na­tion and injus­tice over the years. We are Mississippi’s cap­i­tal city, and as part of our dec­la­ra­tion of being the “Bold New City,” we will not dis­crim­i­nate against any indi­vid­ual because of race, reli­gious beliefs or sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, nor do we sup­port leg­is­la­tion that allows for such dis­crim­i­na­tion.

The bat­tle­ground Project Blitz has cho­sen revolves around a fal­si­fied his­to­ry of Amer­i­ca as a “Chris­t­ian nation” — sharply at odds with “The God­less Con­sti­tu­tion” we actu­al­ly have — and a new­ly-mint­ed def­i­n­i­tion of “Chris­tian­i­ty” as root­ed in homo­pho­bia. With these twin lies in place, they posi­tion them­selves as the “true Chris­tians” and “true Amer­i­cans” suf­fer­ing from gov­ern­ment oppres­sion.

With that false social iden­ti­ty in place, Chris­t­ian nation­al­ists ratio­nal­ize the “free­dom” to dis­crim­i­nate as a fun­da­men­tal right, pow­er­ing a shift from defense to offense, that was per­fect­ly cap­tured by Kather­ine Stew­art in a New York Times op-ed last year, “A Chris­t­ian Nation­al­ist Blitz.” Stew­art described par­tic­i­pants in a Project Blitz con­fer­ence call refer­ring to the above law “in awed tones as ‘the Mis­sis­sip­pi mis­sile.’” To under­stand why, here’s its exact lan­guage:

SECTION 2. The sin­cere­ly held reli­gious beliefs or moral con­vic­tions pro­tect­ed by this act are the belief or con­vic­tion that:

(a) Mar­riage is or should be rec­og­nized as the union of one man and one woman;

(b) Sex­u­al rela­tions are prop­er­ly reserved to such a mar­riage; and

© Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an indi­vid­u­al’s immutable bio­log­i­cal sex as objec­tive­ly deter­mined by anato­my and genet­ics at time of birth.

In Project Blitz’s 2018–19 play­book, this is called the “Mar­riage Tol­er­ance Act” (aka “First Amend­ment Defense Act”) and uses the same nar­row­ly-tai­lored def­i­n­i­tion. But if “leg­is­la­tors do not have enough sup­port to pass the rec­om­mend­ed lan­guage,” the play­book offers “a fall-back posi­tion,” replac­ing the explic­it lan­guage with the vague­ly-word­ed alter­na­tive, “regard­ing law­ful mar­riage in this state.”

This is not advised, how­ev­er, because of the dan­ger that it will be used by non-big­ots. The play­book explains:

We repeat, how­ev­er, that we advise against this alter­na­tive. This lan­guage still car­ries a risk, even if slim, of being abused by an indi­vid­ual or group alleg­ing that their same-sex mar­riage views are a “sin­cere­ly held reli­gious belief.”

Such is the mind­set behind the façade of pro­mot­ing Amer­i­can free­dom.

Bat­tle­field Texas

In Texas, as not­ed above, a Project Blitz bill, SB-17, just passed the State Sen­ate. It would allow anti-LGBTQ dis­crim­i­na­tion by any licensed pro­fes­sion­al. (Tech­ni­cal­ly, such a pro­fes­sion­al could still be sued for dis­crim­i­na­tion, but could rely on the law at tri­al.) In rur­al Texas, this could eas­i­ly mean a total lack of ser­vices. It’s not just health care pro­fes­sion­als who could wan­ton­ly hold people’s lives in their hands. If passed, an LGBTQ Tex­an could well die of heat­stroke because of an air-con­di­tion­ing repair person’s “sin­cere­ly held reli­gious belief,” as point­ed out by Emmett Schelling, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Trans­gen­der Edu­ca­tion Net­work of Texas, in an April 8 press con­fer­ence call.

“Life as a trans per­son in Texas is already very dif­fi­cult,” Schelling said. “Enact­ing this law would make it even more dif­fi­cult ... if not impos­si­ble, for those of us mar­gin­al­ized with­in our com­mu­ni­ty.”

“The last leg­isla­tive ses­sion, most of the oxy­gen was tak­en up with epic bat­tles over a bath­room bill,” added Saman­tha Smoot, inter­im exec­u­tive direc­tor of Equal­i­ty Texas, on the same call. That push was led by Lt. Gov. Patrick, whose efforts ulti­mate­ly failed. The elec­tion that fol­lowed was wide­ly seen as “in large part a ref­er­en­dum on the bath­room bill,” Smoot said. “Twelve new pro-equal­i­ty leg­is­la­tors were elect­ed here in Texas; four of the top pro­po­nents of the bath­room bill were defeat­ed,” she said. “That led us to the begin­ning of the ses­sion, and the lieu­tenant gov­er­nor stat­ing pub­licly that this is going to be a meat-and-pota­toes ses­sion, that we’re not going to see the types of attacks on LGBTQ peo­ple that had char­ac­ter­ized the 2017 leg­isla­tive ses­sion.”

Now, in a stark turn­around, SB-17 has renewed the bat­tle, already draw­ing strong busi­ness oppo­si­tion, in fears of repeat­ing North Carolina’s expe­ri­ence. It isn’t alone. “SB 17 is one of 15 bills that have been filed this ses­sion that aim to turn reli­gion into a license to dis­crim­i­nate against LGBTQ peo­ple in Texas,” Smoot said.

On the same call, Kathy Miller, pres­i­dent of the Texas Free­dom Net­work, dis­cussed the influ­ence of David Bar­ton and Project Blitz. “It now seems clear that Texas is at the cen­ter of the nation­wide state-by-state strat­e­gy to pass leg­is­la­tion that uses reli­gion to block or roll back nondis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions for LGBTQ Tex­ans and LGBTQ Amer­i­cans,” Miller said. “Make no mis­take, what is hap­pen­ing in Texas now will hap­pen in oth­er states as well. In fact, it already has.”

“What’s extra­or­di­nary about the Texas bill is its reach,” Clark­son said after the call. We’ve been used to adop­tion agency bills, for exam­ple, he not­ed, “But this has to do with all state pro­fes­sion­al licens­ing agen­cies. So if you’re a social work­er or teacher, as well as a health care work­er, you can declare reli­gious exemp­tions in ser­vice to LGBTQ peo­ple on a range that’s breath­tak­ing,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve seen that any­where else.”

What could this por­tend? “It sug­gests we’re on a slip­pery slope, just in terms of the nature and the range of reli­gious exemp­tions and how broad­ly they can apply,” Clark­son said. “It’s accel­er­at­ing and expand­ing in a way we have not seen else­where. Every­body should be right­ly con­cerned about the unam­bigu­ous domin­ion­ist inten­tions of Project Blitz gen­er­al­ly, and of many of the back­ers of leg­is­la­tion like this.”

On the oth­er hand, some people’s will­ing­ness to go along is lim­it­ed or con­di­tion­al, and polit­i­cal cir­cum­stances cer­tain­ly can change —and have done so, as wit­ness the midterm elec­tion results.

“On the plus side of this, for 2020, I think that the recent round of elec­tions showed what’s pos­si­ble,” Clark­son not­ed. “That shows that there is a vast swath of Amer­i­cans that, if they decide to act, can make a deci­sive dif­fer­ence in sit­u­a­tions like this.”

To bet­ter under­stand David Barton’s role in par­tic­u­lar, I turned to Chris Rod­da, author of “Liars for Jesus” and senior research direc­tor for the Mil­i­tary Reli­gious Free­dom Foun­da­tion. On the one hand, as an activist, she not­ed, “Bar­ton has for years encour­aged his fol­low­ers to run for local and state office, from school boards on up, and pushed the impor­tance of local of state and local elec­tions to get the vot­er turnout.” This local elec­tion focus is where evan­gel­i­cal con­ser­v­a­tives con­sis­tent­ly have an edge over Democ­rats, she not­ed.

Bar­ton’s fake ver­sion of his­to­ry is direct­ly con­nect­ed to polit­i­cal out­comes, Rod­da said. “The rea­son for the his­to­ry revi­sion­ism is to make the fol­low­ers of peo­ple like Bar­ton think that the reli­gious leg­is­la­tion is jus­ti­fied by his­to­ry,” Rod­da said. “Since most Chris­tians aren’t liars, he has to get them to gen­uine­ly believe that the leg­is­la­tion that they’re try­ing to get passed is what the founders intend­ed,” when it’s actu­al­ly the exact oppo­site, as I’ve not­ed repeat­ed­ly before (here, here and here).

The Pow­er of Lies

As not­ed above, the twin lies that Amer­i­ca was found­ed as a Chris­t­ian nation and that Chris­tian­i­ty is defined by homo­pho­bia com­bine to cre­ate a pow­er­ful social iden­ti­ty, which in turn helps facil­i­tate the spread of Project Blitz’s agen­da, whether pre­cise­ly embod­ied in mod­el bills or not.

This can be seen in two relat­ed sto­ries from Mis­souri. First, Madi­son McVan at the Mis­souri­an report­ed on a trio of bills whose intent aligns with Project Blitz — Mis­souri House Bill 267, whose text resem­bles the “Bible Lit­er­a­cy Act,” a Sen­ate res­o­lu­tion encour­ag­ing schools to offer Bible lit­er­a­cy elec­tives (sim­i­lar in spir­it only), and House Bill 577, which is much short­er than the “Nation­al Mot­to Dis­play Act” from Project Blitz, but with the same end result: “The bill would require pub­lic schools to dis­play ‘In God We Trust’ in a promi­nent loca­tion such as a school entry­way or cafe­te­ria.”

None of the authors claimed to know about Project Blitz, but its influ­ence was obvi­ous. The tex­tu­al­ly sim­i­lar bill came from copy­ing oth­er state laws. Anoth­er was writ­ten by the chair of the Mis­souri Prayer Cau­cus Net­work, whose nation­al foun­da­tion helped cre­ation the Project Blitz hand­book. He claimed to have had no involve­ment. The third author could not remem­ber where the text came from — only that some­one had offered it and he liked it.

“Even if some leg­is­la­tors intro­duce bills that they do not know draws lan­guage from Project Blitz mod­el bills, it cer­tain­ly val­i­dates Project Blitz meth­ods, which get their mate­r­i­al cir­cu­lat­ed, even if indi­rect­ly from oth­er states that may use it more overt­ly,” Clark­son said. “Sim­i­lar­ly, just because some­one is not a mem­ber of a state’s leg­isla­tive prayer cau­cus does­n’t mean that they are not influ­enced by those who are.”

In short, the impacts of Project Blitz go well beyond what the tex­tu­al analy­sis behind “Cut, Paste, Leg­is­late” can mea­sure.

The role of shap­ing a social iden­ti­ty is espe­cial­ly note­wor­thy in the sec­ond Mis­souri sto­ry, from the Mis­souri Times. It con­cerns House Bill 728, which would pro­hib­it anony­mous free­dom of reli­gion law­suits — which are allowed under cur­rent law, if the per­son brin­ing the law­suit can show cause. “The Mis­souri bill that pro­hibits church-state plain­tiffs from being anony­mous despite, or per­haps because of, the like­li­hood that these plain­tiffs are harassed and even receive death threats is anoth­er exam­ple of how embold­ened and immoral the reli­gious right is today,” said Laser of Amer­i­cans Unit­ed.

But the bill’s author, Rep. Hardy Billing­ton, con­tin­ued to play the vic­tim. “House Bill 728 would guar­an­tee that no indi­vid­ual or orga­ni­za­tion will be able to use state courts as a weapon to attack the right of Mis­souri cit­i­zens to dis­play reli­gious sym­bols in pub­lic spaces while hid­ing behind a cloak of secre­cy,” he said.

Of course that “right” only exists in Barton’s myth­i­cal his­to­ry. But myths have tremen­dous pow­er in Trump’s post-truth Amer­i­ca. Which is why polit­i­cal lead­ers need to step up, Laser argued.

...

————

“The plot against Amer­i­ca: Inside the Chris­t­ian right plan to “remod­el” the nation” by Paul Rosen­berg; Salon; 04/13/2019

“The first tier of Project Blitz aims at import­ing the Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist world­view into pub­lic schools and oth­er aspects of the pub­lic sphere, the sec­ond tier aims at mak­ing gov­ern­ment increas­ing­ly a part­ner in “Chris­tian­iz­ing” Amer­i­ca, and the third tier con­tains three types of pro­posed laws that “pro­tect” reli­gious beliefs and prac­tices specif­i­cal­ly intend­ed to ben­e­fit big­otry.”

A three-tiered plan, with each tier get­ting us clos­er and clos­er to a full blown theoc­ra­cy. The first tier gets the theo­crat­ic foot in the door with seem­ing­ly innocu­ous calls for prayer in pub­lic schools and the pub­lic sphere. The sec­ond tier push­es this agen­da a bit fur­ther by get­ting the gov­ern­ment to make procla­ma­tions about how the US soci­ety was built on Chris­t­ian foun­da­tions. Like the first tier, it’s just a seem­ing­ly innocu­ous dec­la­ra­tion of par­tic­u­lar reli­gious tra­di­tions. But then we get to the third tier of the agen­da, where par­tic­u­lar reli­gious beliefs are then declared “pro­tect­ed” by law. As Fred­er­ick Clark­son put it, the theo­crat­ic end they envi­sion is chill­ing­ly akin to The Hand­maid­’s Tale. Project Blitz was set up to feed law­mak­ers cook­ie-cut­ter leg­is­la­tion designed to fur­ther that agen­da. That’s the game being played here, which is why secre­cy about the very exis­tence of Project Blitz has also been part of the agen­da too.

But it’s not just an agen­da for con­fer­ring spe­cial rights to con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians. Project Blitz has the goal of impos­ing an ahis­tor­i­cal ver­sion of Amer­i­can his­to­ry. Specif­i­cal­ly, David Bar­ton’s ahis­tor­i­cal vision of the Found­ing Fathers as ardent Chris­t­ian nation­al­ists who actu­al­ly sought a merg­er of Church and State:

...
“It’s time for Amer­i­cans to wake up to the harsh real­i­ty that the reli­gious right, fueled by their fear of loss of pow­er from the chang­ing demo­graph­ics in our coun­try and their sup­port from the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, is embold­ened and aggres­sive­ly pur­su­ing all means pos­si­ble to main­tain white Chris­t­ian pow­er in Amer­i­ca,” Rachel Laser, the pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans Unit­ed For Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State, told Salon. “Project Blitz, for exam­ple, has already intro­duced over 50 bills in at least 23 states this year alone,” she added.

One spin-off sto­ry pub­lished in the Nashville Ten­nessean dealt specif­i­cal­ly with an anti-LGT­BQ adop­tion mod­el bill. (Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly, NBC report­ed such bills were “‘snow­balling’ in state leg­is­la­tures.”) The Ten­nessee bill came from Project Blitz, which was described as “a leg­isla­tive effort with the stat­ed aim to ‘bring back God to Amer­i­ca.’” But as Salon has report­ed in the past, Project Blitz is much more sin­is­ter than that.

Fred­er­ick Clark­son, senior research ana­lyst at Polit­i­cal Research Asso­ciates, was the first to dis­cov­er its three-tier play­book, pro­duced by a coali­tion of right-wing activists he’d long been fol­low­ing, includ­ing Texas Repub­li­can activist and pseu­do-his­to­ri­an David Bar­ton, whose book, “Jef­fer­son Lies,” which tried to remake Thomas Jef­fer­son as an evan­gel­i­cal hero, was can­celed by its pub­lish­er under with­er­ing crit­i­cism from con­ser­v­a­tive and evan­gel­i­cal schol­ars (fol­lowup here)..

“The authors of the Project Blitz play­book are savvy pur­vey­ors of domin­ion­ism,” Clark­son told Salon at the time. “They are in it for the long haul and try not to say things that sound too alarm­ing. But they live an imma­nent theo­crat­ic vision.” Not all their allies would go all the way with them, Clark­son told me, but the theo­crat­ic end they envi­sion is chill­ing­ly akin to “The Hand­maid­’s Tale” — rea­son enough to war­rant far more atten­tion than they’ve got­ten so far.

...

The bat­tle­ground Project Blitz has cho­sen revolves around a fal­si­fied his­to­ry of Amer­i­ca as a “Chris­t­ian nation” — sharply at odds with “The God­less Con­sti­tu­tion” we actu­al­ly have — and a new­ly-mint­ed def­i­n­i­tion of “Chris­tian­i­ty” as root­ed in homo­pho­bia. With these twin lies in place, they posi­tion them­selves as the “true Chris­tians” and “true Amer­i­cans” suf­fer­ing from gov­ern­ment oppres­sion.

...

Bar­ton’s fake ver­sion of his­to­ry is direct­ly con­nect­ed to polit­i­cal out­comes, Rod­da said. “The rea­son for the his­to­ry revi­sion­ism is to make the fol­low­ers of peo­ple like Bar­ton think that the reli­gious leg­is­la­tion is jus­ti­fied by his­to­ry,” Rod­da said. “Since most Chris­tians aren’t liars, he has to get them to gen­uine­ly believe that the leg­is­la­tion that they’re try­ing to get passed is what the founders intend­ed,” when it’s actu­al­ly the exact oppo­site, as I’ve not­ed repeat­ed­ly before (here, here and here).
...

So is David Bar­ton just a reli­gious con man who has achieved a dis­turb­ing lev­el of influ­ence? Yes and no.

David Barton: The GOP’s Go-To Theocrat

Yes, David Bar­ton is indeed a reli­gious con man. But he’s not just some ran­dom con man. A adher­ent of the “Sev­en Moun­tains Domin­ion­ism” sect, Bar­ton has for decades been one of the most revered con men in the Repub­li­can Par­ty. He was so pop­u­lar back in 2011 that Mike Huck­abee intro­duced Bar­ton at an event by declar­ing, “I almost wish that there would be some­thing like a simul­ta­ne­ous tele­cast and all Amer­i­cans would be forced, forced—at gun­point, no less—to lis­ten to every David Bar­ton mes­sage. And I think our coun­try would be bet­ter for it.” But as the fol­low­ing 2012 Dai­ly Beast excerpt points out, Bar­ton’s rela­tion­ship with the reli­gious right has­n’t always been smooth. That was the year Bar­ton faced a back­lash. Some­one final­ly noticed that Bar­ton’s ver­sion of Amer­i­can his­to­ry was a steam­ing pile of ahis­tor­i­cal garbage. Not that it mat­tered in the end. The back­lash did­n’t last. And that’s part of the sto­ry here: David Bar­ton oper­ates in such bad faith that he was called out by fel­low con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian his­to­ri­ans about a decade ago, and yet Bar­ton con­tin­ues to be a key fig­ure on the Reli­gious Right, with Project Blitz as just one of his many theo­crat­ic projects. Bar­ton was out­ed as a fraud and it did­n’t mat­ter because it was polit­i­cal­ly con­ve­nient fraud:

The Dai­ly Beast

David Bar­ton, Chris­t­ian Schol­ar, Faces a Back­lash
‘Mis­lead­ing Claims’

The far-right author has claimed the found­ing fathers want­ed a Chris­t­ian nation—but now con­ser­v­a­tives are dis­own­ing his work.

Michelle Gold­berg
Updat­ed Jul. 13, 2017 10:26PM ET
Pub­lished Aug. 11, 2012 4:45AM ET

At the Redis­cov­er­ing God in Amer­i­ca con­fer­ence in 2011, Mike Huck­abee gave an impas­sioned intro­duc­tion to David Bar­ton, the reli­gious right’s favorite revi­sion­ist his­to­ri­an. “I almost wish that there would be some­thing like a simul­ta­ne­ous tele­cast and all Amer­i­cans would be forced, forced—at gun­point, no less—to lis­ten to every David Bar­ton mes­sage,” he said. “And I think our coun­try would be bet­ter for it.”

It’s hard to over­state how impor­tant Bar­ton has been in shap­ing the world­view of the Chris­t­ian right, and of pop­ulist con­ser­v­a­tives more gen­er­al­ly. A self-taught his­to­ri­an with a degree in reli­gious edu­ca­tion from Oral Roberts Uni­ver­si­ty, he runs a Texas-based orga­ni­za­tion called Wall­Builders, which spe­cial­izes in books and videos meant to show that the found­ing fathers were over­whelm­ing­ly “ortho­dox, evan­gel­i­cal” believ­ers who intend­ed for the Unit­ed States to be a Chris­t­ian nation. Newt Gin­grich has called his work “won­der­ful” and “most use­ful.” George W. Bush’s cam­paign hired him to do cler­gy out­reach in 2004. In 2010, Glenn Beck called him called him “the most impor­tant man in Amer­i­ca right now.” At the end of the month, he’s slat­ed to serve on the GOP’s plat­form com­mit­tee at the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Tam­pa.

But now, sud­den­ly, Barton’s rep­u­ta­tion is in freefall, and not just among the sec­u­lar his­to­ri­ans and jour­nal­ists who have been denounc­ing him for ages. (I’m among them; I wrote exten­sive­ly about Bar­ton in my 2006 book King­dom Com­ing: The Rise of Chris­t­ian Nation­al­ism.) Ear­li­er this week, the evan­gel­i­cal World mag­a­zine pub­lished a piece about the grow­ing num­ber of con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian schol­ars ques­tion­ing his work. Then, on Thurs­day, Thomas Nel­son, the world’s largest Chris­t­ian pub­lish­er, recalled Barton’s most recent book, the best­selling The Jef­fer­son Lies, say­ing it had “lost con­fi­dence in the book’s details.”

For decades, Bar­ton has tried to write enlight­en­ment deism out of Amer­i­can his­to­ry, but it seems that by attempt­ing to turn the famous­ly free­think­ing Thomas Jef­fer­son into a pious pre­cur­sor of the mod­ern Chris­t­ian right, he final­ly went too far. “Books like that makes Chris­t­ian schol­ar­ship look bad,” says War­ren Throck­mor­ton, an evan­gel­i­cal pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at Grove City Col­lege, a con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian school in Penn­syl­va­nia. “If that’s what peo­ple are pass­ing off as Chris­t­ian schol­ar­ship, there are claims in there that are eas­i­ly proved false.”

Throck­mor­ton and anoth­er Grove City pro­fes­sor, Michael Coul­ter, have been so dis­turbed by Barton’s dis­tor­tions that they wrote a recent rejoin­der to his Jef­fer­son book, titled Get­ting Jef­fer­son Right: Fact Check­ing Claims About Our Third Pres­i­dent. Their book appears to have inspired oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians final­ly to take a crit­i­cal look at Bar­ton.

Jay Richards, a senior fel­low at the con­ser­v­a­tive Dis­cov­ery Insti­tute who spoke along­side Bar­ton at a con­fer­ence last month, read Get­ting Jef­fer­son Right and got in touch with Throck­mor­ton. Accord­ing to World, Richards pro­ceed­ed to ask 10 con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian schol­ars to review Barton’s work. When they did, the response was extreme­ly neg­a­tive, lead­ing Richards to con­clude that Barton’s books and videos traf­ficked in “embar­rass­ing fac­tu­al errors, sus­pi­cious­ly selec­tive quotes, and high­ly mis­lead­ing claims.”

The most seri­ous of Barton’s decep­tions involve his efforts to white­wash Jefferson’s racism, part of Barton’s broad­er project of absolv­ing the founders of the orig­i­nal sin of slav­ery, which would taint his pic­ture of the country’s divine ori­gins. His book argues, false­ly, that Jef­fer­son want­ed to free his slaves, but couldn’t do so because of Vir­ginia law. That claim so incensed some Cincin­nati-area pas­tors, both African-Amer­i­can and white, that they threat­ened a boy­cott of Thomas Nel­son pub­lish­ers. “You can’t be seri­ous about racial uni­ty in the church, while hold­ing up Jef­fer­son as a hero and cham­pi­on of free­dom,” one of them said in a press release.

Barton’s his­to­ry around race is com­pli­cat­ed. As I’ve pre­vi­ous­ly writ­ten, he got his start on the racist far right. In 1991, the Anti-Defama­tion League has report­ed, he spoke at a sum­mer gath­er­ing of Scrip­tures for Amer­i­ca, a Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty group. A fringe creed, Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty holds that Jews are the Satan­ic off­spring of Eve’s liai­son with the ser­pent in the Gar­den of Eden, while Africans are a sep­a­rate species of “mud peo­ple.” Oth­er speak­ers at the meet­ing were Holo­caust denier Mal­colm Ross and white suprema­cist Richard Kel­ly Hoskins. That fall, Bar­ton was fea­tured at anoth­er Chris­tian­i­ty Iden­ti­ty gath­er­ing, in Ore­gon.

As Bar­ton went main­stream, how­ev­er, he dis­tanced him­self from out­right racism. Instead, he’s sought to prove that lib­er­als have exag­ger­at­ed the scale of black oppres­sion in ear­ly Amer­i­ca, and to paint con­tem­po­rary Repub­li­cans as the cham­pi­ons of African-Amer­i­can free­dom. In one doc­u­ment on the Wall­Builders web­site, he attrib­ut­es Strom Thurmond’s 1964 break with the Democ­rats to the senator’s “dra­mat­ic change of heart on civ­il rights issues,” as if the for­mer Dix­ie­crat had turned Repub­li­can out of out­rage at seg­re­ga­tion rather than civ­il rights.

...

———–

“David Bar­ton, Chris­t­ian Schol­ar, Faces a Back­lash” by Michelle Gold­berg; The Dai­ly Beast; 08/11/2012

It’s hard to over­state how impor­tant Bar­ton has been in shap­ing the world­view of the Chris­t­ian right, and of pop­ulist con­ser­v­a­tives more gen­er­al­ly. A self-taught his­to­ri­an with a degree in reli­gious edu­ca­tion from Oral Roberts Uni­ver­si­ty, he runs a Texas-based orga­ni­za­tion called Wall­Builders, which spe­cial­izes in books and videos meant to show that the found­ing fathers were over­whelm­ing­ly “ortho­dox, evan­gel­i­cal” believ­ers who intend­ed for the Unit­ed States to be a Chris­t­ian nation. Newt Gin­grich has called his work “won­der­ful” and “most use­ful.” George W. Bush’s cam­paign hired him to do cler­gy out­reach in 2004. In 2010, Glenn Beck called him called him “the most impor­tant man in Amer­i­ca right now.” At the end of the month, he’s slat­ed to serve on the GOP’s plat­form com­mit­tee at the Repub­li­can Nation­al Con­ven­tion in Tam­pa.”

Yes, it tru­ly is hard to over­state how impor­tant David Bar­ton has been in shap­ing the world­view of the Chris­t­ian right. When Glenn Beck called Bar­ton “the most impor­tant man in Amer­i­ca right now”, this was after decades of Bar­ton’s ascen­dance as the philo­soph­i­cal leader of the move­ment. A move­ment ded­i­cat­ed to the ero­sion of the Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State. David Bar­ton’s per­son­al quest to rede­fine the US’s own sense of his­to­ry, and ‘prove’ that the Found­ing Fathers nev­er tru­ly intend­ed to keep church and state sep­a­rate, had grown into a move­ment that had already cap­tured the hearts and minds of much of the Repub­li­can base. David Bar­ton was arguably the polit­i­cal guid­ing light for the US Chris­t­ian right through­out the 90’s and 2000’s.

And then, sud­den­ly in 2012, it seemed like Bar­ton’s star might be dim­ming. Decades after embrac­ing him, a num­ber of con­ser­v­a­tive his­to­ri­ans appeared to sud­den­ly dis­cov­er that Bar­ton’s his­tor­i­cal schol­ar­ship was rather lack­ing. Lack­ing in the sense of being gross­ly fraud­u­lent. A dam of lies was final­ly break­ing. Or at least that’s how it seemed at the time:

...
But now, sud­den­ly, Barton’s rep­u­ta­tion is in freefall, and not just among the sec­u­lar his­to­ri­ans and jour­nal­ists who have been denounc­ing him for ages. (I’m among them; I wrote exten­sive­ly about Bar­ton in my 2006 book King­dom Com­ing: The Rise of Chris­t­ian Nation­al­ism.) Ear­li­er this week, the evan­gel­i­cal World mag­a­zine pub­lished a piece about the grow­ing num­ber of con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian schol­ars ques­tion­ing his work. Then, on Thurs­day, Thomas Nel­son, the world’s largest Chris­t­ian pub­lish­er, recalled Barton’s most recent book, the best­selling The Jef­fer­son Lies, say­ing it had “lost con­fi­dence in the book’s details.”

For decades, Bar­ton has tried to write enlight­en­ment deism out of Amer­i­can his­to­ry, but it seems that by attempt­ing to turn the famous­ly free­think­ing Thomas Jef­fer­son into a pious pre­cur­sor of the mod­ern Chris­t­ian right, he final­ly went too far. “Books like that makes Chris­t­ian schol­ar­ship look bad,” says War­ren Throck­mor­ton, an evan­gel­i­cal pro­fes­sor of psy­chol­o­gy at Grove City Col­lege, a con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian school in Penn­syl­va­nia. “If that’s what peo­ple are pass­ing off as Chris­t­ian schol­ar­ship, there are claims in there that are eas­i­ly proved false.”

Throck­mor­ton and anoth­er Grove City pro­fes­sor, Michael Coul­ter, have been so dis­turbed by Barton’s dis­tor­tions that they wrote a recent rejoin­der to his Jef­fer­son book, titled Get­ting Jef­fer­son Right: Fact Check­ing Claims About Our Third Pres­i­dent. Their book appears to have inspired oth­er con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians final­ly to take a crit­i­cal look at Bar­ton.

...

The most seri­ous of Barton’s decep­tions involve his efforts to white­wash Jefferson’s racism, part of Barton’s broad­er project of absolv­ing the founders of the orig­i­nal sin of slav­ery, which would taint his pic­ture of the country’s divine ori­gins. His book argues, false­ly, that Jef­fer­son want­ed to free his slaves, but couldn’t do so because of Vir­ginia law. That claim so incensed some Cincin­nati-area pas­tors, both African-Amer­i­can and white, that they threat­ened a boy­cott of Thomas Nel­son pub­lish­ers. “You can’t be seri­ous about racial uni­ty in the church, while hold­ing up Jef­fer­son as a hero and cham­pi­on of free­dom,” one of them said in a press release.
...

And note how it’s not as if there had­n’t been warn­ing signs about Bar­ton’s intel­lec­tu­al integri­ty for years. Bar­ton got his start on the far right. He addressed the Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty move­men­t’s Rocky Moun­tain Bible Retreat of Pas­tor Pete Peters’ Scrip­tures for Amer­i­ca back in 1991, and then pro­ceed­ed to build a ‘main­stream’ career as a reli­gious his­to­ri­an who sought to prove that lib­er­als exag­ger­at­ed the scale of black oppres­sion in ear­ly Amer­i­ca. The warn­ings signs were there well before he was embraced by the main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment as some sort of gen­uine schol­ar:

...
Barton’s his­to­ry around race is com­pli­cat­ed. As I’ve pre­vi­ous­ly writ­ten, he got his start on the racist far right. In 1991, the Anti-Defama­tion League has report­ed, he spoke at a sum­mer gath­er­ing of Scrip­tures for Amer­i­ca, a Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty group. A fringe creed, Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty holds that Jews are the Satan­ic off­spring of Eve’s liai­son with the ser­pent in the Gar­den of Eden, while Africans are a sep­a­rate species of “mud peo­ple.” Oth­er speak­ers at the meet­ing were Holo­caust denier Mal­colm Ross and white suprema­cist Richard Kel­ly Hoskins. That fall, Bar­ton was fea­tured at anoth­er Chris­tian­i­ty Iden­ti­ty gath­er­ing, in Ore­gon.

As Bar­ton went main­stream, how­ev­er, he dis­tanced him­self from out­right racism. Instead, he’s sought to prove that lib­er­als have exag­ger­at­ed the scale of black oppres­sion in ear­ly Amer­i­ca, and to paint con­tem­po­rary Repub­li­cans as the cham­pi­ons of African-Amer­i­can free­dom. In one doc­u­ment on the Wall­Builders web­site, he attrib­ut­es Strom Thurmond’s 1964 break with the Democ­rats to the senator’s “dra­mat­ic change of heart on civ­il rights issues,” as if the for­mer Dix­ie­crat had turned Repub­li­can out of out­rage at seg­re­ga­tion rather than civ­il rights.
...

The guy got his start in the Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty move­ment and went main­stream from there. It’s a tru­ly dis­turb­ing career path. And as the fol­low­ing 2011 SPLC pro­file of Bar­ton makes clear, Bar­ton isn’t just a theo­crat. He’s specif­i­cal­ly a Sev­en Moun­tains Domin­ion­ism theo­crat. The kind of theo­crat who incor­po­rates a divine man­date to seize polit­i­cal pow­er into their the­ol­o­gy. And the kind of theo­crat whose the­ol­o­gy just hap­pens to align with the whims of large cor­po­ra­tions. The kind of theo­crat who claims Jesus and the Bible oppose min­i­mum wage laws, unions, and pro­tect­ing the envi­ron­ment. In oth­er words, David Bar­ton was the per­fect Repub­li­can theo­crat, so it’s no won­der the par­ty was will­ing to look past his ahis­tor­i­cal short­com­ings:

South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter

David Bar­ton – Extrem­ist ‘His­to­ri­an’ for the Chris­t­ian Right

Eve­lyn Schlat­ter
May 05, 2011

The New York Times today pub­lished an arti­cle about David Bar­ton, a self-edu­cat­ed, pseu­do-his­to­ri­an who advis­es sev­er­al promi­nent right-wing polit­i­cal fig­ures, includ­ing Newt Gin­grich, Michele Bach­mann, Mike Huck­abee and Kansas Gov. Sam Brown­back. Huck­abee, in fact, recent­ly said at a reli­gious-right con­fer­ence that he wished all Amer­i­cans could be “forced — forced at gun­point no less — to lis­ten to every David Bar­ton mes­sage, and I think our coun­try would be bet­ter for it.”

Named by Time as one of the nation’s 25 most influ­en­tial evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians in 2005, Bar­ton is best known for ped­dling his­tor­i­cal dis­tor­tions pro­mot­ing his view that Amer­i­ca was found­ed as a Chris­t­ian, rather than sec­u­lar, nation. He served as vice chair­man of the Texas Repub­li­can Par­ty from 1997 to 2006, and he was hired in 2004 by the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee to mobi­lize Chris­tians for Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s re-elec­tion cam­paign. Since then, he has also become Glenn Beck­’s unof­fi­cial “his­to­ri­an” (Bar­ton and Beck below, recent­ly in Israel).

Times reporter Erik Eck­holm not­ed that Bar­ton “has steadi­ly built a rep­u­ta­tion as a guid­ing spir­it of the reli­gious right” even as many his­to­ri­ans say he relies on flawed research. What the arti­cle didn’t reveal is the depth of Barton’s extrem­ism.

Last month, Peo­ple for the Amer­i­can Way released a report exam­in­ing Barton’s role in the reli­gious right and Repub­li­can pol­i­tics. Bar­ton, who often pro­motes con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about elites hid­ing “the truth” from aver­age Amer­i­cans, sub­scribes to beliefs found in Sev­en Moun­tains Domin­ion­ism. This move­ment teach­es that cer­tain kinds of Chris­tians are meant by God to dom­i­nate every sphere of soci­ety.

Bar­ton has warned about the dan­gers of Islam but claimed that “sec­u­lar­ism presents a greater threat to Amer­i­can tra­di­tions and val­ues than does Islam” and that the Con­sti­tu­tion was not meant to be a sec­u­lar doc­u­ment. He has bat­tled mar­riage equal­i­ty and has cam­paigned for state restric­tions on legal equal­i­ty for LGBT peo­ple. He has involved him­self in the new war on unions, claim­ing that Jesus and the Bible oppose min­i­mum wage laws.

He has also been extreme­ly active in the reli­gious right’s cam­paign against so-called “activist judges.” His 2003 book Restrain­ing Judi­cial Activism calls for the impeach­ment of fed­er­al judges who don’t inter­pret the Con­sti­tu­tion the way he does. In addi­tion, he says, mem­bers of Con­gress should use the threat of impeach­ment to intim­i­date fed­er­al judges.

Here are some oth­er notable Bar­ton activ­i­ties:

* His 2006 DVD, Set­ting the Record Straight: Amer­i­can His­to­ry in Black and White is a 90-minute effort to paint the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty as respon­si­ble for prob­lems faced by African Amer­i­cans, say­ing that Democ­rats “bam­boo­zled blacks.” He con­ve­nient­ly leaves out his­to­ry after 1965 and the rise of the racist “South­ern Strat­e­gy” with­in the Repub­li­can Par­ty.

* In 2007, Bar­ton wrote an arti­cle crit­i­cal of U.S. Rep. Kei­th Elli­son — the first Mus­lim sworn into Con­gress — in which he tout­ed the works of Robert Spencer, a right-wing author of vir­u­lent­ly anti-Mus­lim books. Spencer, along with Pam Geller, found­ed the vit­ri­olic group Stop the Islamiza­tion of Amer­i­ca, which is list­ed by the SPLC as a hate group. In 2010, Bar­ton devot­ed sev­er­al of his Wall­Builders Live radio broad­casts to crit­ics of the Park51 Project (incor­rect­ly called the “Ground Zero Mosque” by oppo­nents). One of the guests was Walid Shoe­bat, who calls him­self a for­mer PLO ter­ror­ist who con­vert­ed to Chris­tian­i­ty. On the show, Shoe­bat said that the imam lead­ing the Park51 project was try­ing to imple­ment Shari­ah law on Amer­i­ca and that “lib­er­als always agree with Mus­lims.” Bar­ton agreed.

* Bar­ton is close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with a move­ment among con­ser­v­a­tive evan­gel­i­cals to resist envi­ron­men­tal activism in church­es and to paint envi­ron­men­tal­ism as active­ly anti-Chris­t­ian. In 2009, he signed the Evan­gel­i­cal Dec­la­ra­tion on Glob­al Warm­ing, which claims that efforts to reduce car­bon diox­ide would be eco­nom­i­cal­ly dev­as­tat­ing and are there­fore against Bib­li­cal require­ments of “pro­tect­ing the poor from harm and oppres­sion.” He is active with “Resist­ing the Green Drag­on,” a project that por­trays envi­ron­men­tal­ism as “dead­ly” to human pros­per­i­ty, human life and human free­dom.

* Bar­ton has argued against immi­gra­tion reform, and claimed that God estab­lished the bor­ders of nations. He has host­ed the vicious­ly anti-immi­grant William Gheen of ALIPAC on his radio show. Gheen gar­nered nation­al atten­tion in the spring of 2010 when he demand­ed that U.S. Sen. Lind­say Gra­ham (R‑S.C.) come out as gay. His refusal to do so, Gheen claimed, allowed Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and oth­ers to black­mail him into sup­port­ing immi­gra­tion reform.

* In 2010, Bar­ton was influ­en­tial in the bat­tle to re-design the Texas state social stud­ies cur­ricu­lum in pub­lic schools to have it con­form more close­ly to a right-wing view of Amer­i­ca. Bar­ton sup­port­ed efforts to remove Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. and 1960s labor activist César Chávez from school texts. As not­ed in Wash­ing­ton Month­ly, Bar­ton con­ced­ed that peo­ple like King deserved a place in his­to­ry but insist­ed they should­n’t be giv­en cred­it for advanc­ing the rights of minori­ties, because, as he put it, “Only majori­ties can expand polit­i­cal rights in Amer­i­can’s con­sti­tu­tion­al soci­ety.” Barton’s involve­ment with the text­book con­tro­ver­sy also demon­strat­ed the par­ti­san­ship behind much of his work. He claimed that since the founders “hat­ed and feared democ­ra­cy” — and cre­at­ed a repub­lic instead — text­books should refer to “repub­li­can val­ues” rather than “demo­c­ra­t­ic” ones.

* Bar­ton also believes the gov­ern­ment should reg­u­late homo­sex­u­al­i­ty, claim­ing in one of his radio shows in 2010 that “homo­sex­u­als die decades ear­li­er than het­ero­sex­u­als” and that more than half of all homo­sex­u­als have had more than 500 sex part­ners in their life­times. The claims are false.

* Bar­ton’s ear­ly activism put him in con­tact with even more extreme ele­ments. In 1991, accord­ing to a 1996 arti­cle by Rob Boston, he addressed the Rocky Moun­tain Bible Retreat of Pas­tor Pete Peters’ Scrip­tures for Amer­i­ca. Peters pro­motes the racist and anti-Semit­ic “Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty” the­ol­o­gy, which claims that white Anglo-Sax­ons are the “true” cho­sen peo­ple of the Bible. Accord­ing to the Anti-Defama­tion League, oth­er speak­ers at that event includ­ed James “Bo” Gritz, a leader of the antigov­ern­ment mili­tia move­ment, and Mal­colm Ross, a Holo­caust denier from Cana­da. Lat­er that year, Bar­ton addressed anoth­er Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty front group — the King­dom Covenant Col­lege in Grants Pass, Ore­gon, which had ties to Peters. Bar­ton’s assis­tant at the time, Kit Mar­shall, claimed they had no idea about Peters’ beliefs, even though Bar­ton addressed the groups twice dur­ing the course of a year.

...

————

“David Bar­ton – Extrem­ist ‘His­to­ri­an’ for the Chris­t­ian Right” by Eve­lyn Schlat­ter; South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter; 05/05/2011

“Last month, Peo­ple for the Amer­i­can Way released a report exam­in­ing Barton’s role in the reli­gious right and Repub­li­can pol­i­tics. Bar­ton, who often pro­motes con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about elites hid­ing “the truth” from aver­age Amer­i­cans, sub­scribes to beliefs found in Sev­en Moun­tains Domin­ion­ism. This move­ment teach­es that cer­tain kinds of Chris­tians are meant by God to dom­i­nate every sphere of soci­ety.

It’s not just a theoc­ra­cy they’re try­ing to build. It’s a Domin­ion­ist Theoc­ra­cy along the lines of ‘Sev­en Moun­tains’ Domin­ion­ism. Recall how Don­ald Trump’s clos­est ‘spir­i­tu­al advi­sor’ dur­ing his pres­i­den­cy was Paula White, a fol­low­ing of the Sev­en Moun­tains the­ol­o­gy. Trump select­ed her as chair of his Evan­gel­i­cal Advi­so­ry Board and appoint­ed her as spe­cial advi­sor to the White House Faith and Oppor­tu­ni­ty Ini­tia­tive. Oth­er Sev­en Moun­tain evan­gel­i­cal lead­ers have effec­tive­ly tied the the­ol­o­gy into the QAnon nar­ra­tive, a nar­ra­tive that puts Trump at the cen­ter of a bat­tle between good and evil. And while the Sev­en Moun­tains doc­trine my sound like some obscure cult to out­siders, the real­i­ty is that David Bar­ton has been one of the most influ­en­tial and revered Chris­t­ian lead­ers inside the Repub­li­can Par­ty for decades. And it’s no sur­prise why. Bar­ton’s ver­sion of Chris­tian­i­ty is a GOP oli­garch’s dream, with dec­la­ra­tions like unions and min­i­mum wage laws being in oppo­si­tion to the Bible:

...
Named by Time as one of the nation’s 25 most influ­en­tial evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians in 2005, Bar­ton is best known for ped­dling his­tor­i­cal dis­tor­tions pro­mot­ing his view that Amer­i­ca was found­ed as a Chris­t­ian, rather than sec­u­lar, nation. He served as vice chair­man of the Texas Repub­li­can Par­ty from 1997 to 2006, and he was hired in 2004 by the Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee to mobi­lize Chris­tians for Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s re-elec­tion cam­paign. Since then, he has also become Glenn Beck­’s unof­fi­cial “his­to­ri­an” (Bar­ton and Beck below, recent­ly in Israel).

...

Bar­ton has warned about the dan­gers of Islam but claimed that “sec­u­lar­ism presents a greater threat to Amer­i­can tra­di­tions and val­ues than does Islam” and that the Con­sti­tu­tion was not meant to be a sec­u­lar doc­u­ment. He has bat­tled mar­riage equal­i­ty and has cam­paigned for state restric­tions on legal equal­i­ty for LGBT peo­ple. He has involved him­self in the new war on unions, claim­ing that Jesus and the Bible oppose min­i­mum wage laws.

He has also been extreme­ly active in the reli­gious right’s cam­paign against so-called “activist judges.” His 2003 book Restrain­ing Judi­cial Activism calls for the impeach­ment of fed­er­al judges who don’t inter­pret the Con­sti­tu­tion the way he does. In addi­tion, he says, mem­bers of Con­gress should use the threat of impeach­ment to intim­i­date fed­er­al judges.

...

* Bar­ton is close­ly asso­ci­at­ed with a move­ment among con­ser­v­a­tive evan­gel­i­cals to resist envi­ron­men­tal activism in church­es and to paint envi­ron­men­tal­ism as active­ly anti-Chris­t­ian. In 2009, he signed the Evan­gel­i­cal Dec­la­ra­tion on Glob­al Warm­ing, which claims that efforts to reduce car­bon diox­ide would be eco­nom­i­cal­ly dev­as­tat­ing and are there­fore against Bib­li­cal require­ments of “pro­tect­ing the poor from harm and oppres­sion.” He is active with “Resist­ing the Green Drag­on,” a project that por­trays envi­ron­men­tal­ism as “dead­ly” to human pros­per­i­ty, human life and human free­dom.
...

It’s not hard to see what the back­lash Bar­ton expe­ri­enced in 2012 end­ed up being lit­tle more than a slap on the wrist. Bar­ton is like the liv­ing man­i­fes­ta­tion of fusion of hard right Chris­t­ian the­ol­o­gy with cor­po­rate inter­ests. He’ll lit­er­al­ly rewrite his­to­ry to ben­e­fit those inter­ests.

David Barton’s Constitutional Overhaul. Which Happens to be the Koch’s Constitutional Overhaul

And as the fol­low­ing 2019 piece from The Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy describes, Bar­ton does­n’t just work on rewrit­ing Amer­i­can his­to­ry for the ben­e­fit of pow­er­ful inter­ests. It turns out Wall­Builders group is one of the part­ners with the Koch-backed Con­ven­tion of States (COS) effort to over­haul the US con­sti­tu­tion. As we’ve seen, the Koch net­work of mega-donors has spent decades invest­ing in trig­ger­ing an Arti­cle V Con­sti­tu­tion­al Con­ven­tion, threat­en­ing to rewrite the con­sti­tu­tion accord­ing to the whims of the Koch mega-donor net­work. Wall­Builders is part of that effort. Because of course it is. This is entire­ly con­sis­tent with David Bar­ton’s work:

The Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy’s PRWatch

Con­ven­tion of States Fires Up Base for Push to Rewrite U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion

Sub­mit­ted by David Armi­ak on August 23, 2019 — 1:37pm

Con­ven­tion of States Action (COS) kicked off its first “Lead­er­ship Sum­mit” in Colo­nial Williams­burg, Vir­ginia today. COS, a project of Mark Meck­ler and Eric O’Keefe’s Cit­i­zens for Self-Gov­er­nance, claims that “hun­dreds” of activists, state direc­tors, and coor­di­na­tors from all 50 states will attend to get inspired and learn strate­gies for pass­ing COS res­o­lu­tions in the states call­ing for a con­sti­tu­tion­al con­ven­tion to rewrite the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

Fif­teen states have passed the group’s appli­ca­tions so far, with 17 more states con­sid­er­ing the res­o­lu­tion this year, accord­ing to COS. Wis­con­sin recent­ly intro­duced a COS res­o­lu­tion, which would bump the num­ber up to 18.

A con­sti­tu­tion­al con­ven­tion has nev­er been held since the Con­sti­tu­tion was adopt­ed, and COS will need 34 states to file appli­ca­tions in order for it to occur. If that hap­pens, COS plans to move an array of sweep­ing amend­ments to rede­fine key parts of the Con­sti­tu­tion and rad­i­cal­ly weak­en the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

COS has ties to the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (ALEC), the Nation­al Rifle Asso­ci­a­tion, the right-wing mili­tia group Three Per­centers, and the Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist group Wall­Builders.

More than 200 civ­il rights and pub­lic inter­est groups, includ­ing the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy (CMD), signed a let­ter last year denounc­ing such con­sti­tu­tion­al con­ven­tion calls as “a threat to every Amer­i­can’s con­sti­tu­tion­al rights and civ­il lib­er­ties.”

Right-Wing Extrem­ists to Speak

Fox News anchor Pete Hegseth, from Trump’s beloved Fox & Friends, addressed the crowd this morn­ing, telling them that the Left hates the Con­sti­tu­tion, the found­ing fathers under­stood that the word of “Jesus Christ our sav­ior” is the guid­ing force for our coun­try, and that there “is no oth­er free­dom-lov­ing bas­tion in the world that val­ues the indi­vid­ual with God-endowed rights.”

And, ref­er­enc­ing the Three Per­centers like­ly in atten­dance, Hegseth said, “it has always been the one per­cent or two per­cent or three per­cent of peo­ple that get it, that are will­ing to buck the comfi­ness of their moment and the estab­lished norms that every­one is com­fort­able with, will­ing to be defi­ant, will­ing to stand — be accused of being rad­i­cal about things that are not rad­i­cal at all.”

Recent­ly, Hegseth has made some rad­i­cal com­ments him­self, say­ing that Con­gress­woman Rashi­da Tlaib (MI‑D) has a “Hamas agen­da,” imply­ing that she works with a U.S. des­ig­nat­ed ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion.

Hegseth has also pub­licly defend­ed Sec­re­tary of Edu­ca­tion Bet­sy DeVos’s broth­er Erik Prince’s Black­wa­ter con­trac­tors, who were con­vict­ed of mur­der­ing Iraqi cit­i­zens, and has called cli­mate change a “reli­gion” that Democ­rats use to “con­trol” peo­ple.

David Bar­ton warmed up the crowd with a his­to­ry lec­ture on the Con­sti­tu­tion’s basis in fixed moral stan­dards based on nat­ur­al law and scrip­ture, and drew applause with his claim that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has “emas­cu­lat­ed the states.”

A Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist with strong anti-LGBT views. Bar­ton once said,

“There’s a pas­sage that I love in Romans 1. ... [I]t talks about homo­sex­u­al­i­ty and it says that they will receive in their bod­ies the penal­ties of their behav­ior. ... The Bible [is] right every time ... and that’s why AIDS has been some­thing they haven’t dis­cov­ered a cure for or a vac­cine for. ... And that goes to what God says, ‘Hey you’re going to bear in your body the con­se­quences of this homo­sex­u­al behav­ior.’ ”

Bar­ton found­ed the group Wall­Builders, which has worked with Focus on the Fam­i­ly and the Fam­i­ly Pol­i­cy Alliance to influ­ence judi­cial elec­tions and selec­tion rules in states across the coun­try, the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy detailed.

Wall­Builders also works with the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion to push out Chris­t­ian-Right mod­el leg­is­la­tion in the mold of ALEC to state law­mak­ers under the name Project Blitz.

Also in line to speak at the Sum­mit is one of the NRA’s top attor­neys, Charles Coop­er. Coop­er will speak on, “The Real Threat to Gun Rights.” In an email to COS activists, Coop­er is quot­ed as say­ing:

“The real threat to our con­sti­tu­tion­al rights today is posed not by an Arti­cle V Con­ven­tion of States, but by an out-of-con­trol fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, exer­cis­ing pow­ers that it does not have and abus­ing pow­ers that it does.”

COS mate­ri­als in recent years have argued that a con­sti­tu­tion­al con­ven­tion could be used to rewrite the Sec­ond Amend­ment in order to make it Supreme-Court-proof.

Oth­ers on the agen­da to speak include found­ing board mem­ber Eric O’Keefe, for­mer pro­fes­sor Rob Natel­son, for­mer U.S. Sen­a­tor and COS Senior Advi­sor Tom Coburn, and the right-wing author of Lib­er­ty Amend­ments Mark Levin.

But the stars of the sum­mit are like­ly to be the actors COS will have play the found­ing fathers Patrick Hen­ry, James Madi­son, and George Wash­ing­ton.

...

———–

“Con­ven­tion of States Fires Up Base for Push to Rewrite U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion” by David Armi­ak; PRWatch; 08/23/2019

“David Bar­ton warmed up the crowd with a his­to­ry lec­ture on the Con­sti­tu­tion’s basis in fixed moral stan­dards based on nat­ur­al law and scrip­ture, and drew applause with his claim that the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment has “emas­cu­lat­ed the states.””

The COS is a shared project of the right-wing oli­garchy. It’s arguably their end goal. So of course we find David Bar­ton’s Wall­Builders involved with the move­ment. Over­haul­ing the con­sti­tu­tion aligns per­fect­ly with both his theo­crat­ic and pro-busi­ness agen­das:

...
Bar­ton found­ed the group Wall­Builders, which has worked with Focus on the Fam­i­ly and the Fam­i­ly Pol­i­cy Alliance to influ­ence judi­cial elec­tions and selec­tion rules in states across the coun­try, the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy detailed.

Wall­Builders also works with the Con­gres­sion­al Prayer Cau­cus Foun­da­tion to push out Chris­t­ian-Right mod­el leg­is­la­tion in the mold of ALEC to state law­mak­ers under the name Project Blitz.
...

And note that, while the COS is tech­ni­cal­ly a project of Mark Meck­ler and Eric O’Keefe’s Cit­i­zens for Self-Gov­er­nance, it’s real­ly a Koch-backed project. That’s why this group is able to get so many state leg­is­la­tors to buy into this effort. This is a project of the oli­garchy.

The Council for National Policy (CNP) and the Capture of the US Government

And as we’re going to see in the next arti­cle excerpt, it turns out Meck­ler is and Gold Cir­cle mem­ber of anoth­er group: the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy. Bar­ton is a mem­ber too. Along with a large num­ber of the rest of the fig­ures in the con­ser­v­a­tive estab­lish­ment who played impor­tant roles in the Trump 2020 reelec­tion efforts. And in some cas­es key roles in the prepa­ra­tion for the theft of the 2020 elec­tion. For exam­ple, Steve Ban­non and Kellyanne Con­way both show up on CNP mem­ber­ship lists.

The fact that the CNP had its hands all over the efforts to reelect Trump isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing or remark­able. What is remark­able is how exten­sive­ly the CNP was plan­ning on over­turn­ing the pop­u­lar vote and steal­ing the elec­tion months before the first votes were cast. CNP mem­bers Richard Viguerie, Stephen Moore, Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin, Adam Bran­don, and Lisa Nel­son, the CEO of ALEC, were all involved in CNP-backed efforts to get Trump reelect­ed in 2020. Dirty efforts. For exam­ple, Nel­son report­ed­ly informed the CNP in Feb­ru­ary of 2020 that ALEC was work­ing with Repub­li­can lawyers to strate­gize paths “that leg­is­la­tors can take to ques­tion the valid­i­ty of an elec­tion.” And one of those Repub­li­can lawyers was none oth­er than CNP-mem­ber Cle­ta Mitchell, who began strate­giz­ing in prepa­ra­tion for ques­tion­ing the 2020 elec­tion results as ear­ly as August 2019.

And, again, while Project Blitz is not tech­ni­cal­ly a CNP project, it’s basi­cal­ly the same net­work of peo­ple behind it. The CNP is the enti­ty through with Chris­t­ian theocrats and big busi­ness inter­ests for­mal­ized their long-stand­ing alliance in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. A fas­cist theo­crat­ic alliance that heav­i­ly over­laps the Koch net­work. From ALEC to COS to Project Blitz, all of these enti­ties are oper­at­ed by rough­ly the same net­works of peo­ple and for the same under­ly­ing pur­pose: the cap­ture of pow­er by pri­vate inter­ests. Projects like COS and Project Blitz could be seen as cov­er-sto­ries for that cap­ture of pow­er. And as this net­work made abun­dant­ly clear in 2020, that agen­da of cap­tur­ing pow­er includes over­turn­ing the elec­tion results. The cap­ture of democ­ra­cy was on the CNP agen­da through­out 2020, lead­ing all the way up to the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion:

The Wash­ing­ton Spec­ta­tor

How the CNP, a Repub­li­can Pow­er­house, Helped Spawn Trump­ism, Dis­rupt­ed the Trans­fer of Pow­er, and Stoked the Assault on the Capi­tol

by Anne Nel­son
Feb 22, 2021

On Jan­u­ary 6, 2021, a stunned nation watched as pro­test­ers stormed the Capi­tol to pre­vent the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the elec­toral votes from the Novem­ber elec­tion. The effort failed, but not with­out shin­ing a harsh light on the fault lines of Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy.

In the weeks that fol­lowed, ana­lysts have strug­gled to define how much of the incur­sion was the spon­ta­neous result of a “riot”—or a “peace­ful protest” gone wrong—and how much was the result of a planned oper­a­tion.

One major play­er in the events lead­ing up to the assault on the Capi­tol was the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy, an influ­en­tial coali­tion of Chris­t­ian con­ser­v­a­tives, free-mar­ket fun­da­men­tal­ists, and polit­i­cal activists. Over the pre­vi­ous year the CNP and its mem­bers and affil­i­ates orga­nized efforts to chal­lenge the valid­i­ty of the elec­tion, con­spired to over­turn its results, and tried to derail the order­ly trans­fer of pow­er. This is an account of the mea­sures they took, lead­ing up to the dead­ly Jan­u­ary 6 insur­rec­tion.

The Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy was found­ed in 1981 by a group of tel­e­van­ge­lists, West­ern oli­garchs, and Repub­li­can strate­gists to cap­i­tal­ize on Ronald Reagan’s elec­toral vic­to­ry the pre­vi­ous year. From the begin­ning, its goals rep­re­sent­ed a con­ver­gence of the inter­ests of these three groups: a retreat from advances in civ­il and polit­i­cal rights for women and minori­ties, tax cuts for the wealthy, and raw polit­i­cal pow­er. Oper­at­ing from the shad­ows, its mem­bers, who would num­ber some 400, spent the next four decades court­ing, buy­ing, and bul­ly­ing fel­low Repub­li­cans, grad­u­al­ly achiev­ing what was in effect a lever­aged buy­out of the GOP. Favorite sons, such as Josh Haw­ley and Ted Cruz, were groomed, financed, and sup­port­ed. Apos­tates, such as John McCain and Jeff Flake, were pun­ished and exiled. The lead­ers of the CNP tend­ed to favor their con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian co-reli­gion­ists, but polit­i­cal expe­di­ence came first.

In 2016, the CNP put its part­ners’ mon­ey, data, and ground game behind Don­ald Trump, as the ulti­mate trans­ac­tion­al can­di­date. Trump promised it ret­ro­grade social poli­cies, a favor­able tax regime, reg­u­la­to­ry retreats, and its choice of fed­er­al judges. He deliv­ered in spades. By 2020, the lead­ers of the CNP were ready to go to extreme lengths to keep him—and themselves—in pow­er.

Over the final year of the Trump pres­i­den­cy, the CNP took cen­ter stage. By Jan­u­ary 2020, its lead­ing fig­ures had become sought-after guests on talk shows and fre­quent vis­i­tors to the White House. Many of its stat­ed goals had been advanced. By March, the Repub­li­can Sen­ate had con­firmed more than 185 of Trump’s con­ser­v­a­tive nom­i­nees for the fed­er­al bench. All but eight of the judges had ties to the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, head­ed by long­time CNP mem­bers Eugene Mey­er and Leonard Leo. Two of the CNP’s favored Supreme Court nom­i­nees, Neil Gor­such and Brett Kavanaugh, had been con­firmed. The court was only one jus­tice away from a con­ser­v­a­tive major­i­ty, and the CNP had its eye on the seat held by Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg. With a sec­ond term in office and nor­mal attri­tion, Trump could deci­sive­ly tilt the fed­er­al courts, open­ing the door for a mas­sive over­haul of the Amer­i­can legal frame­work.

Many ini­tia­tives that were pend­ing in the courts had been addressed by fiat. Trump rolled back scores of envi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tions cre­at­ed to pro­tect air qual­i­ty, potable water sup­plies, and wildlife, as a quid pro quo for the sup­port he received from CNP’s favored oil and gas inter­ests. His admin­is­tra­tion dec­i­mat­ed the bud­gets and per­son­nel of fed­er­al agen­cies assigned to pro­tect pub­lic health, pub­lic safe­ty, and pub­lic lands, includ­ing the Envi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, and the Nation­al Park Ser­vice, to the ben­e­fit of cor­po­ra­tions and extrac­tive indus­tries. There was also notable progress on CNP’s social agen­da, with the ero­sion and roll­back of the rights of LGBT pop­u­la­tions, women, and minori­ties in the courts and state leg­is­la­tures.

The CNP’s plu­to­crats were pleased with what they had wrought. The “tax reform” enact­ed by Trump and the Repub­li­can Sen­ate con­cen­trat­ed ever greater wealth in the hands of America’s most afflu­ent indi­vid­u­als through tax cuts for cor­po­ra­tions and the rich, dri­ving income inequal­i­ty to the high­est lev­els in 50 years. The country’s tax rev­enues as a share of gross domes­tic prod­uct plum­met­ed, and bud­get gaps widened, but Republicans—who had made a career of loud­ly con­demn­ing deficit spending—remained mute as long as the mea­sures ben­e­fit­ed the mon­eyed class instead of those who need­ed help. Don­ald Trump remained a depend­able ally, ask­ing only for an audi­ence for his mega­lo­ma­nia and a free pass for the busi­ness inter­ests of the “Trump brand.” In return, he deliv­ered his dynamism and his unshake­able base. This state of affairs was so sat­is­fac­to­ry that the Repub­li­can Par­ty decid­ed not to both­er draft­ing a new par­ty plat­form for the 2020 elec­tion. Instead, it recy­cled the 2016 plat­form, which includ­ed for­mer CNP Pres­i­dent Tony Perkins’s drafts oppos­ing mar­riage equal­i­ty and pro­mot­ing con­ver­sion ther­a­py.

Ulti­mate real­iza­tion of the CNP’s agen­da depend­ed on win­ning a sec­ond term for Trump in Novem­ber. With anoth­er four years, it could enshrine its social­ly regres­sive poli­cies on the fed­er­al lev­el, fur­ther blur the line between church and state, and con­sol­i­date huge wind­falls for cor­po­ra­tions and wealthy indi­vid­u­als. As of Jan­u­ary 1, elec­toral prospects looked sweet. The Repub­li­cans’ strongest suit was the econ­o­my. Mas­sive tax cuts had flood­ed cor­po­ra­tions with cash, which, as crit­ics of the tax bill had pre­dict­ed, they used to buy back their stock and dri­ve up share prices 28 per­cent in 2019. This boost­ed Trump’s pop­u­lar­i­ty among the 55 per­cent of Amer­i­cans who report­ed own­ing stocks, but did lit­tle to spur the growth Repub­li­cans had promised would off­set the soar­ing deficits.

On the tac­ti­cal front, it seemed as though the Trump team had found a win­ning for­mu­la. Ralph Reed, a mem­ber of the CNP’s board of gov­er­nors (also known as a cen­tral fig­ure in the scan­dal involv­ing dis­graced lob­by­ist Jack Abramoff), con­tin­ued to employ his Faith and Free­dom Coali­tion and its part­ner, Unit­ed in Pur­pose, to get out the vote among con­ser­v­a­tive white Chris­tians in crit­i­cal swing states, expand­ing their tar­get­ing from evan­gel­i­cals to Catholics.

The coalition’s data and app devel­op­ment also advanced. The uCam­paign apps devel­oped by Thomas Peters had served their pur­pose in the 2016 and 2018 elec­tions, but they were due for an upgrade. In late 2019, word began to cir­cu­late that Trump’s cam­paign man­ag­er, Brad Parscale, was prepar­ing to release the Trump 2020 app, a com­po­nent of what he labeled a “jug­ger­naut cam­paign.” Parscale had qui­et­ly tak­en over Trump’s dig­i­tal oper­a­tions and planned to use the new app as part of a broad­er strat­e­gy. Trump 2020 was designed to lever­age uCam­paign fea­tures such as gam­i­fi­ca­tion (award­ing points and prizes for par­tic­i­pat­ing in cam­paign activ­i­ties and shar­ing con­tacts). It also expand­ed the use of geolo­ca­tion devices to recruit and har­vest data from atten­dees of Trump ral­lies. The crowds, ener­gized by Trump’s live per­for­mances, would be invit­ed to down­load the app and recruit oth­ers across their social net­works. The ral­lies were a cru­cial com­po­nent of the cam­paign. The more out­ra­geous Trump’s rhetoric on the podi­um, the more earned media cov­er­age he received. In con­trast, the Democ­rats were still in dis­ar­ray, with a dozen pri­ma­ry can­di­dates com­pet­ing for frag­ment­ed press cov­er­age and no clear front-run­ner.

Then, on Jan­u­ary 20, 2020, doc­tors diag­nosed the first con­firmed case of Covid-19 in the Unit­ed States.

The patient was a man who had just returned to Sno­homish Coun­ty, Wash­ing­ton, from a fam­i­ly vis­it to Wuhan, Chi­na. The virus spread across Wash­ing­ton State, then rav­aged New York City and New Orleans. The first U.S. Covid death was report­ed as occur­ring on Feb­ru­ary 6. On Feb­ru­ary 20, the glob­al stock mar­ket went into a free fall that didn’t abate until April. Bloomberg News called it the Great Coro­n­avirus Crash.

Trump’s reelec­tion strat­e­gy rest­ed on a thriv­ing econ­o­my, as well as mass ral­lies and in-church recruit­ment. Now pub­lic health offi­cials were urg­ing lock­downs that would derail both the econ­o­my and the gath­er­ings. Trump’s CNP sup­port­ers stepped up to the plate.

The CNP’s meet­ings had long fea­tured brief­in­gs on forth­com­ing elec­tions by mem­bers and allies, fol­lowed by a mem­o­ran­dum con­tain­ing a series of “Action Steps.” The Octo­ber 2018 meeting’s action steps, for exam­ple, called for mem­bers to “Vol­un­teer and Con­tribute to key can­di­dates and orga­ni­za­tions (Free­dom­Works, Tea Par­ty Patri­ots, [anti-abor­tion group] Susan B. Antho­ny List) that are engaged in turn­ing out vot­ers” for the midterms.

But by Feb­ru­ary 2020, the CNP, fear­ing the ero­sion of Trump’s sup­port, shift­ed its strat­e­gy from boost­ing the pop­u­lar vote to deflect­ing it. Lisa Nel­son, the CEO of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil, told the group, “We’ve been focused on the nation­al vote, and obvi­ous­ly we all want Pres­i­dent Trump to win, and win the nation­al vote, but it’s very clear from all the com­ments and all the sug­ges­tions up front that, real­ly, what it comes down to is the states, and the state leg­is­la­tors.” Her orga­ni­za­tion, she told them, had already draft­ed a mod­el res­o­lu­tion “to make sure there’s no con­fu­sion among con­ser­v­a­tive leg­is­la­tors around nation­al pop­u­lar vote and the Elec­toral Col­lege.”

Nel­son not­ed that her group was explor­ing addi­tion­al ways to inval­i­date a poten­tial Trump loss in con­sul­ta­tion with three elec­tion experts, includ­ing CNP board of gov­er­nors mem­ber Cle­ta Mitchell, “who I know you all know, on try­ing to iden­ti­fy what are those action items that leg­is­la­tors can take in their states, and I think that they’ve iden­ti­fied a few. They can write a let­ter to the sec­re­tary of state, ques­tion­ing the valid­i­ty of an elec­tion, and say­ing, ‘What did hap­pen that night?’ So we are draft­ing a lot of those things. If you have ideas in that area, let us know, and we’ll get them to the state leg­is­la­tors, and they can start to kind of exer­cise their polit­i­cal mus­cle in that area.”

So as ear­ly as Feb­ru­ary 2020, the CNP and its advis­ers were already antic­i­pat­ing var­i­ous strate­gies to over­turn the results of the elec­tion in the event of the loss of either the pop­u­lar vote or the Elec­toral Col­lege, or both. At the same time, they adopt­ed a three-pronged approach to enhanc­ing Trump’s chances in Novem­ber. The first involved expand­ing their use of data to juice Repub­li­can votes and sup­press Demo­c­ra­t­ic turnout. The sec­ond was to mobi­lize sup­port­ers in swing states to ignite Tea Party–like protests against the virus-relat­ed pub­lic safe­ty lock­downs. The third was to deploy physi­cians with dubi­ous cre­den­tials to dis­miss the dan­gers of Covid-19 through a mas­sive media blitz. All three ini­tia­tives were acti­vat­ed in April. It was a rehash of a famil­iar for­mu­la, con­coct­ing groups whose names and URLs changed with dizzy­ing speed and call­ing them “grass­roots” orga­ni­za­tions. (Crit­ics pre­ferred the term “astro­turf.”)

Unit­ed in Pur­pose took the lead. In June 2016, UiP had con­vened the epic Times Square gath­er­ing of 1,000 fun­da­men­tal­ist activists to give Trump their bless­ing. Now, over the spring of 2020, UiP held a series of con­fer­ence calls to update its strat­e­gy. One call—a record­ing of which was leaked to The Inter­cept reporter Lee Fang—took place in mid-April. UiP Chair­man Ken Eldred told his asso­ciates on the call that the Covid-19 virus was a “gift from God” because it was turn­ing Amer­i­cans back to Christ and build­ing audi­ences for reli­gious broadcasts—which had been cru­cial plat­forms for polit­i­cal cam­paigns. But “Satan has been busy too,” Eldred warned. “The virus has messed up many of our plans involv­ing our in-per­son meet­ings with vot­ers.” UiP called its 2020 cam­paign “Oper­a­tion Zik­lag” (named after a Bib­li­cal town that served as a base for the Philistines until it was won by David).

The April call fea­tured var­i­ous movers and shak­ers from the CNP. Ralph Reed spoke to the “macro polit­i­cal land­scape,” explain­ing that a key com­po­nent of the Democ­rats’ strat­e­gy was the Black vote in swing states like Michi­gan and Wis­con­sin. The Democ­rats had expe­ri­enced a sig­nif­i­cant drop-off between 2012 and 2016. “There were 47,000 few­er Black votes cast in just Mil­wau­kee Coun­ty alone,” Reed told the call participants—in Wis­con­sin, a state Trump had won by few­er than 24,000 votes.

This was not a coin­ci­dence. In Sep­tem­ber 2020, Britain’s Chan­nel 4 report­ed that the Trump cam­paign had used Cam­bridge Ana­lyt­i­ca data to pro­file and tar­get 3.5 mil­lion Black vot­ers in 2016, assign­ing them to a cat­e­go­ry the cam­paign called “Deter­rence,” with mes­sag­ing designed to sup­press the vote.

Reed told his asso­ciates that “his ‘data part­ners’ had iden­ti­fied 26 mil­lion key vot­ers in bat­tle­ground states, about three-fourths of whom were Face­book users,” The Inter­cept’s Fang report­ed. Once again, the 2020 strat­e­gy, like the 2016 efforts, would strive to get out the vote for Repub­li­cans and sup­press the vote of tra­di­tion­al Democ­rats.

Abor­tion con­tin­ued to be a major call­ing card of the cam­paign, spear­head­ed by CNP Gold Cir­cle mem­ber Mar­jorie Dan­nen­felser, the head of the Susan B. Antho­ny List. Dan­nen­felser, who had recent­ly joined the UiP alliance, told the callers that her orga­ni­za­tion had con­duct­ed sur­veys on mes­sag­ing with pro-life work­ing-class vot­ers in bat­tle­ground Rust Belt states and found that its “born alive” for­mu­la­tion on abor­tion, pro­mot­ed by Trump, “has had a tremen­dous effect in mov­ing per­suad­able vot­ers in all those areas in Repub­li­cans, Democ­rats, and Inde­pen­dents.” This would strength­en Trump’s chances in the swing states that com­prised the “north­ern path” to vic­to­ry: Michi­gan, Wis­con­sin and Penn­syl­va­nia, as well as the “south­ern path” of North Car­oli­na, Flori­da, and Ari­zona. (Geor­gia, assumed to be solid­ly in the Repub­li­can col­umn, would prove a wild card.)

The CNP’s sec­ond strat­a­gem to “reopen the econ­o­my” debuted around the same time. On April 13, The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Jeff Stein and Robert Cos­ta report­ed that White House staff had pre­sent­ed Trump with a list of “100 busi­ness exec­u­tives” who could advise him as to how to jump-start the econ­o­my. The piece quot­ed CNP co-founder Richard Viguerie, who began his career under the tute­lage of dis­graced radio evan­ge­list Bil­ly James Har­gis and went on to pio­neer the use of direct mail in polit­i­cal mar­ket­ing. “Obvi­ous­ly, the soon­er we get the econ­o­my going and back up, the bet­ter it’s going to be for con­ser­v­a­tives and Repub­li­cans,” Viguerie said. A lot of them, he added, “feel there might be an over­re­ac­tion to all of this [epi­dem­ic].”

Accord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post’s unnamed sources, “The out­side effort from con­ser­v­a­tive groups is expect­ed to be led by Stephen Moore, a con­ser­v­a­tive at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion who is close with White House eco­nom­ic offi­cials; Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin, co-founder of the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots; Adam Bran­don, pres­i­dent of Free­dom­Works, a con­ser­v­a­tive advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion; and Lisa Nel­son, chief exec­u­tive of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (ALEC), the con­ser­v­a­tive pro-busi­ness pol­i­cy and lob­by­ing orga­ni­za­tion with ties to the Koch broth­ers.

This ini­tia­tive marked a shift in the CNP pro­file. Going into the 2016 elec­tions, the pub­lic faces of the orga­ni­za­tion had been promi­nent fun­da­men­tal­ists. Tony Perkins, CNP pres­i­dent from 2016 to 2019, is also an ordained South­ern Bap­tist min­is­ter and long­time head of the fun­da­men­tal­ist lob­by­ing group Fam­i­ly Research Coun­cil, and he has host­ed Chris­t­ian nation­al­ists Robert Jef­fress and David Bar­ton on his radio broad­casts. Almost half of Trump’s orig­i­nal Evan­gel­i­cal Advi­so­ry Board—including Perkins—were mem­bers of the CNP, and they were in and out of the Oval Office on a reg­u­lar basis. But in 2019, Perkins was suc­ceed­ed as CNP pres­i­dent by William Wal­ton, the founder and chair­man of Rap­pa­han­nock Ven­tures, a pri­vate equi­ty firm, with long ties to the Koch Broth­ers and a lim­it­ed reli­gious pro­file. In 2015, Wal­ton chaired a pan­el at the CNP, stat­ing, “Most of my career has been spent in busi­ness and on Wall Street, and I was among the first to attend the Charles Koch sem­i­nars.” Oth­er fig­ures con­nect­ed to the Koch empire ascend­ed in the CNP hier­ar­chy. Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin, who co-found­ed the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots with Koch back­ing, rose to the office of sec­re­tary. Adam Bran­don, head of the Koch-found­ed “grass­roots” orga­ni­za­tion Free­dom­Works, took a spot on the board of direc­tors of CNP Action, the organization’s lob­by­ing arm.

David Koch died in August 2019, but his broth­er Charles car­ried on. A man with no par­tic­u­lar reli­gious pro­file, Koch embarked on a “charm offen­sive,” dis­tanc­ing him­self from Trump and his fun­da­men­tal­ist allies, pre­sent­ing him­self to the media as a “uni­fi­er” (and scrub­bing the CNP’s Free Enter­prise Award from his pro­file). But his fund­ing activ­i­ties told a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. The Cen­ter for Media and Democracy’s Alec Kotch has record­ed mil­lions of dol­lars in grants from Koch and affil­i­ates such as the Donors Trust to orga­ni­za­tions run by lead­ing mem­bers of the CNP. These include ALEC, as well as the State Pol­i­cy Net­work, the Lead­er­ship Insti­tute, the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, Judi­cial Watch, and Turn­ing Point USA. Some of these groups would play impor­tant roles in attempts to dis­rupt the elec­toral process in the months ahead.

The Wash­ing­ton Post’s April sto­ry on the “100 busi­ness lead­ers” ini­tia­tive made no men­tion of the CNP, despite the fact that among the lead­ing fig­ures, Moore was on the CNP board of gov­er­nors, Nel­son was a mem­ber, and Mar­tin and Bran­don were offi­cers. Moore warned the Post that the dis­af­fec­tion of “the right” pre­sent­ed a grow­ing threat to pub­lic order, neglect­ing to men­tion the ways the CNP was stok­ing the flames. “There’s a mas­sive move­ment on the right now, grow­ing expo­nen­tial­ly,” he said. “In the next two weeks, you’ll see protests in the streets by con­ser­v­a­tives; you’ll see a big push­back against the lock­down in some states. Peo­ple are at the boil­ing point.”

The “boil­ing point” mate­ri­al­ized over the next two weeks, as Moore fore­cast, with the assis­tance of anoth­er CNP-linked effort called Con­ven­tion of States, led by Mark Meck­ler, co-founder of the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots and CNP Gold Cir­cle mem­ber. He told the Post his group would func­tion as a “clear­ing­house where all these guys can find each oth­er” and praised “spon­ta­neous cit­i­zen groups self-orga­niz­ing on the Inter­net and protest­ing what they per­ceive to be gov­ern­ment over­reach.” Ear­li­er that week, The New York Times report­ed that the coalition’s mem­bers were mobi­liz­ing their net­works for state-lev­el ral­lies, fil­ing law­suits, and com­mis­sion­ing polls, all to counter the lock­downs. “Non­prof­it groups includ­ing Free­dom­Works and Tea Par­ty Patri­ots have used their social media accounts and text and email lists to spread the word about the protests across the coun­try.” The most pub­li­cized events occurred at the Michi­gan state­house on April 15 and May 1, when armed pro­test­ers invad­ed the state Capi­tol, but these were far from the only ones.

The new “businessmen’s group,” pre­viewed in The Wash­ing­ton Post as “100 busi­ness exec­u­tives,” offi­cial­ly debuted on April 27, billed as the “Save Our Coun­try Coali­tion.” It called for a series of mea­sures to reopen the econ­o­my, fly­ing in the face of expert med­ical rec­om­men­da­tions for curb­ing the epi­dem­ic, whose U.S. death toll now approached 55,000. The CNP was heav­i­ly rep­re­sent­ed among the group’s lead­er­ship, includ­ing stal­warts such as Richard Viguerie, Ed Meese, and Ken­neth Black­well, as well as ris­ing stars Adam Bran­don, Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin, and Lisa Nel­son.

One notable addi­tion was a Cal­i­for­nia physi­cian named Dr. Simone Gold. Over the sum­mer, she emerged as a key play­er in the third prong of the CNP’s cam­paign, the war against pub­lic health pol­i­cy, the result of anoth­er set of con­fer­ence calls between Trump cam­paign staff and mem­bers of CNP Action. On one April call, pub­lished by the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy, CNP Pres­i­dent William Wal­ton told the group, “We need to make not just the eco­nom­ic argu­ment, we need to make the health argu­ment, and we need doc­tors to make that argu­ment, not us.” With­in days, Gold began to appear across right-wing media plat­forms, pro­mot­ing the false mes­sage that hydrox­y­chloro­quine (a med­ica­tion used to treat autoim­mune dis­eases) was both a pro­phy­lac­tic and a cure for Covid-19 (as report­ed in the Sep­tem­ber 2020 Wash­ing­ton Spec­ta­tor). On June 1, The Guardian quot­ed Brandon’s report that he had raised $800,000 along the way to a $5 mil­lion mul­ti­plat­form media blitz for the cam­paign.

On July 27, Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin, Gold, and a dozen oth­er physi­cians held a Wash­ing­ton, D.C., press con­fer­ence to deliv­er their dan­ger­ous mes­sage. The video reached mil­lions of view­ers on Bre­it­bart and Pres­i­dent Trump’s and Don­ald Trump Jr.’s Twit­ter feeds. Major social media plat­forms quick­ly removed it as a vio­la­tion of their Covid-19 mis­in­for­ma­tion poli­cies, but Gold’s mes­sage has con­tin­ued to cir­cu­late on alter­na­tive plat­forms.

...

Trump and the CNP dou­bled down. On August 19, the CNP opened its meet­ing at the Ritz-Carl­ton in Pen­ta­gon City with a pan­el fea­tur­ing attor­ney Sid­ney Pow­ell. Two days lat­er, Don­ald Trump addressed the CNP in his sin­gle major con­ven­tion-eve event. Over chants of “USA! USA!” Trump acknowl­edged key sup­port­ers by name, includ­ing CNP Pres­i­dent William Wal­ton, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Bob McEwen, and Sec­re­tary Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin. His ram­bling speech attacked famil­iar ene­mies and laud­ed famil­iar friends, includ­ing evan­gel­i­cals, extrac­tive indus­tries, and the gun lob­by. Pho­tos from the event showed sev­er­al hun­dred tight­ly packed, unmasked guests in the ball­room. That afternoon’s pro­gram fea­tured attor­ney Cle­ta Mitchell, an Okla­homa native and a long­time CNP board of gov­er­nors mem­ber, on pan­els called “Elec­tion Integri­ty: Secur­ing the Bal­lot Box” and “Elec­tion Integri­ty: Action Steps.” Exec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber Brent Bozell III told his fel­low mem­bers that the left plans to “steal this elec­tion.”

“And if they get away with that, what hap­pens?” Bozell demand­ed. “Democ­ra­cy is fin­ished because they ush­er in total­i­tar­i­an­ism.”

Trump’s speech to the CNP was released by the White House and wide­ly cov­ered by the nation­al press, but news orga­ni­za­tions gave short shrift to the CNP and the scope of its oper­a­tions. (The New York Times, for exam­ple, iden­ti­fied it as mere­ly “a con­ser­v­a­tive group.”)

But the CNP was becom­ing less of a mys­tery. Over the pre­vi­ous months, a small band of researchers had made sig­nif­i­cant progress in shin­ing a light on the organization’s agen­da. Brent All­press, an aca­d­e­m­ic in Aus­tralia, found a back door into its online archives and began to access records of past meet­ings, which were used in a British doc­u­men­tary called Peo­ple You May Know (in which this reporter also appears). Two watch­dog orga­ni­za­tions stepped up their mon­i­tor­ing of the CNP: The Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy added new fund­ing streams and strate­gic ini­tia­tives, as well as pub­lish­ing CNP files sourced from Brent All­press, and Doc­u­ment­ed found addi­tion­al CNP meet­ing mate­ri­als. Both groups post­ed meet­ing agen­das, videos of pre­sen­ta­tions, and—critically—the updat­ed mem­ber­ship ros­ters for Sep­tem­ber 2020 that All­press had accessed. CNP had inten­tion­al­ly ele­vat­ed its pro­file, but now it was in dan­ger of los­ing its cloak alto­geth­er.

The rest of the August CNP meet­ing was held under the usu­al con­di­tions of secre­cy, but this time its pro­ceed­ings were leaked to Wash­ing­ton Post reporter Robert O’Harrow Jr., who pub­lished an account on Octo­ber 14. The CNP lead­ers were sound­ing notes of alarm. “This is a spir­i­tu­al bat­tle. This is good ver­sus evil,” CNP pres­i­dent Wal­ton told the group. “We have to do every­thing pos­si­ble to win.” Trump’s dis­as­trous han­dling of the Covid-19 cri­sis was hurt­ing his chances at the polls, and Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers were new­ly ener­gized. The old mes­sag­ing about abor­tion and uni­sex bath­rooms looked less com­pelling as the pan­dem­ic death toll mount­ed and mil­lions were thrown out of work.

The CNP went into cri­sis mode, focus­ing on the mechan­ics of the elec­tion. Char­lie Kirk, head of the right-wing stu­dent group Turn­ing Point USA and a rel­a­tive­ly new mem­ber, took the stage to cel­e­brate the clo­sure of cam­pus­es, which could deprive the Democ­rats of a half-mil­lion stu­dent votes. “So, please keep the cam­pus­es closed,” he said. Exec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber Tom Fit­ton, pres­i­dent of Judi­cial Watch, asked his audi­ence for ideas to foil mail-in vot­ing: “We need to stop those bal­lots from going out, and I want the lawyers here to tell us what to do.”

The lawyers in the room were eager to help. One of them, the CNP board mem­ber Cle­ta Mitchell, was a part­ner in the influ­en­tial Mil­wau­kee-based law firm Foley and Lard­ner. She also served on the board of direc­tors of the ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive Lyn­de and Har­ry Bradley Foun­da­tion, run by fel­low CNP board mem­ber Richard Graber. In 2020, the Bradley Foun­da­tion grant­ed hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to ALEC, Free­dom­Works, and the CNP itself.

Cle­ta Mitchell had worked close­ly with anoth­er lead­ing CNP mem­ber on elec­tion mat­ters in recent years. This was Gin­ni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Jus­tice Clarence Thomas and a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors of CNP Action. Gin­ni Thomas was known as the not-so-secret weapon of the CNP and its allies. A long­time sup­port­er of Char­lie Kirk and Turn­ing Point USA, she had spo­ken at the organization’s stu­dent con­fer­ence and served on its advi­so­ry coun­cil. She was list­ed as a con­trib­u­tor at the Dai­ly Caller, the online media plat­form found­ed and fund­ed by fel­low CNP mem­bers. At the May 2019 CNP meet­ing, Thomas and Mitchell offered a joint pre­sen­ta­tion on elec­toral strate­gies, and at the Feb­ru­ary 2020 meet­ing, Her­itage Foun­da­tion alum­na Rachel Bovard praised Thomas as a key liai­son to the White House. “She is one of the most pow­er­ful and fierce women in Wash­ing­ton,” Bovard said. (Bovard joined Thomas on the board of CNP Action short­ly after­ward.)

A few weeks lat­er, the CNP received some impor­tant news. On Sep­tem­ber 18, Jus­tice Gins­burg had died, at the age of 87, after a long bat­tle with pan­cre­at­ic can­cer. CNP affil­i­ates swung into action, repeat­ing the process that had won them two pre­vi­ous con­ser­v­a­tive jus­tices under the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Kel­ly Shack­elford, CNP vice pres­i­dent and chair­man of CNP Action, had described his oper­a­tion at the meet­ing the pre­vi­ous Feb­ru­ary, as report­ed by The Wash­ing­ton Post: “He bragged about exten­sive behind-the-scenes coor­di­na­tion by his group and oth­er non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tions to influ­ence the White House selec­tion of fed­er­al judges. ‘Some of us lit­er­al­ly opened a whole oper­a­tion on judi­cial nom­i­na­tions and vet­ting,’ he said. ‘We poured mil­lions of dol­lars into this to make sure the pres­i­dent has good infor­ma­tion, he picks the right judges.’”

Shackelford’s forces pro­mot­ed the nom­i­na­tion of Amy Coney Bar­rett, anoth­er Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety alum, to fill Ginsburg’s seat. Bar­rett was a long­time CNP favorite. Inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Robert Maguire learned that, as of July 2018, the domain name “confirmbarrett.com” had already been reserved by the Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work, found­ed and chaired by CNP board of gov­er­nors mem­ber Gary Marx and close­ly aligned with the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety. The Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work went on to spend at least $9.4 mil­lion in tele­vi­sion spots and $4.3 mil­lion in dig­i­tal ads, direct mail, and text mes­sag­ing to pro­mote Barrett’s nom­i­na­tion, accord­ing to a report by Michael Bieseck­er and Bri­an Slodysko of the Asso­ci­at­ed Press.

Sep­tem­ber 26 was anoth­er red-let­ter day for the CNP. Pres­i­dent Trump host­ed a Rose Gar­den cer­e­mo­ny to announce Barrett’s nom­i­na­tion, and the CNP treat­ed the event as a vic­to­ry lap. Once con­firmed, Bar­rett would serve as the ful­crum for the most con­ser­v­a­tive Supreme Court in near­ly a cen­tu­ry, the ful­fill­ment of decades of hard work by CNP strate­gists. At least 15 mem­bers of the CNP were list­ed among the atten­dees at the Rose Gar­den event—equal to the com­bined num­ber of White House offi­cials and mem­bers of Con­gress present. Among the crowd were old CNP warhors­es Tony Perkins, Ralph Reed, and Mar­jorie Dan­nen­felser, as well as new­ly promi­nent elec­tion wran­glers Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin, Cle­ta Mitchell, and Tom Fit­ton. Exact­ly one month lat­er, on Octo­ber 26—one week before the election—Amy Coney Bar­rett would be con­firmed as the Supreme Court’s new asso­ciate jus­tice, after her nom­i­na­tion sailed through the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Sen­ate.

But the Rose Gar­den event may have also con­sti­tut­ed the CNP’s last hur­rah for the Trump era. Defy­ing urgent pub­lic health advi­sories, more than 150 guests sat in tight rows, most­ly mask­less, engag­ing in spir­it­ed con­ver­sa­tion. Two weeks lat­er, Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci decried it as a “super­spread­er event,” as at least sev­en atten­dees test­ed pos­i­tive for Covid-19—including Don­ald and Mela­nia Trump.

On Elec­tion Day, Novem­ber 3, the nation held its breath. Ralph Reed’s mas­sive get-out-the-vote effort had dri­ven up turnout, but so had the Democ­rats. On Novem­ber 4, as the results hung in abeyance, a site called StoptheSteal.us was reg­is­tered. It was dis­cov­ered the fol­low­ing day by Brent All­press, who traced its reg­is­tra­tion to an account called “Vice and Vic­to­ry,” owned by a curi­ous fig­ure named Ali Alexan­der. Alexan­der was some­times known as “Ali Akbar,” the name he was list­ed under as a mem­ber of the CNP on 2017 and 2018 ros­ters. He began to use the name “Alexan­der” after plead­ing guilty to two counts of felony in 2007 and 2008. As “Ali Alexan­der,” he announced the launch of #StoptheSteal on Twit­ter with a list of 15 part­ners and the text, “Proud to be work­ing with these patri­ots to Save the Elec­tion.” One of them was CNP mem­ber Ed Mar­tin, head of the Phyl­lis Schlafly Eagles Forum Fund.

A new Stop the Steal Face­book group had appeared on Novem­ber 4 and was banned the fol­low­ing day. The Wash­ing­ton Post quot­ed the page’s recruit­ment of “boots on the ground to pro­tect the integri­ty of the vote” and solic­i­ta­tion of dona­tions to cov­er “‘flights and hotels to send peo­ple’ to bat­tle­ground states includ­ing Geor­gia, North Car­oli­na and Penn­syl­va­nia.” Accord­ing to the Post, the “Stop the Steal” group appeared as a co-host on 12 dif­fer­ent Face­book protest list­ings, among them one for a car car­a­van from Cal­i­for­nia. The group gained 360,000 mem­bers before it was removed for vio­lat­ing Facebook’s rules for inflam­ma­to­ry con­tent, as users called for “civ­il war” and “over­throw­ing the gov­ern­ment.”

Accord­ing to All­press, the StoptheSteal.us site pro­vid­ed orga­ni­za­tion­al infor­ma­tion for protests on Novem­ber 6 at count­ing cen­ters and capi­tols across six “con­test­ed” swing states. CNP mem­ber Char­lie Kirk was list­ed as the pri­ma­ry orga­ni­za­tion­al con­tact for Neva­da protests, along with alt-right activist Mike Cer­novich. The Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy report­ed the state-lev­el involve­ment of oth­er CNP mem­bers and added that Free­dom­Works, run by CNP Action board of gov­er­nors mem­ber Adam Bran­don, was orga­niz­ing “Pro­tect the Vote” protests in five states.

On Novem­ber 6, as Biden pulled ahead, Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin announced that Tea Par­ty Patri­ot Action was going to hold “Pro­tect the Vote” ral­lies in four swing states, “work­ing with Free­dom­Works, Turn­ing Points [sic], Heritage”—all run by mem­bers of the CNP—“and count­less social media influ­encers to help orga­nize and assem­ble cit­i­zens in var­i­ous loca­tions around the coun­try to voice our sup­port for trans­par­ent and hon­est bal­lot count­ing.”

The elec­tion was called for Joe Biden on Novem­ber 7, based on late-count­ed bal­lots in Neva­da, Penn­syl­va­nia, and Geor­gia. Attor­ney Cle­ta Mitchell made her feel­ings known on Fox News, stat­ing, “We’re already dou­ble-check­ing and find­ing dead peo­ple hav­ing vot­ed,” and tweet­ed that the Geor­gia recount was “A FAKE!!!”

The CNP refused to sur­ren­der and con­vened a spe­cial meet­ing Novem­ber 12 to 14. Mitchell appeared at the meet­ing on an updat­ed pan­el, now called “Elec­tion Results and Legal Bat­tles: What Now?” And CNP Action answered the ques­tion with a new set of “Action Steps.”

These direct­ed mem­bers to lob­by leg­is­la­tors in Penn­syl­va­nia, Geor­gia, and Neva­da to sup­port lit­i­ga­tion chal­leng­ing the elec­tion out­come; to “active­ly edu­cate your pas­tor and church” with resources from Char­lie Kirk, the Fam­i­ly Research Coun­cil, and oth­ers; to “reach out” to 10 CNP affil­i­ates engaged in the Geor­gia runoff elec­tion; and (omi­nous­ly) to “con­nect with local law enforce­ment.”

Oth­er mea­sures were being set in motion. A famil­iar fig­ure resur­faced: Trump’s first nation­al secu­ri­ty advis­er, Lt. Gen. Michael Fly­nn. Fly­nn, too, had a his­to­ry with the CNP. In July 2016, Fly­nn appeared on a CNP pan­el on “Ter­ror­ism and the Con­di­tion of the Mil­i­tary.” Aca­d­e­m­ic researcher All­press found Fly­nn list­ed in a Zoom­in­fo data­base of “email address­es and direct dials for the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy employ­ees” with a CNP phone num­ber (first list­ed on Novem­ber 26 and still active as of Feb­ru­ary 11—throughout the peri­od when he was appear­ing at the Stop the Steal protests, includ­ing in the Jan­u­ary 6, 2021, Wild­Protest ral­ly).

Dis­pelling any pos­si­bil­i­ty of the entry rep­re­sent­ing anoth­er “Mike Fly­nn,” the list­ing was linked to his 2016 CNP pan­el appear­ance.

Gin­ni Thomas is list­ed in the same CNP employ­ee data­base, also as hav­ing an undis­closed staff role.

Flynn’s affil­i­a­tions under­score a dis­turb­ing link between Trump’s team and the far-right con­spir­a­cy move­ment QAnon. On July 7, 2020, the CNN report­ed that Fly­nn had tweet­ed a video of him­self tak­ing an oath with a QAnon slo­gan, accom­pa­nied by a QAnon hash­tag.

In the weeks fol­low­ing the elec­tion, Fly­nn appeared on a Decem­ber 4 Red State Talk Radio pro­gram called “In the Matrixxx: Gen­er­al Fly­nn Dig­i­tal Sol­diers.” This was a term Fly­nn had intro­duced in a May 2016 speech, as a force to com­bat the “insur­gency” cre­at­ed by the pro­fes­sion­al news media: “So the Amer­i­can peo­ple decid­ed to take over the idea of infor­ma­tion . . . and they did it through social media.” In his intro­duc­tion, Matrixxx host Jef­frey Ped­er­son urged, “Patri­ots, join us in a Q army. Are you guys ready for some booms?” In a tele­phone inter­view, he con­grat­u­lat­ed Michael Fly­nn on his Novem­ber 25 pres­i­den­tial par­don for lying to the FBI in the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion. “We are your dig­i­tal sol­diers, sir.”

Fly­nn replied, “The dig­i­tal army that we have is unstop­pable. . . . When I see peo­ple that don’t want to fight on the bat­tle­field, the Twit­ter space, the Face­book space, we don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly choose the ter­rain that we want to fight on, but when we get on that ter­rain, and we’re on it . . . we fight like dig­i­tal sol­diers, and we will over­come every­thing.”

When host Jef­frey Ped­er­son com­plained that his pro­gram had been tak­en down from a num­ber of major dig­i­tal plat­forms, Fly­nn answered, “Dig­i­tal Sol­diers is gonna have a capa­bil­i­ty soon. . . . We need a new plat­form of truth, it’s gonna hap­pen.”

Con­cern­ing “this dis­as­trous elec­tion we’ve just had,” Fly­nn adhered to the CNP par­ty line con­cen­trat­ing on state-lev­el action. “We are going to win. We have to be patient, we have to per­se­vere through this, we have to be com­mit­ted to fight for the truth in these var­i­ous swing states where the hear­ings have been occur­ring. . . . For the peo­ple that are in those states, those affect­ed states, you need to be call­ing your rep­re­sen­ta­tives, you need to be going to these ral­lies that they’re hav­ing at the state cap­i­tals, and you need to be putting demands on your state offi­cials, your state polit­i­cal class, to not accept this gross . . . this abuse of our elec­tion sys­tem.”

On Decem­ber 10, the CNP’s Con­ser­v­a­tive Action Project pub­lished a let­ter stat­ing, “There is no doubt Pres­i­dent Don­ald J. Trump is the law­ful win­ner of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.” It stat­ed that “state leg­is­la­tures in the bat­tle­ground states of Penn­syl­va­nia, Ari­zona, Geor­gia, Wis­con­sin, Neva­da and Michi­gan should exer­cise their ple­nary pow­er under the Con­sti­tu­tion and appoint clean slates of elec­tors to the Elec­toral Col­lege to sup­port Pres­i­dent Trump.” It fur­ther called on con­ser­v­a­tive lead­ers and groups to imple­ment the strat­e­gy dis­cussed at the pre­vi­ous CNP meet­ing and pres­sure their state and nation­al rep­re­sen­ta­tives to replace the elec­tors. The let­ter was signed by over a dozen mem­bers of the CNP, includ­ing the pres­i­dent, the exec­u­tive direc­tor, and exec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin.

Over the course of Novem­ber, Stop the Steal orga­niz­ers had sum­moned their sup­port­ers to join a series of pro-Trump “Jeri­cho March­es” and prayer vig­ils around the coun­try. These includ­ed a “March for Trump” 20-city bus tour orga­nized by Women for Amer­i­ca First, one of Tea Par­ty activists Amy Kremer’s orga­ni­za­tions, cul­mi­nat­ing in a Decem­ber 12 ral­ly in Wash­ing­ton D.C. Michael Fly­nn was a head­lin­er for the event, and his speech was record­ed by the Right Side Broad­cast­ing Net­work and post­ed on YouTube. Stand­ing over a Women for Amer­i­ca First podi­um before the Supreme Court, Fly­nn pro­claimed, “We are not going to give up!” His words were met by chants of “Stop the Steal!” from the crowd—which includ­ed hun­dreds of Proud Boys and QAnon sup­port­ers in com­bat fatigues and para­mil­i­tary gear. Fly­nn closed his remarks with a bless­ing for the mil­i­tary, first respon­ders, and the police. “They’re fight­ing on the front lines of free­dom right now—for us.”

Legal efforts to over­turn the elec­tion results con­tin­ued, but counts and recounts of the bal­lots came up with the same results, and the chal­lenges were dis­missed by courts across the coun­try. Trump’s cir­cle of trust­ed advis­ers was shrink­ing, and the pres­i­dent con­sid­ered des­per­ate mea­sures.

On Fri­day, Decem­ber 18, an extra­or­di­nary meet­ing took place in the White House with four par­tic­i­pants who had not been record­ed on the offi­cial cal­en­dar, among them Michael Fly­nn and attor­ney Sid­ney Pow­ell, both of whom had ties to the CNP. Accord­ing to a Feb­ru­ary 6 account of that meet­ing in The New York Times, Sid­ney Pow­ell pro­posed that Trump appoint her spe­cial coun­sel to inves­ti­gate vot­er fraud, and Trump con­sid­ered nam­ing Fly­nn head of the FBI and chief of staff for the rest of his admin­is­tra­tion.

The pre­vi­ous day, Decem­ber 17, the right-wing site News­max had post­ed an inter­view with Fly­nn. “The pres­i­dent has to plan for every even­tu­al­i­ty because we can­not allow this elec­tion and the integri­ty of our elec­tion to go the way it is,” Fly­nn said. “This is just total­ly unsat­is­fac­to­ry. There’s no way in the world we’re going to be able to move for­ward as a nation with this. . . .He could imme­di­ate­ly on his order seize every sin­gle one of these machines around the coun­try on his order. He could also order, with­in the swing states, if he want­ed to, he could take mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties and he could place them in those states and basi­cal­ly rerun an elec­tion in each of those states. It’s not unprece­dent­ed.”

Now, in the White House meet­ing of Decem­ber 18, wit­ness­es report­ed that Pow­ell and Fly­nn urged Trump to con­sid­er the Nation­al Emer­gen­cies Act and “extra­or­di­nary mea­sures” to address the elec­toral out­come. Oth­ers in the meet­ing object­ed, and Army Sec­re­tary Ryan McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen­er­al James McConville quick­ly issued a state­ment say­ing, “There is no role for the U.S. mil­i­tary in deter­min­ing the out­come of an Amer­i­can elec­tion.”

As the options dimin­ished, CNP mem­bers dou­bled down. On Jan­u­ary 2, Pres­i­dent Trump held a con­fer­ence call with Geor­gia Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fensperg­er, in which he famous­ly ordered Raf­fensperg­er to “find” 11,780 votes—one more than Biden’s mar­gin of vic­to­ry. The CNP’s Cle­ta Mitchell, one of three lawyers on the call, was iden­ti­fied by White House Chief of Staff Mark Mead­ows as one of the “attor­neys that rep­re­sent the president—who is not the attor­ney of record but has been involved [in the efforts to chal­lenge the elec­toral results].” Mitchell rein­forced Trump’s false claims of fraud and pressed Raf­fensperg­er to hand over his inves­ti­ga­tions of the alle­ga­tions.

Once again, the effort back­fired. The Raf­fensperg­er call was leaked to the press, and the Geor­gia offi­cial was laud­ed as a cham­pi­on of democ­ra­cy for resist­ing Trump’s bul­ly­ing behav­ior. Mitchell resigned from her posi­tion at Foley and Lard­ner, based on the firm’s pol­i­cy that its attor­neys would not rep­re­sent “any par­ties seek­ing to con­test the results of the elec­tion.”

Trump’s paths to vic­to­ry were dimin­ish­ing by the day. The next junc­ture was Jan­u­ary 6, when Con­gress was sched­uled to cer­ti­fy the Elec­toral Col­lege vote. Stop the Steal had been mobi­liz­ing for weeks, with the sup­port of the president’s Twit­ter feed.

The CNP con­nec­tion sur­faced on a num­ber of fronts, as reflect­ed in a chronol­o­gy pub­lished by The Wash­ing­ton Post. On Decem­ber 20, the domain “Wild­Protest” was reg­is­tered. The Post’s Philip Bump wrote, “It appears to be the brain­child of Ali Alexan­der” (the one­time CNP mem­ber and for­mer Ali Akbar). On Jan­u­ary 2, Amy Kre­mer of Women for Amer­i­ca First tweet­ed, “We are excit­ed to announce the site of our Jan­u­ary 6 event will be the Ellipse in President’s Park, just steps from the White House!” Kre­mer appeared in the CNP’s 2014 ros­ter on the CNP board of gov­er­nors, list­ed as chair­man of the Tea Par­ty Express. Her daugh­ter Kylie Kre­mer took out the Nation­al Park Ser­vice per­mit for the “March for Trump,” dat­ed Jan­u­ary 5, 2021.

CNP affil­i­ates took action on a local lev­el. Two days before the protest, Char­lie Kirk tweet­ed that his orga­ni­za­tions were “send­ing 80-plus bus­es full of patri­ots to DC to fight for this pres­i­dent.” (Kirk was indulging in hyper­bole. Turn­ing Point USA spokesman Andrew Kol­vet lat­er con­firmed to Reuters that Kirk’s orga­ni­za­tion, Turn­ing Point Action, sent “sev­en bus­es car­ry­ing 350 stu­dents” to the ral­ly, but added that the group “con­demns polit­i­cal vio­lence.”) Anoth­er tweet from Turn­ing Point Action invit­ed pro­test­ers to “ride a bus & receive pri­or­i­ty entry” and “stay in a com­pli­men­ta­ry hotel.” Both tweets were delet­ed after Jan­u­ary 6. In Lynch­burg, Vir­ginia, more than 100 pro­test­ers board­ed bus­es orga­nized by Lib­er­ty Coun­sel Action, chaired by CNP board of gov­er­nors mem­ber Mat Staver.

CNP mem­ber Gin­ni (Mrs. Clarence) Thomas pro­mot­ed the protest on her Twit­ter feed on Jan­u­ary 6, tweet­ing, “Watch MAGA crowd today best with Right Side Broad­cast­ing (https://rsbnetwork.com/), and then C‑Span for what the Con­gress does start­ing at 1:00 pm today. LOVE MAGA peo­ple!!!!”

On anoth­er front, CNP mem­ber Scott Mag­ill, a retired mil­i­tary physi­cian who had joined the hydrox­y­chloro­quine cam­paign, sum­moned “fel­low War­riors and Friends” to the protest on behalf of his orga­ni­za­tion, Vet­er­ans in Defense of Lib­er­ty. Mag­ill had made a video pre­sen­ta­tion to a 2017 CNP meet­ing, which was accessed by Brent All­press, describ­ing VIDOL as a nation­al orga­ni­za­tion made up of “bat­tal­ions” and “com­pa­nies,” formed to “iden­ti­fy and oppose all who would destroy our free­dom, our Judeo-Chris­t­ian val­ues, our cul­ture, or our morals.” It was expand­ed, he said, to include a “cav­al­ry divi­sion of Vet­er­an motor­cy­cle rid­ers” that could func­tion as a “peace­ful rapid response team.”

Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin claimed a major role in the day’s events. On Decem­ber 30, she tweet­ed, “I will be speak­ing at the #StoptheSteal ral­ly on Jan­u­ary 6. We must demand Con­gress to chal­lenge the Elec­toral Col­lege votes and fight for Pres­i­dent Trump!” She indi­cat­ed that her pro­tégé, Dr. Simone Gold (the mouth­piece for Covid mis­in­for­ma­tion), would be speak­ing as well. Martin’s Tea Par­ty Patri­ots were list­ed as one of the 11 par­tic­i­pat­ing orga­ni­za­tions on the March to Save Amer­i­ca web­site (along with Turn­ing Point Action and Phyl­lis Schlafly Eagles). The site announced, “At 1:00 pm we will march on the US Capi­tol build­ing to protest the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of the Elec­toral Col­lege.” (The web­page includ­ed an auto­mat­ic SMS opt-in and a Covid-19 dis­claimer waiv­ing any claims against the orga­niz­ers for “ill­ness or injury.”)

On Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 5, Trump sup­port­ers gath­ered at Free­dom Plaza in Wash­ing­ton for a Stop the Steal “pre-ral­ly.” Ali Alexan­der led them in cries of “Vic­to­ry or Death!” Michael Fly­nn told them, “We stand at a cru­cible moment in Unit­ed States his­to­ry,” and local CBS affil­i­ate reporter Mike Vale­rio tweet­ed from the scene, “We’ve heard Gen­er­al Mike Fly­nn give a salute / shoutout to QAnon sol­diers.”

On Jan­u­ary 6, thou­sands of pro­test­ers con­verged on the Ellipse in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Pres­i­dent Trump addressed his fol­low­ers in stri­dent tones, urg­ing them to “walk down to the Capi­tol,” “show strength,” and “demand that Con­gress do the right thing.” Then he depart­ed for the White House to watch the day’s events on tele­vi­sion.

The crowd moved toward the Capi­tol and invad­ed its halls, attack­ing Capi­tol police offi­cers and van­dal­iz­ing the premis­es. Simone Gold reprised her speech in the Rotun­da, con­demn­ing the Covid-19 vac­cine as “an exper­i­men­tal bio­log­i­cal agent decep­tive­ly named a vac­cine.” Some mem­bers of the mob clutched Bibles and car­ried signs read­ing “Jesus Saves.” Amer­i­cans were stunned by shock­ing images of men in para­mil­i­tary gear snaking up the Capi­tol steps, of the mob assault­ing a pros­trate police offi­cer, of extrem­ists bran­dish­ing zip-tie hand­cuffs in the Sen­ate cham­ber.

On the Sen­ate floor, Brent Bozell IV was record­ed enter­ing the cham­ber, speak­ing on a cell phone, then repo­si­tion­ing the C‑SPAN cam­era to point at the floor. Bozell is the son of Brent Bozell III, a 30-year vet­er­an of the CNP and a mem­ber of the exec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

In the after­math of the attack, Char­lie Kirk and oth­er sup­port­ers of the protest delet­ed their tweets, but many had already been archived. Simone Gold expressed “regret” for her actions, but on Jan­u­ary 18 she was arrest­ed by the FBI on charges of vio­lent entry and dis­or­der­ly con­duct. Gold’s spon­sor, Jen­ny Beth Martin—who was sched­uled to speak on Jan­u­ary 5 but did not—told Robert O’Harrow of The Wash­ing­ton Post that her group had pro­vid­ed no finan­cial sup­port for the ral­ly. “We were shocked, out­raged, and sad­dened at the turn of events Wednes­day after­noon,” she said.

On Jan­u­ary 6, Brent Bozell III gave an inter­view to Fox Busi­ness describ­ing the riot as “an explo­sion of pent-up out­rage from Mid­dle Amer­i­ca.” He said, “Look, they are furi­ous because they believe this elec­tion was stolen. . . .I agree with them.” He con­demned the breach­ing of the Capi­tol, blam­ing it on “one ele­ment that went for­ward in law­less­ness.” His son was charged with par­tic­i­pat­ing in the breach by the FBI 10 days lat­er.

...

The CNP’s affil­i­ates were by no means act­ing alone in attempt­ing to over­turn the results of the elec­tion, or in their sup­port for the Capi­tol protest on Jan­u­ary 6. The evi­dence shows var­i­ous net­works at work: civil­ian and mil­i­tary, inde­pen­dent and inter­sect­ing, feck­less and mur­der­ous.

What is irrefutable is that mem­bers of the CNP and their cir­cle exert­ed their influ­ence and manip­u­lat­ed their fol­low­ers to sup­port Trump’s lies about the stolen elec­tion and his effort to derail the elec­toral process. Many of these peo­ple emerged as key play­ers in the efforts to dis­rupt America’s 220-year-old tra­di­tion of the peace­ful trans­fer of pow­er and stoked the fury of insur­rec­tion­ists who des­e­crat­ed Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy on that fate­ful Jan­u­ary after­noon.

————

“How the CNP, a Repub­li­can Pow­er­house, Helped Spawn Trump­ism, Dis­rupt­ed the Trans­fer of Pow­er, and Stoked the Assault on the Capi­tol” by Anne Nel­son; The Wash­ing­ton Spec­ta­tor; 02/22/2021

The Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy was found­ed in 1981 by a group of tel­e­van­ge­lists, West­ern oli­garchs, and Repub­li­can strate­gists to cap­i­tal­ize on Ronald Reagan’s elec­toral vic­to­ry the pre­vi­ous year. From the begin­ning, its goals rep­re­sent­ed a con­ver­gence of the inter­ests of these three groups: a retreat from advances in civ­il and polit­i­cal rights for women and minori­ties, tax cuts for the wealthy, and raw polit­i­cal pow­er. Oper­at­ing from the shad­ows, its mem­bers, who would num­ber some 400, spent the next four decades court­ing, buy­ing, and bul­ly­ing fel­low Repub­li­cans, grad­u­al­ly achiev­ing what was in effect a lever­aged buy­out of the GOP. Favorite sons, such as Josh Haw­ley and Ted Cruz, were groomed, financed, and sup­port­ed. Apos­tates, such as John McCain and Jeff Flake, were pun­ished and exiled. The lead­ers of the CNP tend­ed to favor their con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian co-reli­gion­ists, but polit­i­cal expe­di­ence came first.”

Formed in 1981 by a group of tel­e­van­ge­lists, West­ern oli­garchs, and Repub­li­can strate­gists to cap­i­tal­ize on Ronald Reagan’s elec­toral vic­to­ry. It’s hard to come up with a more trou­bling ori­gin sto­ry for a con­tem­po­rary polit­i­cal group. Espe­cial­ly a group ded­i­cat­ed to oper­at­ing in the shad­ows and bare­ly known to the gen­er­al pub­lic. For four decades the CNP has been oper­at­ing as a kind of secret umbrel­la group for the Chris­t­ian hard right. And then the 2020 elec­tion came along and the mask drops entire­ly. Because as we just saw, it was the CNP that was play­ing a lead role in orga­niz­ing the legal efforts to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion results months before the first votes were cast. By Feb­ru­ary 2020, with the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic get­ting under­way threat­en­ing Trump’s reelec­tion chances, the CNP began plan­ning to the over­turn the elec­tion for Trump no mat­ter the out­come of the vote. As we’ve seen, Cle­ta Mitchell — a mem­ber of the CNP board of gov­er­nors and long-stand­ing go-to con­ser­v­a­tive for jus­ti­fy­ing the worst kind of ger­ry­man­der­ing and vot­er sup­pres­sion tac­tics — became the point-per­son for orga­niz­ing the legal strate­gies for over­turn­ing elec­tion results at the state-lev­el. Recall how Mitchell was sit­ting in on the now noto­ri­ous Jan 2, 2021 phone call Trump made to Geor­gia Sec­re­tary of State Brad Raf­fens­burg­er demand­ing that they “find” the votes he need­ed to win the state, result­ing in Mitchel­l’s law firm effec­tive­ly kick­ing her out of the firm. Mitchel­l’s involve­ment in over­turn­ing the 2020 elec­tion arguably goes back to August of 2019, when she co-chaired a high-lev­el work­ing group that end­ed up advo­cat­ing for rad­i­cal read­ing of the con­sti­tu­tion that would enable state leg­is­la­tures to over­ride the pop­u­lar vote. Mitchell has been work­ing on over­turn­ing the 2020 elec­tion from its incep­tion right up to the insur­rec­tion. And she’s just one of the promi­nent CNP offi­cials who was heav­i­ly invest­ed in over­turn­ing the elec­tion through any means nec­es­sary:

...
Ulti­mate real­iza­tion of the CNP’s agen­da depend­ed on win­ning a sec­ond term for Trump in Novem­ber. With anoth­er four years, it could enshrine its social­ly regres­sive poli­cies on the fed­er­al lev­el, fur­ther blur the line between church and state, and con­sol­i­date huge wind­falls for cor­po­ra­tions and wealthy indi­vid­u­als. As of Jan­u­ary 1, elec­toral prospects looked sweet. The Repub­li­cans’ strongest suit was the econ­o­my. Mas­sive tax cuts had flood­ed cor­po­ra­tions with cash, which, as crit­ics of the tax bill had pre­dict­ed, they used to buy back their stock and dri­ve up share prices 28 per­cent in 2019. This boost­ed Trump’s pop­u­lar­i­ty among the 55 per­cent of Amer­i­cans who report­ed own­ing stocks, but did lit­tle to spur the growth Repub­li­cans had promised would off­set the soar­ing deficits.

...

But by Feb­ru­ary 2020, the CNP, fear­ing the ero­sion of Trump’s sup­port, shift­ed its strat­e­gy from boost­ing the pop­u­lar vote to deflect­ing it. Lisa Nel­son, the CEO of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil, told the group, “We’ve been focused on the nation­al vote, and obvi­ous­ly we all want Pres­i­dent Trump to win, and win the nation­al vote, but it’s very clear from all the com­ments and all the sug­ges­tions up front that, real­ly, what it comes down to is the states, and the state leg­is­la­tors.” Her orga­ni­za­tion, she told them, had already draft­ed a mod­el res­o­lu­tion “to make sure there’s no con­fu­sion among con­ser­v­a­tive leg­is­la­tors around nation­al pop­u­lar vote and the Elec­toral Col­lege.”

Nel­son not­ed that her group was explor­ing addi­tion­al ways to inval­i­date a poten­tial Trump loss in con­sul­ta­tion with three elec­tion experts, includ­ing CNP board of gov­er­nors mem­ber Cle­ta Mitchell, “who I know you all know, on try­ing to iden­ti­fy what are those action items that leg­is­la­tors can take in their states, and I think that they’ve iden­ti­fied a few. They can write a let­ter to the sec­re­tary of state, ques­tion­ing the valid­i­ty of an elec­tion, and say­ing, ‘What did hap­pen that night?’ So we are draft­ing a lot of those things. If you have ideas in that area, let us know, and we’ll get them to the state leg­is­la­tors, and they can start to kind of exer­cise their polit­i­cal mus­cle in that area.”

So as ear­ly as Feb­ru­ary 2020, the CNP and its advis­ers were already antic­i­pat­ing var­i­ous strate­gies to over­turn the results of the elec­tion in the event of the loss of either the pop­u­lar vote or the Elec­toral Col­lege, or both. At the same time, they adopt­ed a three-pronged approach to enhanc­ing Trump’s chances in Novem­ber. The first involved expand­ing their use of data to juice Repub­li­can votes and sup­press Demo­c­ra­t­ic turnout. The sec­ond was to mobi­lize sup­port­ers in swing states to ignite Tea Party–like protests against the virus-relat­ed pub­lic safe­ty lock­downs. The third was to deploy physi­cians with dubi­ous cre­den­tials to dis­miss the dan­gers of Covid-19 through a mas­sive media blitz. All three ini­tia­tives were acti­vat­ed in April. It was a rehash of a famil­iar for­mu­la, con­coct­ing groups whose names and URLs changed with dizzy­ing speed and call­ing them “grass­roots” orga­ni­za­tions. (Crit­ics pre­ferred the term “astro­turf.”)
...

Note that one the key fig­ures who was already antic­i­pat­ing the need to over­turn the elec­tion results at that Feb 2020 CNP event was Lisa Nel­son, CNP mem­ber and CEO of ALEC, and she informed the group she was already work­ing with GOP attor­neys includ­ing Cle­ta Mitchell. It’s the per­fect exam­ple of how the plan­ning to over­turn the elec­tion results was a joint Koch/CNP oper­a­tion from the start.

Then there’s the “100 busi­ness exec­u­tives” that the White House staff pre­sent­ed to Trump back in April 2020, just months into the pan­dem­ic, who could give advice on how to jump-start the econ­o­my. It turns out this was a CNP-led effort too, with CNP co-founder Richard Viguerie talk­ing to reporters about it. The effort was expect­ed to be led by Stephen Moore, Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin, Adam Bran­don, and Lisa Nel­son, the CEO of ALEC. All CNP mem­bers. At the same time, the newest pres­i­dent of the CNP, William Wal­ton, isn’t a high pro­file reli­gious leader like Tony Perkins. Instead, Wal­ton works pri­vate equi­ty with close ties to the Kochs (now just Charles) and a lim­it­ed reli­gious pro­file. The CNP has been a merg­er of the Chris­t­ian right with the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty from the very begin­ning. But 2020 was the year those ties real­ly shined in the shad­ows:

...
The CNP’s sec­ond strat­a­gem to “reopen the econ­o­my” debuted around the same time. On April 13, The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Jeff Stein and Robert Cos­ta report­ed that White House staff had pre­sent­ed Trump with a list of “100 busi­ness exec­u­tives” who could advise him as to how to jump-start the econ­o­my. The piece quot­ed CNP co-founder Richard Viguerie, who began his career under the tute­lage of dis­graced radio evan­ge­list Bil­ly James Har­gis and went on to pio­neer the use of direct mail in polit­i­cal mar­ket­ing. “Obvi­ous­ly, the soon­er we get the econ­o­my going and back up, the bet­ter it’s going to be for con­ser­v­a­tives and Repub­li­cans,” Viguerie said. A lot of them, he added, “feel there might be an over­re­ac­tion to all of this [epi­dem­ic].”

Accord­ing to The Wash­ing­ton Post’s unnamed sources, “The out­side effort from con­ser­v­a­tive groups is expect­ed to be led by Stephen Moore, a con­ser­v­a­tive at the Her­itage Foun­da­tion who is close with White House eco­nom­ic offi­cials; Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin, co-founder of the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots; Adam Bran­don, pres­i­dent of Free­dom­Works, a con­ser­v­a­tive advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion; and Lisa Nel­son, chief exec­u­tive of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil (ALEC), the con­ser­v­a­tive pro-busi­ness pol­i­cy and lob­by­ing orga­ni­za­tion with ties to the Koch broth­ers.”

This ini­tia­tive marked a shift in the CNP pro­file. Going into the 2016 elec­tions, the pub­lic faces of the orga­ni­za­tion had been promi­nent fun­da­men­tal­ists. Tony Perkins, CNP pres­i­dent from 2016 to 2019, is also an ordained South­ern Bap­tist min­is­ter and long­time head of the fun­da­men­tal­ist lob­by­ing group Fam­i­ly Research Coun­cil, and he has host­ed Chris­t­ian nation­al­ists Robert Jef­fress and David Bar­ton on his radio broad­casts. Almost half of Trump’s orig­i­nal Evan­gel­i­cal Advi­so­ry Board—including Perkins—were mem­bers of the CNP, and they were in and out of the Oval Office on a reg­u­lar basis. But in 2019, Perkins was suc­ceed­ed as CNP pres­i­dent by William Wal­ton, the founder and chair­man of Rap­pa­han­nock Ven­tures, a pri­vate equi­ty firm, with long ties to the Koch Broth­ers and a lim­it­ed reli­gious pro­file. In 2015, Wal­ton chaired a pan­el at the CNP, stat­ing, “Most of my career has been spent in busi­ness and on Wall Street, and I was among the first to attend the Charles Koch sem­i­nars.” Oth­er fig­ures con­nect­ed to the Koch empire ascend­ed in the CNP hier­ar­chy. Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin, who co-found­ed the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots with Koch back­ing, rose to the office of sec­re­tary. Adam Bran­don, head of the Koch-found­ed “grass­roots” orga­ni­za­tion Free­dom­Works, took a spot on the board of direc­tors of CNP Action, the organization’s lob­by­ing arm.

David Koch died in August 2019, but his broth­er Charles car­ried on. A man with no par­tic­u­lar reli­gious pro­file, Koch embarked on a “charm offen­sive,” dis­tanc­ing him­self from Trump and his fun­da­men­tal­ist allies, pre­sent­ing him­self to the media as a “uni­fi­er” (and scrub­bing the CNP’s Free Enter­prise Award from his pro­file). But his fund­ing activ­i­ties told a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. The Cen­ter for Media and Democracy’s Alec Kotch has record­ed mil­lions of dol­lars in grants from Koch and affil­i­ates such as the Donors Trust to orga­ni­za­tions run by lead­ing mem­bers of the CNP. These include ALEC, as well as the State Pol­i­cy Net­work, the Lead­er­ship Insti­tute, the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, Judi­cial Watch, and Turn­ing Point USA. Some of these groups would play impor­tant roles in attempts to dis­rupt the elec­toral process in the months ahead.
...

Then there’s the role Mark Meck­ler, a CNP Gold Cir­cle mem­ber. He decid­ed to turn the Con­ven­tion of States orga­ni­za­tion into a “clear­ing­house where all these guys can find each oth­er” and praised “spon­ta­neous cit­i­zen groups self-orga­niz­ing on the Inter­net and protest­ing what they per­ceive to be gov­ern­ment over­reach.” In oth­er words, Meck­ler tem­porar­i­ly refo­cused COS towards whip­ping up pub­lic oppo­si­tion to the var­i­ous anti-COVID mea­sures, in par­tic­u­lar at the state lev­el, as part of the larg­er CNP anti-COVID-mea­sures oper­a­tion. The COS became a clear­ing­house of joint CNP/Koch efforts:

...
The “boil­ing point” mate­ri­al­ized over the next two weeks, as Moore fore­cast, with the assis­tance of anoth­er CNP-linked effort called Con­ven­tion of States, led by Mark Meck­ler, co-founder of the Tea Par­ty Patri­ots and CNP Gold Cir­cle mem­ber. He told the Post his group would func­tion as a “clear­ing­house where all these guys can find each oth­er” and praised “spon­ta­neous cit­i­zen groups self-orga­niz­ing on the Inter­net and protest­ing what they per­ceive to be gov­ern­ment over­reach.” Ear­li­er that week, The New York Times report­ed that the coalition’s mem­bers were mobi­liz­ing their net­works for state-lev­el ral­lies, fil­ing law­suits, and com­mis­sion­ing polls, all to counter the lock­downs. “Non­prof­it groups includ­ing Free­dom­Works and Tea Par­ty Patri­ots have used their social media accounts and text and email lists to spread the word about the protests across the coun­try.” The most pub­li­cized events occurred at the Michi­gan state­house on April 15 and May 1, when armed pro­test­ers invad­ed the state Capi­tol, but these were far from the only ones.
...

Note the fea­tured pan­elist who open the August 19, 2020, CNP meet­ing: Sid­ney Pow­ell. Fol­lowed by an after­noon pan­el fea­tur­ing Cle­ta Mitchell. It was a spir­i­tu­al bat­tle of good ver­sus evil and in the worlds of CNP pres­i­dent Wal­ton, “We have to do every­thing pos­si­ble to win.” And the CNP went into cri­sis mode, focus­ing on mechan­ics. They were get­ting ready for the big steal. This was August 19, 2020, two and a half months before Elec­tion Day:

...
Trump and the CNP dou­bled down. On August 19, the CNP opened its meet­ing at the Ritz-Carl­ton in Pen­ta­gon City with a pan­el fea­tur­ing attor­ney Sid­ney Pow­ell. Two days lat­er, Don­ald Trump addressed the CNP in his sin­gle major con­ven­tion-eve event. Over chants of “USA! USA!” Trump acknowl­edged key sup­port­ers by name, includ­ing CNP Pres­i­dent William Wal­ton, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Bob McEwen, and Sec­re­tary Jen­ny Beth Mar­tin. His ram­bling speech attacked famil­iar ene­mies and laud­ed famil­iar friends, includ­ing evan­gel­i­cals, extrac­tive indus­tries, and the gun lob­by. Pho­tos from the event showed sev­er­al hun­dred tight­ly packed, unmasked guests in the ball­room. That afternoon’s pro­gram fea­tured attor­ney Cle­ta Mitchell, an Okla­homa native and a long­time CNP board of gov­er­nors mem­ber, on pan­els called “Elec­tion Integri­ty: Secur­ing the Bal­lot Box” and “Elec­tion Integri­ty: Action Steps.” Exec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber Brent Bozell III told his fel­low mem­bers that the left plans to “steal this elec­tion.”

“And if they get away with that, what hap­pens?” Bozell demand­ed. “Democ­ra­cy is fin­ished because they ush­er in total­i­tar­i­an­ism.”

...

The rest of the August CNP meet­ing was held under the usu­al con­di­tions of secre­cy, but this time its pro­ceed­ings were leaked to Wash­ing­ton Post reporter Robert O’Harrow Jr., who pub­lished an account on Octo­ber 14. The CNP lead­ers were sound­ing notes of alarm. “This is a spir­i­tu­al bat­tle. This is good ver­sus evil,” CNP pres­i­dent Wal­ton told the group. “We have to do every­thing pos­si­ble to win.” Trump’s dis­as­trous han­dling of the Covid-19 cri­sis was hurt­ing his chances at the polls, and Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers were new­ly ener­gized. The old mes­sag­ing about abor­tion and uni­sex bath­rooms looked less com­pelling as the pan­dem­ic death toll mount­ed and mil­lions were thrown out of work.

The CNP went into cri­sis mode, focus­ing on the mechan­ics of the elec­tion. Char­lie Kirk, head of the right-wing stu­dent group Turn­ing Point USA and a rel­a­tive­ly new mem­ber, took the stage to cel­e­brate the clo­sure of cam­pus­es, which could deprive the Democ­rats of a half-mil­lion stu­dent votes. “So, please keep the cam­pus­es closed,” he said. Exec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber Tom Fit­ton, pres­i­dent of Judi­cial Watch, asked his audi­ence for ideas to foil mail-in vot­ing: “We need to stop those bal­lots from going out, and I want the lawyers here to tell us what to do.”
...

Also note that with Gin­ni Thomas, was of Supreme Court Jus­tice Clarence Thomas, on the board of direc­tors of CNP Action, the rep­re­sents just one more area of clout the CNP would have if the elec­tion out­come was thrown to the Supreme Court. Recall how throw­ing it to the Supreme Court was one of the Trump team’s strate­gies for over­turn­ing the elec­tion. Not that we would­n’t already expect Clarence Thomas to vote in line with the CNP’s wish­es, but it’s an exam­ple of just how deep the CNP’s influ­ence runs in DC:

...
The lawyers in the room were eager to help. One of them, the CNP board mem­ber Cle­ta Mitchell, was a part­ner in the influ­en­tial Mil­wau­kee-based law firm Foley and Lard­ner. She also served on the board of direc­tors of the ultra­con­ser­v­a­tive Lyn­de and Har­ry Bradley Foun­da­tion, run by fel­low CNP board mem­ber Richard Graber. In 2020, the Bradley Foun­da­tion grant­ed hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars to ALEC, Free­dom­Works, and the CNP itself.

Cle­ta Mitchell had worked close­ly with anoth­er lead­ing CNP mem­ber on elec­tion mat­ters in recent years. This was Gin­ni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Jus­tice Clarence Thomas and a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors of CNP Action. Gin­ni Thomas was known as the not-so-secret weapon of the CNP and its allies. A long­time sup­port­er of Char­lie Kirk and Turn­ing Point USA, she had spo­ken at the organization’s stu­dent con­fer­ence and served on its advi­so­ry coun­cil. She was list­ed as a con­trib­u­tor at the Dai­ly Caller, the online media plat­form found­ed and fund­ed by fel­low CNP mem­bers. At the May 2019 CNP meet­ing, Thomas and Mitchell offered a joint pre­sen­ta­tion on elec­toral strate­gies, and at the Feb­ru­ary 2020 meet­ing, Her­itage Foun­da­tion alum­na Rachel Bovard praised Thomas as a key liai­son to the White House. “She is one of the most pow­er­ful and fierce women in Wash­ing­ton,” Bovard said. (Bovard joined Thomas on the board of CNP Action short­ly after­ward.)
...

But of all the CNP mem­bers we know of, per­haps the most sur­pris­ing is Ali Alexan­der, the Roger Stone acolyte who was lead­ing the StoptheSteal.us move­ment. Recall how Stone found­ed StopTheSteal in 2016 to help Trump win the GOP nom­i­na­tion. But Ali Alexan­der was its pub­lic face and leader dur­ing the post-2020 elec­tion peri­od in the lead up to the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion. And as we saw, the Stop the Steal ral­ly out­side the Capi­tol was seen as the more “wild” ral­ly planned for Jan 6 — as opposed to the Women for Amer­i­ca First ral­ly at the Ellipse — and appears to have been the event from which the insur­rec­tion actu­al­ly emerged. Alexan­der was also mak­ing chants of “Vic­to­ry or Death” at the Jan 5 Stop the Steal ral­ly in DC. Ali Alexan­der poten­tial­ly played one of the most sig­nif­i­cant roles that day in terms of mak­ing the insur­rec­tion hap­pen. And now we learn Roger Stone’s acolyte is a CNP mem­ber. The fact that Michael Fly­nn spoke at Ali Alexan­der’s Jan 5 Stop the Steal isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly sur­pris­ing either. The two had a sim­i­lar ‘wild’ insur­rec­tionary vibe:

...
On Elec­tion Day, Novem­ber 3, the nation held its breath. Ralph Reed’s mas­sive get-out-the-vote effort had dri­ven up turnout, but so had the Democ­rats. On Novem­ber 4, as the results hung in abeyance, a site called StoptheSteal.us was reg­is­tered. It was dis­cov­ered the fol­low­ing day by Brent All­press, who traced its reg­is­tra­tion to an account called “Vice and Vic­to­ry,” owned by a curi­ous fig­ure named Ali Alexan­der. Alexan­der was some­times known as “Ali Akbar,” the name he was list­ed under as a mem­ber of the CNP on 2017 and 2018 ros­ters. He began to use the name “Alexan­der” after plead­ing guilty to two counts of felony in 2007 and 2008. As “Ali Alexan­der,” he announced the launch of #StoptheSteal on Twit­ter with a list of 15 part­ners and the text, “Proud to be work­ing with these patri­ots to Save the Elec­tion.” One of them was CNP mem­ber Ed Mar­tin, head of the Phyl­lis Schlafly Eagles Forum Fund.

A new Stop the Steal Face­book group had appeared on Novem­ber 4 and was banned the fol­low­ing day. The Wash­ing­ton Post quot­ed the page’s recruit­ment of “boots on the ground to pro­tect the integri­ty of the vote” and solic­i­ta­tion of dona­tions to cov­er “‘flights and hotels to send peo­ple’ to bat­tle­ground states includ­ing Geor­gia, North Car­oli­na and Penn­syl­va­nia.” Accord­ing to the Post, the “Stop the Steal” group appeared as a co-host on 12 dif­fer­ent Face­book protest list­ings, among them one for a car car­a­van from Cal­i­for­nia. The group gained 360,000 mem­bers before it was removed for vio­lat­ing Facebook’s rules for inflam­ma­to­ry con­tent, as users called for “civ­il war” and “over­throw­ing the gov­ern­ment.”

...

On Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 5, Trump sup­port­ers gath­ered at Free­dom Plaza in Wash­ing­ton for a Stop the Steal “pre-ral­ly.” Ali Alexan­der led them in cries of “Vic­to­ry or Death!” Michael Fly­nn told them, “We stand at a cru­cible moment in Unit­ed States his­to­ry,” and local CBS affil­i­ate reporter Mike Vale­rio tweet­ed from the scene, “We’ve heard Gen­er­al Mike Fly­nn give a salute / shoutout to QAnon sol­diers.”
...

“Vic­to­ry or Death!” That was the on Jan 5 chant from Stop The Steal orga­niz­er Ali Alexan­der, who just hap­pens to be a CNP mem­ber too. It’s at a point where we have to start ask­ing which major orga­niz­ers of the push to over­turn the elec­tion results weren’t mem­bers of CNP. It points towards one of the grim real­i­ties of any attempt to inves­ti­gate and pun­ish those respon­si­ble for insur­rec­tion: tru­ly hold­ing those respon­si­ble to account would require the pros­e­cu­tion of a num­ber of mem­bers of one of the most pow­er­ful net­works oper­at­ing in the US today.

What’s Next for Project Blitz? A Bigger Project Blitz With an Expanded Sense of Dominion

Giv­en that the CNP is almost cer­tain­ly going to face no real reper­cus­sions for its role in an attempt­ed coup and will be allowed to con­tin­ue oper­at­ing in the shad­ows with impuni­ty the risk of future over­turned elec­tions and insur­rec­tions is one of the obvi­ous threats loom­ing over the US right now. But as our look at Project Blitz makes clear, the assault on Amer­i­ca’s democ­ra­cy from the CNP and Chris­t­ian nation­al­ists isn’t lim­it­ed to lit­er­al assaults like the insur­rec­tion. The impact of ‘bill mills’ like Project Blitz is a sus­tained leg­isla­tive assault that real­ly does erode con­sti­tu­tion­al safe­guards over time. One state at a time.

And as the fol­low­ing 2021 update on Project Blitz describes, the peo­ple behind Project Blitz have a grow­ing vision for what the project can accom­plish. In addi­tion to pro­duc­ing bills to pro­mote prayer in school, they had moved on to poten­tial more fer­tile issues: “Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry” and anti-Trans youth bills. Beyond that, it appears Project Blitz has become more sophis­ti­cat­ed in cov­er­ing up its agen­da, issu­ing new guid­ance to state law­mak­ers on how to use more sec­u­lar-sound­ing lan­guage to describe their bills. Keep in mind that this update on Project Blitz was writ­ten in July of 2021, months before we wit­nessed the poten­cy of issues like “Crit­i­cal Race The­o­ry” in ani­mat­ing the elec­torate of Vir­ginia. So in terms of what to expect next from this Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist move­ment that’s cur­rent­ly on the war path to cap­ture democ­ra­cy, we should prob­a­bly expect more of the same, but worse because they’re get­ting bet­ter at it:

The Salon

The Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist assault on democ­ra­cy goes stealth — but the push­back is work­ing
Salon’s 2018 report­ing helped dri­ve the Chris­t­ian right’s Project Blitz under­ground. Now it’s back, on the down-low

By Paul Rosen­berg
Pub­lished July 24, 2021 12:14PM (EDT)

In April 2018, researcher Fred­er­ick Clark­son exposed the exis­tence of Project Blitz, a secre­tive Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist “bill mill” oper­at­ing below the radar to shape and enact leg­is­la­tion in dozens of states, using a net­work of state “prayer cau­cus­es,” many of which had unsus­pect­ing Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers. Its plan was to start with inno­cent-seem­ing bills, such as requir­ing pub­lic schools to dis­play the nation­al mot­to, “In God We Trust,” and to cul­mi­nate with lay­ing the foun­da­tions for a “Hand­maid­’s Tale”-style theoc­ra­cy, enshrin­ing big­otry in law under the guise of “reli­gious free­dom.”

Salon was the first to report and build on Clark­son’s find­ings, as well as sub­se­quent pro­gres­sive orga­niz­ing efforts which even­tu­al­ly drove Project Blitz back under­ground, fol­low­ing a high-pro­file USA Today exposé (Salon fol­low-up here.) Now, three years lat­er, Clark­son, a senior research ana­lyst at Polit­i­cal Research Asso­ciates, has unearthed the play­books Project Blitz has used since going dark, and dis­cussed their impli­ca­tions with Salon in an exclu­sive inter­view.

“The play­books advise leg­is­la­tors to cloak their reli­gious mis­sion in the guise of more sec­u­lar inten­tions and they’ve renamed sev­er­al bills to make them sound more appeal­ing,” Clark­son report­ed at Reli­gion Dis­patch­es. But there’s anoth­er, more hope­ful mes­sage: These play­books “also tell a sto­ry of the resilience of demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions and lead­ers in the face of move­ments seek­ing to under­mine or end them.”

Clark­son told Salon, “While most peo­ple to the left of the Chris­t­ian right view the Project Blitz play­book with revul­sion, I see it as a gift to democ­ra­cy. The play­book and their accom­pa­ny­ing brief­in­gs and events laid bare their inten­tions and their game plan.” Because of that, he con­tin­ued, “We were hand­ed a vital tool for the defense of demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues and, arguably, the wider defense of democ­ra­cy itself. The things that hap­pened in response, I think, are under­ap­pre­ci­at­ed, even by some of those who should be tak­ing great pride in their vic­to­ries.”

In par­tic­u­lar, Clark­son said, “We were for­tu­nate that Rachel Laser, the then-new pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans Unit­ed for Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State, rec­og­nized this right away and made tak­ing on Project Blitz a sig­na­ture cam­paign of her pres­i­den­cy.” One high­light of Laser’s work was “orga­niz­ing dozens of nation­al reli­gious and civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tions to issue a joint let­ter to state leg­is­la­tors oppos­ing the anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic, Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist inten­tion” behind Project Blitz.

He also cit­ed the webi­na­rs staged for var­i­ous nation­al groups by Ali­son Gill of Amer­i­can Athe­ists, Eliz­a­beth Rein­er Platt of Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Law School and Clark­son him­self, which “laid out the impli­ca­tions of the Project Blitz cam­paign,” Clark­son said. (My report­ing on that is here.) That in turn led to the for­ma­tion of Blitz Watch, which focused atten­tion on the con­tin­u­ing threat.

In Clark­son’s arti­cle for Reli­gion Dis­patch­es, he writes, “In 2020, depend­ing on how one counts, 92 bills were intro­duced, 8 of which passed. In 2021, so far, 74 bills have been intro­duced, 14 of which have passed, accord­ing to Blitz Watch.” So Project Blitz is still in action, and still a threat. But it’s not the mas­sive and suc­cess­ful onslaught that its founders intend­ed and hoped for — and the fact that it was forced into stealth mode shows how suc­cess­ful the push­back has been.

At the end of his sto­ry, Clark­son offers this sum­ma­ry:

The ongo­ing expo­sure and response to Project Blitz has taught us sev­er­al things. First, that it’s pos­si­ble to stand up to and pre­vail against anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic move­ments and mea­sures, and that our demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions are more resilient than they some­times seem. Sen. John Mar­ty showed that — when he spoke up for the integri­ty of his faith and stood down a nation­al smear cam­paign led by Fox News, as not­ed ear­li­er. Librar­i­ans and their allies showed that, even in the face of dem­a­gog­ic attacks on the com­pe­tence and integri­ty of pub­lic libraries, state leg­is­la­tors could be made to see rea­son. Efforts since 2018 by scores of nation­al orga­ni­za­tions orga­nized by Amer­i­cans Unit­ed for Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State and Blitz Watch, have also shown that it’s pos­si­ble to defend democ­ra­cy and its insti­tu­tions against a secre­tive and for­mi­da­ble oppo­nent of demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues, and of democ­ra­cy itself. What’s more, jour­nal­ism has once again shown that sun­light remains the best dis­in­fec­tant.

Elab­o­rat­ing on this last point, Clark­son told Salon, “Scores of nation­al media out­lets cov­ered either Project Blitz direct­ly, or cov­ered the pat­terns of bills intro­duced in leg­is­la­tures across the coun­try, espe­cial­ly the most com­mon, In God We Trust bills…. Thus Project Blitz was exposed as part of wider prob­lem of manip­u­la­tion of state leg­is­la­tures, and found itself com­pared to the tobac­co and the pornog­ra­phy indus­tries as cor­rup­tors of demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions.”

What’s equal­ly impor­tant is that these lessons can also pro­vide tools and strate­gies to counter the right’s lat­est cul­ture war offen­sive — the racist back­lash fly­ing under the ban­ner of fight­ing “crit­i­cal race the­o­ry.” Although the two cam­paigns are dis­sim­i­lar in some respects, in both cas­es the right is defend­ing a found­ing myth (Amer­i­ca as a “Chris­t­ian nation,” or Amer­i­ca as a flaw­less “bea­con of lib­er­ty”) and per­vert­ing or tak­ing hostage a pro­gres­sive val­ue to claim it as their own (reli­gious free­dom or racial equal­i­ty). In both cas­es, the reliance on bla­tant decep­tion tells us that con­ser­v­a­tives them­selves under­stand that pro­gres­sives hold the stronger hand. The right may be more mobi­lized now — just as it was before Project Blitz was first exposed — but it won’t win if pro­gres­sives can learn, and adapt, the lessons of their recent suc­cess.

How we got here

As Clark­son first report­ed, Project Blitz orig­i­nal­ly divid­ed its bills into three tiers. The first tier aimed at import­ing the Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist world­view into pub­lic schools and oth­er aspects of the pub­lic sphere. A sig­na­ture exam­ple is dis­play of the mot­to, “In God We Trust,” a Cold War replace­ment for “E pluribus unum” — out of many, one — which bet­ter reflects Amer­i­ca’s prag­mat­ic, plu­ral­ist foun­da­tions.

The sec­ond tier, “Res­o­lu­tions and Procla­ma­tions Rec­og­niz­ing the Impor­tance of Reli­gious His­to­ry and Free­dom,” aimed at mak­ing gov­ern­ment a part­ner in “Chris­tian­iz­ing” Amer­i­ca, large­ly by pro­mot­ing bogus his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tives. For exam­ple, Clark­son told me, the mod­el “Civic Lit­er­a­cy Act and the Reli­gion in His­to­ry Acts,” required the study or post­ing of “the found­ing doc­u­ments” in the pub­lic schools, but with a twist:

“Curi­ous­ly, the Mayflower Com­pact is includ­ed as a found­ing doc­u­ment,” he said, “but there is no men­tion of the Vir­ginia Statute for Reli­gious Lib­er­ty [the law Thomas Jef­fer­son wrote which served as the mod­el for the First Amend­ment] ... because it throws a mon­key wrench into the Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist nar­ra­tive, which seeks to link Chris­tian­i­ty and nation­al iden­ti­ty from the British colonies at Jamestown and Ply­mouth to the present.”

The third tier con­tained three types of pro­posed laws that “pro­tect” reli­gious beliefs and prac­tices specif­i­cal­ly intend­ed to ben­e­fit big­otry. “Although cat­e­go­ry three is divid­ed in three parts, you could also see it as hav­ing two main under­ly­ing inten­tions,” Clark­son explained in a lat­er sto­ry. “First to den­i­grate the LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ty, and sec­ond to defend and advance the right to dis­crim­i­nate. This is one way that the agen­da of theo­crat­ic domin­ion­ism is reframed as pro­tect­ing the right of theocrats to dis­crim­i­nate against those deemed sec­ond-class, at best. As the late theo­crat­ic the­olo­gian R.J. Rush­doony said, ‘Only the right have rights.’ ”

The basic struc­ture of Project Blitz’s agen­da has­n’t changed much, but its pre­sen­ta­tion has. “The 2020–2021 play­book offers slick­er argu­ments than pre­vi­ous years,” Clark­son notes. “For exam­ple, they deny that they seek a theoc­ra­cy, try not to be overt­ly Chris­t­ian, present sec­u­lar argu­ments for their leg­is­la­tion and attempt to give the appear­ance that they respect reli­gious plu­ral­ism. But they don’t quite suc­ceed.”

The con­tra­dic­tions he notes are not sur­pris­ing. Authors of these pro­posed laws insist, for exam­ple, that they’re not out to “change our mod­el of gov­ern­ment into a theoc­ra­cy” and that the bills don’t “mim­ic or enact any par­tic­u­lar reli­gious code.” But the inclu­sion of “The Ten Com­mand­ments Dis­play Act” isn’t very con­vinc­ing on that score. They fur­ther insist that the mod­el bills pro­mote “reli­gious tol­er­ance” and “do not force any reli­gion on any­one,” yet the “Nation­al Mot­to Dis­play Act” calls for the post­ing of the Chris­t­ian reli­gious slo­gan “In God We Trust” in pub­lic schools and build­ings. Still they allege that “tol­er­ance [is] sore­ly lack­ing in those who reject var­i­ous aspects of reli­gious teach­ing,” an old talk­ing point that frames rejec­tion of imposed reli­gion in pub­lic spaces as “intol­er­ance.”

That last point is anoth­er exam­ple of how the right attempts to usurp pro­gres­sive val­ues and turn them on their heads. It also rep­re­sents an attempt to erase reli­gious lib­er­als, pro­gres­sives and rad­i­cals from the pub­lic sphere, by pre­tend­ing that only “sec­u­lar human­ists” can pos­si­bly oppose what they are doing.

The 2019–2020 play­book was more nar­row­ly focused, deal­ing only with bills relat­ed to sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­ti­ty. That made sense, since it was the rapid shift in pub­lic atti­tudes around LGBTQ rights that put the reli­gious right into its cur­rent defen­sive pos­ture, out of which it con­ceived its counter-offen­sive: recast­ing reli­gious big­otry as a defin­ing fea­ture of faith, and claim­ing a right to dis­crim­i­nate as an essen­tial aspect of “reli­gious free­dom.” The fact that the oth­er tiers were dropped from the 2019–2020 play­book is a tell of sorts — but of course the play­book’s authors nev­er expect­ed it to become pub­lic.

The 2020–2021 play­book returned to the full three-tier for­mat, under a new rubric of “cat­e­gories,” adding two addi­tion­al ones. “Cat­e­go­ry 4 offers ‘talk­ing points to counter anti-reli­gious free­dom leg­is­la­tion,’ which is sim­ply a break­out of the talk­ing points pre­vi­ous­ly includ­ed in oth­er sec­tions,” Clark­son notes, while “Cat­e­go­ry 5 pro­vides four new mod­el poli­cies deal­ing with prayer in pub­lic set­tings — three for pub­lic school set­tings and one for munic­i­pal set­tings, such as city coun­cil meet­ings.”

One impor­tant new ingre­di­ent

One new bill that Clark­son draws atten­tion to would crim­i­nal­ize libraries and librar­i­ans, and became infa­mous even before Project Blitz adopt­ed it:

The “Parental Over­sight of Pub­lic Libraries Act,” intro­duced by then-fresh­man Mis­souri State Rep. Ben Bak­er (R‑Neosho), ignit­ed a state and nation­al con­tro­ver­sy in Jan­u­ary 2020 short­ly after he took office. …

His bill sought to cre­ate “parental review boards” with the author­i­ty to “con­vene pub­lic hear­ings” and restrict access to any­thing they deemed “age-inap­pro­pri­ate sex­u­al mate­ri­als.” Not only would their deci­sions be “final,” but the bill also pre­scribed fines or jail for librar­i­ans who “will­ing­ly” vio­lat­ed board decrees regard­ing what is inap­pro­pri­ate, and includ­ed the poten­tial state defund­ing of libraries accused of vio­lat­ing the statute.

This bill is decep­tive in two key ways. First, as Clark­son notes, it “feigns a demo­c­ra­t­ic method to achieve an anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic result.” These board mem­bers would­n’t be cho­sen in a gen­er­al elec­tion, but by vot­ers who show up in per­son at a sched­uled pub­lic meet­ing where the issue is raised. “Thus the boards could be elect­ed by small groups of zealots able to pack an oth­er­wise rou­tine evening meet­ing of a town coun­cil,” Clark­son writes. These boards would then be giv­en pow­ers to over­rule exist­ing library boards, which are either demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed or appoint­ed by demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed offi­cials. In short, this is an attack on local demo­c­ra­t­ic con­trol, the very prin­ci­ple it pre­tends to embody.

The sec­ond decep­tion is over the term “age-inap­pro­pri­ate sex­u­al mate­ri­als,” since the impe­tus for the orig­i­nal bill was­n’t about sex­u­al con­tent at all, but rather gen­der rep­re­sen­ta­tion:

Bak­er said he was orig­i­nal­ly con­cerned about the pop­u­lar-but-some­times-con­tro­ver­sial Drag Queen Sto­ry Hour in libraries and book­stores around the coun­try.

Drag Queen Sto­ry Hour describes its events sim­ply as “drag queens read­ing sto­ries to chil­dren in libraries, schools, and book­stores … [where] kids are able to see peo­ple who defy rigid gen­der restric­tions and imag­ine a world where peo­ple can present as they wish, where dress up is real.”

Bak­er sees some­thing more sin­is­ter at work. Any break in rigid gen­der stereo­types is inher­ent­ly sub­ver­sive to his snowflake sen­si­bil­i­ties, as he explained to the New York Times: “What inspired this bill is becom­ing aware of what is tak­ing place at our pub­licly fund­ed libraries with events like Drag Queen Sto­ry Hour, and mate­ri­als that have a clear agen­da of groom­ing our chil­dren for the L.G.B.T.Q. com­mu­ni­ty with adult themes and con­tent that fit the descrip­tion of a objec­tion­able sex­u­al nature.”

In this world­view, any break­down in rigid gen­der stereo­types is asso­ci­at­ed with “groom­ing our chil­dren” for the LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ty,” a trope used by the right dat­ing back at least to the Eisen­how­er-era John Birch Soci­ety, when sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge about gen­der ori­en­ta­tion and iden­ti­ty was vir­tu­al­ly nonex­is­tent. Not only does this lack any sci­en­tif­ic cred­i­bil­i­ty, it’s also a hys­ter­i­cal over­re­ac­tion, since no one is forced to attend Drag Queen Sto­ry Hour. If this law were passed, as an offi­cial with Amer­i­can Library Asso­ci­a­tion warned, not just Drag Queen Sto­ry Hour could be cen­sored, but also dis­plays relat­ing to Pride Month, Black His­to­ry Month and oth­er spe­cif­ic com­mem­o­ra­tions.

This attempt­ed intru­sion into local library pol­i­tics is just one exam­ple of how Project Blitz over­laps with the new wave of white back­lash under the ban­ner of fight­ing “crit­i­cal race the­o­ry.” For sev­er­al decades, the right has repeat­ed­ly mobi­lized to take over non­par­ti­san school boards, and occa­sion­al­ly library boards, as a way of build­ing grass­roots pow­er and groom­ing can­di­dates for high­er office. Such elec­tions usu­al­ly have low turnout and rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle cam­paign orga­ni­za­tion, which makes them attrac­tive tar­gets for extrem­ists run­ning scare-tac­tic cam­paigns. The parental over­sight bill takes things one step fur­ther by empow­er­ing small activist groups who invadie local gov­ern­ment meet­ings, but the orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple is the same: Use fear and stealth to seize pow­er, and use sim­u­lat­ed demo­c­ra­t­ic legit­i­ma­cy to advance a divi­sive, reac­tionary agen­da.

These library-cen­tered bat­tles served to under­score a broad­er point that Clark­son made to Salon. “When peo­ple are invest­ed in demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions like pub­lic libraries, or any aspect of gov­ern­ment, it is impor­tant not to ‘oth­er-ize’ gov­ern­ment, which in a demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety is intend­ed to be an expres­sion and func­tion of what we need and want to do togeth­er, and is nec­es­sar­i­ly an expres­sion of demo­c­ra­t­ic val­ues,” Clark­son said.

“That librar­i­ans and allies around the coun­try ral­lied to the defense of the archives of demo­c­ra­t­ic knowl­edge, cul­ture and prac­tice is a case exam­ple of how we need not be bul­lied by Chris­t­ian right dem­a­goguery. Screechy charges may make head­lines and bring in ad rev­enue on right-wing talk radio, but most peo­ple, most of the time, do not want their schools and libraries messed with by author­i­tar­i­an big­ots and mobs of the eas­i­ly led.”

Reflect­ing on lessons learned

Expo­sure was the key to suc­cess, accord­ing to two impor­tant fig­ures in this strug­gle, both men­tioned above. Rachel Laser is pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans Unit­ed For Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State, and Ali­son Gill is vice pres­i­dent for legal and pol­i­cy mat­ters at Amer­i­can Athe­ists.

“To oppose Project Blitz effec­tive­ly, we first had to raise aware­ness about this cam­paign,” Gill said.

“Project Blitz’s strat­e­gy was to start with seem­ing­ly less con­tro­ver­sial leg­is­la­tion that orga­niz­ers thought they could slip past the pub­lic,” Laser said, “then build to even more harm­ful, more con­tro­ver­sial bills. They had some suc­cess ear­ly on. But once we exposed that strat­e­gy and peo­ple became aware of Project Blitz and its agen­da of cod­i­fy­ing Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism, the ini­tia­tive began to unrav­el, because peo­ple don’t want to force reli­gious beliefs on pub­lic school­child­ren and they don’t want our laws to license dis­crim­i­na­tion in the name of reli­gious free­dom.”

Gill focused more on expos­ing the secre­tive work­ings behind the Project Blitz oper­a­tion. “At first, the cam­paign worked dis­creet­ly and with­out broad­cast­ing their inten­tions to lure unsus­pect­ing law­mak­ers into state prayer cau­cus­es,” she said. “These cau­cus­es then pro­vid­ed a struc­ture with which to pur­sue the Project Blitz leg­is­la­tion. By ele­vat­ing the cam­paign to media and law­mak­ers, high­light­ing its con­nec­tion to Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism and show­ing that these bills were not organ­i­cal­ly dri­ven by in-state inter­est, we suc­ceed­ed in neu­tral­iz­ing their advan­tage.”

Gill cit­ed two oth­er lessons as well. “Our work to oppose Project Blitz rein­forced the impor­tance of cross-move­ment col­lab­o­ra­tion,” she said. “Project Blitz is a cam­paign that tar­gets civ­il rights in mul­ti­ple fields — LGBTQ equal­i­ty, access to repro­duc­tive ser­vices and reli­gious equal­i­ty — and so coor­di­na­tion with orga­ni­za­tions across affect­ed move­ments was required to effec­tive­ly oppose it.”

That took time and cru­cial infor­ma­tion, Laser added: “It was­n’t until we learned of the Project Blitz play­book and their orga­niz­ing strat­e­gy that we were able to build a coali­tion of allies to fight this move­ment at its source, rather than only state by state and bill by bill.”

...

More wor­ri­some than Project Blitz itself, Gill said, are the forces behind it. “The same forces push­ing for­ward Project Blitz have now seized upon new issues, and they are already flood­ing state leg­is­la­tures with dan­ger­ous mod­el bills,” she said. “There were at least four major waves of harm­ful leg­is­la­tion prop­a­gat­ed in 2021: anti-trans youth leg­is­la­tion, reli­gious exemp­tions to COVID-relat­ed pub­lic health pro­tec­tions, broad denial-of-care bills, and bills that under­mine abor­tion access.”

Of those, she says the most dan­ger­ous ele­ment is a “renewed empha­sis on Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (RFRA) mea­sures at the state lev­el. RFRAs cre­ate a lim­it­ed exemp­tion from state laws when­ev­er reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions say that their activ­i­ties are bur­dened. RFRAs have been used to attack nondis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions, access to con­tra­cep­tion and abor­tion, and even child labor laws.

Such laws were a major focus of con­ser­v­a­tive activism dur­ing Barack Oba­ma’s pres­i­den­cy, although “none were suc­cess­ful­ly passed after sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic set­backs in 2015 in states like Indi­ana,” Gill not­ed. “In the wake of the pan­dem­ic and state-imposed pub­lic health restric­tions,” she said, “activists have rebrand­ed these bills as nec­es­sary to pro­tect church­es from gov­ern­ment over­reach.” Three states — Arkansas, Mon­tana and South Dako­ta — passed RFRAs this year, and we should expect to see many more com­ing in 2022, she warns.

It’s also impor­tant to con­sid­er how these lessons can be applied to the racist back­lash for­mu­lat­ed around the bogey­man term “crit­i­cal race the­o­ry,” which Fox News has repeat­ed thou­sands of times with­out ever clear­ly defin­ing it. This can be seen in the state leg­isla­tive map as well. repeat­ed thou­sands of times has tracked efforts in 27 states to “restrict edu­ca­tion on racism, bias, the con­tri­bu­tions of spe­cif­ic racial or eth­nic groups to U.S. his­to­ry, or relat­ed top­ics,” com­pared to efforts in 12 states to expand edu­ca­tion. Brook­ings reports that sev­en states have passed such laws, though only one explic­it­ly men­tions “crit­i­cal race the­o­ry.” Brook­ings lists actions tak­en by state boards of edu­ca­tion, oth­er state actors and local school boards as well. So the scope of right-wing activism is clear, as is the need for an effec­tive response.

For Laser, the par­al­lels are clear. “White Chris­t­ian nation­al­ism is the belief that Amer­i­ca is and must remain a Chris­t­ian nation found­ed for its white Chris­t­ian inhab­i­tants, and that our laws and poli­cies must reflect this premise,” she said. “They com­plete­ly reject church-state sep­a­ra­tion. White Chris­t­ian nation­al­ists oppose equal­i­ty for peo­ple of col­or, women, LGBTQ peo­ple, reli­gious minori­ties and the non­re­li­gious.

“The same white Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy that is behind Project Blitz is also dri­ving the back­lash against a delib­er­ate car­i­ca­ture of crit­i­cal race the­o­ry,” she con­tin­ued. “There­fore, a sim­i­lar strat­e­gy to the one that has ham­strung Project Blitz — recap­tur­ing the nar­ra­tive about our nation’s ideals, expos­ing the real intent of the extrem­ists, mak­ing clear how their agen­da harms free­dom and equal­i­ty for all of us, and bring­ing togeth­er a diverse coali­tion of peo­ple and groups to speak out against this harm­ful move­ment — should be part of the strat­e­gy to com­bat oppo­nents of racial jus­tice.”

Gill sees sim­i­lar­i­ties, but dif­fer­ences as well. “Both cam­paigns are sim­i­lar in that they focus on redefin­ing and manip­u­lat­ing lan­guage for polit­i­cal advan­tage — ‘reli­gious free­dom’ and ‘crit­i­cal race the­o­ry,’ respec­tive­ly,” she said. “How­ev­er, there are also sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences. The anti-CRT cam­paigns seem at once bet­ter fund­ed and less orga­nized than Project Blitz. More­over, there is a degree of moral pan­ic asso­ci­at­ed with the anti-CRT efforts that was not as present for Project Blitz.”

Still, she offered three spe­cif­ic lessons learned from the resis­tance to Project Blitz:

1. Raise aware­ness about the anti-CRT cam­paign and bring to light where it came from, who is fund­ing it and for what pur­pos­es.
2. Build col­lab­o­ra­tion between the var­i­ous sec­tors that sup­port diver­si­ty edu­ca­tion in schools to push back against anti-CRT efforts. Suc­cess­ful coali­tions must include edu­ca­tors, experts in diver­si­ty edu­ca­tion, polit­i­cal lead­ers, civ­il rights lead­ers, par­ents and stu­dents.
3. Ensure that tools and mes­sag­ing to oppose anti-CRT efforts are effec­tive and wide­ly avail­able.

If Amer­i­ca’s found­ing was real­ly “as pris­tine as the reli­gious myth requires it to be,” Clark­son observed, “it can­not be marked by the racism and geno­cide that the facts of his­to­ry reveal. His­to­ry is thus an exis­ten­tial cri­sis for Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist beliefs. That’s why his­to­ry must be revised and the evils that mark so much of our his­to­ry be erased, rather than acknowl­edged and addressed. The attack on the straw man of CRT is of a piece with what we might call the purifi­ca­tion of Amer­i­can his­to­ry in the name of God’s his­to­ry.”

But his­to­ry and pol­i­tics tend to be messy, not pure. “The Chris­t­ian right, sup­port­ed in part by the Project Blitz play­books, is using — and mas­ter­ing — the tools and insti­tu­tions of democ­ra­cy in order to erode or end them,” Clark­son said. “They know that well-orga­nized fac­tions can win elec­tions, begin­ning with low-turnout par­ty pri­maries, and that the Chris­t­ian Right minor­i­ty can gain the man­tle of demo­c­ra­t­ic legit­i­ma­cy by out-orga­niz­ing those of us who actu­al­ly believe in it.” So it’s up to “every­one to the left of the Chris­t­ian Right,” as Clark­son puts it, to mobi­lize for democ­ra­cy.

...

———-

“The Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist assault on democ­ra­cy goes stealth — but the push­back is work­ing” by Paul Rosen­berg; The Salon; 07/24/2021

Salon was the first to report and build on Clark­son’s find­ings, as well as sub­se­quent pro­gres­sive orga­niz­ing efforts which even­tu­al­ly drove Project Blitz back under­ground, fol­low­ing a high-pro­file USA Today exposé (Salon fol­low-up here.) Now, three years lat­er, Clark­son, a senior research ana­lyst at Polit­i­cal Research Asso­ciates, has unearthed the play­books Project Blitz has used since going dark, and dis­cussed their impli­ca­tions with Salon in an exclu­sive inter­view.

Launched in 2016, Project Blitz was no longer a secret move­ment by 2021. It had been exposed in 2018 by peo­ple like Fred­er­ick Clark­son and was forced to retool and repack­age the agen­da. Which is exact­ly what Project Blitz did, rework­ing the play­book with advice to leg­is­la­tors to cloak the intent of the mod­el leg­is­la­tion with sec­u­lar-sound­ing lan­guage. The Blitz got a makeover:

...
The play­books advise leg­is­la­tors to cloak their reli­gious mis­sion in the guise of more sec­u­lar inten­tions and they’ve renamed sev­er­al bills to make them sound more appeal­ing,” Clark­son report­ed at Reli­gion Dis­patch­es. But there’s anoth­er, more hope­ful mes­sage: These play­books “also tell a sto­ry of the resilience of demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions and lead­ers in the face of move­ments seek­ing to under­mine or end them.”

...

As Clark­son first report­ed, Project Blitz orig­i­nal­ly divid­ed its bills into three tiers. The first tier aimed at import­ing the Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist world­view into pub­lic schools and oth­er aspects of the pub­lic sphere. A sig­na­ture exam­ple is dis­play of the mot­to, “In God We Trust,” a Cold War replace­ment for “E pluribus unum” — out of many, one — which bet­ter reflects Amer­i­ca’s prag­mat­ic, plu­ral­ist foun­da­tions.

The sec­ond tier, “Res­o­lu­tions and Procla­ma­tions Rec­og­niz­ing the Impor­tance of Reli­gious His­to­ry and Free­dom,” aimed at mak­ing gov­ern­ment a part­ner in “Chris­tian­iz­ing” Amer­i­ca, large­ly by pro­mot­ing bogus his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tives. For exam­ple, Clark­son told me, the mod­el “Civic Lit­er­a­cy Act and the Reli­gion in His­to­ry Acts,” required the study or post­ing of “the found­ing doc­u­ments” in the pub­lic schools, but with a twist:

“Curi­ous­ly, the Mayflower Com­pact is includ­ed as a found­ing doc­u­ment,” he said, “but there is no men­tion of the Vir­ginia Statute for Reli­gious Lib­er­ty [the law Thomas Jef­fer­son wrote which served as the mod­el for the First Amend­ment] ... because it throws a mon­key wrench into the Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist nar­ra­tive, which seeks to link Chris­tian­i­ty and nation­al iden­ti­ty from the British colonies at Jamestown and Ply­mouth to the present.”

The third tier con­tained three types of pro­posed laws that “pro­tect” reli­gious beliefs and prac­tices specif­i­cal­ly intend­ed to ben­e­fit big­otry. “Although cat­e­go­ry three is divid­ed in three parts, you could also see it as hav­ing two main under­ly­ing inten­tions,” Clark­son explained in a lat­er sto­ry. “First to den­i­grate the LGBTQ com­mu­ni­ty, and sec­ond to defend and advance the right to dis­crim­i­nate. This is one way that the agen­da of theo­crat­ic domin­ion­ism is reframed as pro­tect­ing the right of theocrats to dis­crim­i­nate against those deemed sec­ond-class, at best. As the late theo­crat­ic the­olo­gian R.J. Rush­doony said, ‘Only the right have rights.’ ”

The basic struc­ture of Project Blitz’s agen­da has­n’t changed much, but its pre­sen­ta­tion has. “The 2020–2021 play­book offers slick­er argu­ments than pre­vi­ous years,” Clark­son notes. “For exam­ple, they deny that they seek a theoc­ra­cy, try not to be overt­ly Chris­t­ian, present sec­u­lar argu­ments for their leg­is­la­tion and attempt to give the appear­ance that they respect reli­gious plu­ral­ism. But they don’t quite suc­ceed.”
...

But the changes to this agen­da weren’t lim­it­ed to aes­thet­ics. Project Blitz has been expand­ing into new areas in recent years too with a focus on libraries, “parental review boards”, and “crit­i­cal race the­o­ry”:

...
One new bill that Clark­son draws atten­tion to would crim­i­nal­ize libraries and librar­i­ans, and became infa­mous even before Project Blitz adopt­ed it:

The “Parental Over­sight of Pub­lic Libraries Act,” intro­duced by then-fresh­man Mis­souri State Rep. Ben Bak­er (R‑Neosho), ignit­ed a state and nation­al con­tro­ver­sy in Jan­u­ary 2020 short­ly after he took office. …

His bill sought to cre­ate “parental review boards” with the author­i­ty to “con­vene pub­lic hear­ings” and restrict access to any­thing they deemed “age-inap­pro­pri­ate sex­u­al mate­ri­als.” Not only would their deci­sions be “final,” but the bill also pre­scribed fines or jail for librar­i­ans who “will­ing­ly” vio­lat­ed board decrees regard­ing what is inap­pro­pri­ate, and includ­ed the poten­tial state defund­ing of libraries accused of vio­lat­ing the statute.

...

This attempt­ed intru­sion into local library pol­i­tics is just one exam­ple of how Project Blitz over­laps with the new wave of white back­lash under the ban­ner of fight­ing “crit­i­cal race the­o­ry.” For sev­er­al decades, the right has repeat­ed­ly mobi­lized to take over non­par­ti­san school boards, and occa­sion­al­ly library boards, as a way of build­ing grass­roots pow­er and groom­ing can­di­dates for high­er office. Such elec­tions usu­al­ly have low turnout and rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle cam­paign orga­ni­za­tion, which makes them attrac­tive tar­gets for extrem­ists run­ning scare-tac­tic cam­paigns. The parental over­sight bill takes things one step fur­ther by empow­er­ing small activist groups who invadie local gov­ern­ment meet­ings, but the orga­niz­ing prin­ci­ple is the same: Use fear and stealth to seize pow­er, and use sim­u­lat­ed demo­c­ra­t­ic legit­i­ma­cy to advance a divi­sive, reac­tionary agen­da.
...

And this expan­sion into crit­i­cal race the­o­ry and libraries is just a start. With a far right Supreme Court major­i­ty poised to give its bless­ings to all sorts of new Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist laws, there’s almost no lim­it to the range of poten­tial issues where Project Blitz could score real leg­isla­tive and judi­cial vic­to­ries. From anti-trans leg­is­la­tion to abor­tion to anti-COVID-relat­ed bills, the range of viable fights for Project Blitz to pick just keeps expand­ing. Each fight strate­gi­cal­ly cho­sen to bring the US one step clos­er to a theoc­ra­cy:

...
More wor­ri­some than Project Blitz itself, Gill said, are the forces behind it. “The same forces push­ing for­ward Project Blitz have now seized upon new issues, and they are already flood­ing state leg­is­la­tures with dan­ger­ous mod­el bills,” she said. “There were at least four major waves of harm­ful leg­is­la­tion prop­a­gat­ed in 2021: anti-trans youth leg­is­la­tion, reli­gious exemp­tions to COVID-relat­ed pub­lic health pro­tec­tions, broad denial-of-care bills, and bills that under­mine abor­tion access.

Of those, she says the most dan­ger­ous ele­ment is a “renewed empha­sis on Reli­gious Free­dom Restora­tion Act (RFRA) mea­sures at the state lev­el. RFRAs cre­ate a lim­it­ed exemp­tion from state laws when­ev­er reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions say that their activ­i­ties are bur­dened. RFRAs have been used to attack nondis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions, access to con­tra­cep­tion and abor­tion, and even child labor laws.

Such laws were a major focus of con­ser­v­a­tive activism dur­ing Barack Oba­ma’s pres­i­den­cy, although “none were suc­cess­ful­ly passed after sig­nif­i­cant pub­lic set­backs in 2015 in states like Indi­ana,” Gill not­ed. “In the wake of the pan­dem­ic and state-imposed pub­lic health restric­tions,” she said, “activists have rebrand­ed these bills as nec­es­sary to pro­tect church­es from gov­ern­ment over­reach.” Three states — Arkansas, Mon­tana and South Dako­ta — passed RFRAs this year, and we should expect to see many more com­ing in 2022, she warns.

...

If Amer­i­ca’s found­ing was real­ly “as pris­tine as the reli­gious myth requires it to be,” Clark­son observed, “it can­not be marked by the racism and geno­cide that the facts of his­to­ry reveal. His­to­ry is thus an exis­ten­tial cri­sis for Chris­t­ian nation­al­ist beliefs. That’s why his­to­ry must be revised and the evils that mark so much of our his­to­ry be erased, rather than acknowl­edged and addressed. The attack on the straw man of CRT is of a piece with what we might call the purifi­ca­tion of Amer­i­can his­to­ry in the name of God’s his­to­ry.”

But his­to­ry and pol­i­tics tend to be messy, not pure. “The Chris­t­ian right, sup­port­ed in part by the Project Blitz play­books, is using — and mas­ter­ing — the tools and insti­tu­tions of democ­ra­cy in order to erode or end them,” Clark­son said. “They know that well-orga­nized fac­tions can win elec­tions, begin­ning with low-turnout par­ty pri­maries, and that the Chris­t­ian Right minor­i­ty can gain the man­tle of demo­c­ra­t­ic legit­i­ma­cy by out-orga­niz­ing those of us who actu­al­ly believe in it.” So it’s up to “every­one to the left of the Chris­t­ian Right,” as Clark­son puts it, to mobi­lize for democ­ra­cy.
...

“The Chris­t­ian right, sup­port­ed in part by the Project Blitz play­books, is using — and mas­ter­ing — the tools and insti­tu­tions of democ­ra­cy in order to erode or end them.”

That’s the take home les­son here. The Chris­t­ian Right — which can’t real­ly be dis­en­tan­gled from the cor­po­rate Right — is using its mas­tery of the tools and insti­tu­tions of democ­ra­cy to end democ­ra­cy. When Michael Fly­nn called for “One nation under God, and one reli­gion under God,” he was­n’t just talk­ing to the audi­ence in that church. He was talk­ing to this net­work of theo­crat­ic pow­er bro­kers. Pow­er bro­kers intent on rewrit­ing laws, the con­sti­tu­tion, and his­to­ry itself. All for the glo­ry of God. Or, well, the glo­ry of some­thing at least...

What’s Next for the CNP? A Nationwide Bill Mill of Voter Suppression Laws

But Project Blitz isn’t the only ongo­ing theo­crat­ic project. The CNP and ALEC have found a new project to go all ‘bill mill’ on: vot­er sup­pres­sion laws. A few weeks ago, we learned about a crack team of Repub­li­can lawyers who have been secret­ly meet­ing with ALEC and work­ing out tem­plate vot­er sup­pres­sion laws designed for use by state leg­is­la­tors. Three of the five lawyers said to be spear­head­ing this ini­tia­tive are CNP mem­bers. One of them is Cle­ta Mitchell. Yes, Mitchell is still doing her work on behalf of the GOP despite being kicked out of her law firm for gross mal­prac­tice in rela­tion to her base­less vot­er fraud claims. And she’s joined by fel­low CNP mem­bers J Chris­t­ian Adams and Ken­neth Black­well in spear­head­ing this effort.

The two lawyers who aren’t known mem­bers CNP mem­bers are Jason Snead and Hans von Spakovksy. Snead is head­ing Hon­est Elec­tions Project, anoth­er GOP ‘elec­tion integri­ty’ out­fit that was set up in 2020 and busi­ly oppos­ing any state mea­sures to make it eas­i­er to vote dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. But while Snead may not be a CNP mem­ber, the founder of the Hon­est Elec­tions Project, Leonard Leo, is both a mem­ber of the CNP and a mem­ber of Opus Dei, which is reminder that CNP mem­bers aren’t exclu­sive­ly mem­bers of the CNP. They’re going to be mem­bers of all sorts of dif­fer­ent theo­crat­ic orga­ni­za­tions.

And Hans von Spakovksy, one of the GOP’s long­stand­ing vot­er-sup­pres­sion gurus, is no stranger to this group. Recall how both Spakovsky and J Chris­t­ian Adams appeared as neu­tral expert wit­ness­es in the tri­al over a Kansas vot­er ID law in sup­port of the new restric­tive law. Spakovsky got called out by the judge for being high­ly non-neu­tral and bas­ing his defense of the law on high­ly mis­lead­ing exam­ples and assump­tion. Adams was shot down in a sim­i­lar way by a judge the year before, call­ing the expert tes­ti­mo­ny by Adams’ group “mis­lead­ing” and “inac­cu­rate”. This is the crew that’s spear­head­ing the GOP’s ongo­ing vot­er sup­pres­sion efforts. Three of them CNP mem­bers and the oth­er two CNP fel­low trav­el­ers. Work­ing side-by-side with ALEC to cap­ture of democ­ra­cy:

The Guardian

The net­work of elec­tion lawyers who are mak­ing it hard­er for Amer­i­cans to vote

Vot­ing rights watch­dogs have warned of a web of attor­neys and groups, some who pushed Don­ald Trump’s big lie after the 2020 elec­tion

Peter Stone in Wash­ing­ton
Tue 14 Dec 2021 03.00 EST
Last mod­i­fied on Tue 14 Dec 2021 14.10 EST

A pow­er­ful net­work of con­ser­v­a­tive elec­tion lawyers and groups with links to Don­ald Trump have spent mil­lions of dol­lars pro­mot­ing new and oner­ous vot­ing laws that many bat­tle­ground states such as Geor­gia and Texas have enact­ed.

The moves have prompt­ed elec­tion and vot­ing rights watch­dogs in the US to warn about the sup­pres­sion of non-white vot­ers aimed at pro­vid­ing Repub­li­cans an edge in com­ing elec­tions.

The lawyers and groups spear­head­ing self-pro­fessed elec­tion integri­ty mea­sures include some fig­ures who pushed Trump’s base­less claims of fraud after the 2020 elec­tion. Key advo­cates include Cle­ta Mitchell with the Con­ser­v­a­tive Part­ner­ship insti­tute; J Chris­t­ian Adams of the Pub­lic Inter­est Legal Foun­da­tion; Hans von Spakovsky of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion; Jason Snead of the Hon­est Elec­tions Project; and J Ken­neth Black­well with the Amer­i­ca First Pol­i­cy Insti­tute.

These con­ser­v­a­tive out­fits tout their goal as curb­ing sig­nif­i­cant vot­er fraud, despite the fact that numer­ous courts, the vast major­i­ty of vot­ing experts and even for­mer top Trump offi­cials, such as ex-attor­ney gen­er­al Bill Barr, con­clud­ed the 2020 elec­tions were with­out seri­ous prob­lems.

Watch­dogs say that tight­en­ing state vot­ing laws endan­ger the rights of Black vot­ers and oth­er com­mu­ni­ties of col­or who his­tor­i­cal­ly back Democ­rats by cre­at­ing new rules lim­it­ing absen­tee vot­ing and same day reg­is­tra­tion, while impos­ing oth­er vot­ing curbs.

Among the elec­tion lawyers and groups advo­cat­ing tougher vot­ing laws, Mitchell, a vet­er­an con­ser­v­a­tive lawyer , boasts the high­est pro­file and has sparked the most scruti­ny. She took part in the 2 Jan­u­ary call where Trump prod­ded Georgia’s sec­re­tary of state Brad Raf­fensperg­er to “find” about 11,780 votes to over­turn Joe Biden’s vic­to­ry there. After details emerged about Mitchell’s role on the call, Foley & Lard­ner, where she had worked for near­ly 20 years, mount­ed an inter­nal review, and she resigned.

Trump’s 2 Jan­u­ary call also spawned a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion by Georgia’s Ful­ton coun­ty dis­trict attor­ney that could cre­ate prob­lems for Mitchell, say ex-pros­e­cu­tors, and may bring scruti­ny of the lawyer by the House com­mit­tee look­ing into the 6 Jan­u­ary Capi­tol attack.

Mitchell, who report­ed­ly raised $1m to help fund a base­less inves­ti­ga­tion of Arizona’s largest coun­ty that Trump pushed aggres­sive­ly, gen­er­at­ed more con­tro­ver­sy last month when she was named to an advi­so­ry board for the fed­er­al Elec­tion Assis­tance Com­mis­sion with back­ing from her close legal ally Adams whose foun­da­tion Mitchell chairs.

Using her perch at CPI and anoth­er post with the lib­er­tar­i­an Free­dom­Works that ear­ly this year announced a sev­en-state dri­ve to revamp vot­ing laws led by Mitchell, the lawyer has helped spear­head new state elec­tion mea­sures and block two con­gres­sion­al bills – the John Lewis Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act and the Free­dom to Vote Act – which Democ­rats have been try­ing to enact to counter the wave of new state laws.

Accord­ing to an Octo­ber update from the Bren­nan Cen­ter for Jus­tice, 19 states had enact­ed 33 new laws this year that “will make it hard­er for Amer­i­cans to vote”.

To press for new state vot­ing laws, Mitchell has worked close­ly with some influ­en­tial groups qui­et­ly back­ing new mea­sures, such as the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil, a pow­er­ful and shad­owy group of state leg­is­la­tors that his­tor­i­cal­ly pro­motes mod­el bills where she used to be out­side coun­sel.

At an Alec meet­ing on 1 Decem­ber in Cal­i­for­nia, Mitchell helped lead a secre­tive “process work­ing group” ses­sion devot­ed to elec­tion and vot­ing law changes and relat­ed mat­ters that includ­ed sev­er­al top legal allies such as Adams and Von Spakovsky, accord­ing to reports from the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy, and Doc­u­ment­ed.

Adams’ foun­da­tion, which in 2020 received about $300,000 from the Bradley Foun­da­tion, whose board includes Mitchell, has brought law­suits to defend some of the tough new vot­ing laws in Texas and oth­er states.

Top fun­ders of the right’s arma­da include a fam­i­ly foun­da­tion tied to bil­lion­aire Richard Uih­lein, the Bradley Foun­da­tion, and two dark mon­ey giants, the Con­cord Fund and Donors Trust, accord­ing to pub­lic records.

Legal watch­dogs raise strong con­cerns about the new laws pro­mot­ed by the right in numer­ous states such as Geor­gia and Texas, and note that the argu­ments for chang­ing vot­ing rules seem rife with con­tra­dic­tions.

“Dur­ing the 2021 leg­isla­tive ses­sion, we saw anti-vot­er orga­ni­za­tions push cook­ie-cut­ter leg­is­la­tion restrict­ing the right to vote in leg­is­la­tures across the coun­try,” said Danielle Lang, senior direc­tor of vot­ing rights at the non­par­ti­san Cam­paign Legal Cen­ter.

“The same lan­guage appeared in state after state with­out regard for the state’s par­tic­u­lar needs. For exam­ple, strict cut­backs on access to vote by mail were intro­duced in states that had whol­ly pos­i­tive vote by mail expe­ri­ences in 2020,” she added.

Such com­plaints have not deterred the leg­isla­tive blitz by Mitchell with allied lawyers and groups nation­wide to change vot­ing laws.

Mitchell declined to answer ques­tions from the Guardian about her vot­ing law work or the Geor­gia inves­ti­ga­tion, though in an inter­view ear­ly this year with the AP she boast­ed “I love leg­is­la­tures and work­ing with leg­is­la­tors”, and revealed that she talks to Trump “fair­ly fre­quent­ly”, but pro­vid­ed no details.

Mitchell’s ties to Mark Mead­ows, Trump’s for­mer chief of staff, are pal­pa­ble, too, includ­ing post elec­tion as a fren­zied and base­less dri­ve was under way to over­turn Trump’s loss.

On 30 Decem­ber, accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post mag­a­zine, Mitchell wrote Mead­ows and “offered to send some 1,800 pages of doc­u­ments pur­port­ing to sup­port claims of elec­tion fraud”.

Mead­ows, who also has a senior post at CPI, now faces con­tempt charges for reneg­ing on tes­ti­fy­ing to the House pan­el about the 6 Jan­u­ary Capi­tol attack and ear­li­er efforts to block Biden from tak­ing office.

...

———-

“The net­work of elec­tion lawyers who are mak­ing it hard­er for Amer­i­cans to vote” by Peter Stone; The Guardian; 12/14/2021

“The lawyers and groups spear­head­ing self-pro­fessed elec­tion integri­ty mea­sures include some fig­ures who pushed Trump’s base­less claims of fraud after the 2020 elec­tion. Key advo­cates include Cle­ta Mitchell with the Con­ser­v­a­tive Part­ner­ship insti­tute; J Chris­t­ian Adams of the Pub­lic Inter­est Legal Foun­da­tion; Hans von Spakovsky of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion; Jason Snead of the Hon­est Elec­tions Project; and J Ken­neth Black­well with the Amer­i­ca First Pol­i­cy Insti­tute.”

Let’s see how many CNP mem­bers we can find here spear­head­ing this nation­wide push for ‘elec­tion integri­ty’ mea­sures. There’s of course Cle­ta Mitchell. But it also turns out J Chris­t­ian Adams and J Ken­neth Black­well are CNP mem­bers too. So of the five lawyers said to be spear­head­ing this ‘elec­tion integri­ty’ effort near­ly a year after the insur­rec­tion, we find three of them are CNP mem­bers. And one is none oth­er than Cle­ta Mitchell.

And while Hans von Spakovksy may not show up on the CNP mem­ber­ship list, recall how both Spakovsky and J Chris­t­ian Adams appeared as neu­tral expert wit­ness­es in the tri­al over a Kansas vot­er ID law in sup­port of the new restric­tive law. Spakovsky got called out by the judge for being high­ly non-neu­tral and bas­ing his defense of the law on high­ly mis­lead­ing exam­ples and assump­tion. Adams was shot down in a sim­i­lar way by a judge the year before, call­ing the expert tes­ti­mo­ny by Adams’ group “mis­lead­ing” and “inac­cu­rate”. Spakovsky has been one of the GOP’s vot­er-sup­pres­sion and ger­ry­man­der­ing gurus for years and even appears to be involved with the ori­gins of the “Italy­Gate” bonkers con­spir­a­cy the­o­ry about Italy sat­telites chang­ing the 2020 vote tal­lies.

Sim­i­lar­ly, while Snead may not be a direct CNP mem­ber, the founder of his Hon­est Elec­tions Project, Leonard Leo, is indeed a CNP mem­ber.

And note how Spakovksy, Adams, and Mitchell were all at a secret Decem­ber 1, 2021, ALEC “process work­ing group” ses­sion devot­ed to elec­tion and vot­ing law changes and relat­ed mat­ters. These three fig­ures con­sti­tute the legal core of the GOP’s fraud­u­lent ‘vot­er fraud’ cam­paign, and here they are secret­ly strate­giz­ing with ALEC:

...
Mitchell, who report­ed­ly raised $1m to help fund a base­less inves­ti­ga­tion of Arizona’s largest coun­ty that Trump pushed aggres­sive­ly, gen­er­at­ed more con­tro­ver­sy last month when she was named to an advi­so­ry board for the fed­er­al Elec­tion Assis­tance Com­mis­sion with back­ing from her close legal ally Adams whose foun­da­tion Mitchell chairs.

Using her perch at CPI and anoth­er post with the lib­er­tar­i­an Free­dom­Works that ear­ly this year announced a sev­en-state dri­ve to revamp vot­ing laws led by Mitchell, the lawyer has helped spear­head new state elec­tion mea­sures and block two con­gres­sion­al bills – the John Lewis Vot­ing Rights Advance­ment Act and the Free­dom to Vote Act – which Democ­rats have been try­ing to enact to counter the wave of new state laws.

...

To press for new state vot­ing laws, Mitchell has worked close­ly with some influ­en­tial groups qui­et­ly back­ing new mea­sures, such as the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil, a pow­er­ful and shad­owy group of state leg­is­la­tors that his­tor­i­cal­ly pro­motes mod­el bills where she used to be out­side coun­sel.

At an Alec meet­ing on 1 Decem­ber in Cal­i­for­nia, Mitchell helped lead a secre­tive “process work­ing group” ses­sion devot­ed to elec­tion and vot­ing law changes and relat­ed mat­ters that includ­ed sev­er­al top legal allies such as Adams and Von Spakovsky, accord­ing to reports from the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy, and Doc­u­ment­ed.

Adams’ foun­da­tion, which in 2020 received about $300,000 from the Bradley Foun­da­tion, whose board includes Mitchell, has brought law­suits to defend some of the tough new vot­ing laws in Texas and oth­er states.
...

That’s what’s next for this move­ment. More of the same, but worse. More vot­er sup­pres­sion laws. More Project Blitz ini­tia­tives and gaslight­ing the pub­lic about the threats of CRT and trans youth. And more calls by fig­ures like Michael Fly­nn for a merg­er of church and state.

But let’s not kid our­selves. You can’t have a fas­cist theo­crat­ic move­ment oper­ate in ‘more of the same, but worse’ mode indef­i­nite­ly. At some point its going to be ‘more of the same, and now we’re a theoc­ra­cy’. How soon we get there depends on a num­ber of fac­tors. But per­haps the biggest fac­tor is the gross aban­don­ment of faith in democ­ra­cy as a insti­tu­tion on the part of con­ser­v­a­tive vot­ers. In oth­er words, how long does it take before all of the right-wing pro­pa­gan­da designed to under­mine faith in democ­ra­cy — whether its dis­in­for­ma­tion about mass vot­er fraud or QAnon-style con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries about Satan­ic lib­er­al elites — final­ly takes hold and there’s no longer a con­ser­v­a­tive appetite for shar­ing pow­er? How many more years of unyield­ing gaslight­ing and dis­in­for­ma­tion can pass before the Amer­i­can elec­torate sim­ply does­n’t care any­more if elec­tions are held at all? Don’t for­get that cli­mate change and the exis­ten­tial despair of eco­log­i­cal col­lapse are going to play­ing out too. The pol­i­tics of despair is a nat­ur­al fit for an End Times the­ol­o­gy. And when the pub­lic does final­ly reach that state of civic capit­u­la­tion, what are the odds they won’t run into the arms of charis­mat­ic theocrats wait­ing to chan­nel all of that con­fu­sion and angst? These are the kinds of ques­tions the Unit­ed States is effec­tive­ly ask­ing itself. How much longer before a large enough chunk of the US elec­torate is con­vinced that democ­ra­cy is doomed and some sort theoc­ra­cy is the only path to sal­va­tion? That’s the ques­tion the US is effec­tive­ly ask­ing itself these days.

But as we’ve seen, when it comes to the right-wing oli­garchy, it’s not real­ly a ques­tion of whether or not they would pre­fer a theoc­ra­cy. The pro­found influ­ence of the CNP makes that answer abun­dant­ly clear...as long as its a cor­po­ratist theoc­ra­cy. Instead, it’s just a ques­tion of how much more effort do groups like the CNP and Project Blitz have to invest before their vision is made man­i­fest. Will the oli­garchy get a major­i­ty of the pub­lic to sup­port its theoc­ra­cy? We’ll see, but let’s not for­get that pub­lic approval is kind of beside the point under this post-demo­c­ra­t­ic ver­sion of Heav­en on Earth.

Discussion

4 comments for “Oligarchs for Theocracy: Project Blitz, the Council for National Policy, and God’s Insurrection”

  1. Here’s a pair of arti­cles about the Hon­est Elec­tions Project that under­score how inter­twined the activ­i­ties of CNP mem­bers are with that of the Koch net­work of mega donors. Recall how we recent­ly learned about ongo­ing Repub­li­can efforts to push for stricter vot­ing laws being spear­head­ed by five lawyers, includ­ing Jason Snead, the head of the Hon­est Elec­tion Project. As we saw, three out of those five laway­ers were CNP mem­ber (Cle­ta Mitchell, J Chris­t­ian Adams, and Ken Black­well). And while Snead was not one of the CNP mem­bers, it was notable that the Hon­est Elec­tions Project was said to be found­ed by Leonard Leo, who is both a mem­ber of the CNP and Opus Dei.

    We’re also going to learn about anoth­er CNP mem­ber involved with run­ning the Hon­est Elec­tion Project: Car­rie Sev­eri­no.

    We’re going to take a clos­er look at who is actu­al­ly fund­ing the Hon­est Elec­tion Project. And it turns out, sur­prise!, we can’t actu­al­ly say who is ulti­mate­ly fund­ing it. Because it’s financed through DonorsTrust, the Koch net­work’s dark mon­ey vehi­cle of choice. Do while Leonard Leo is part of the pub­lic face of the Hon­est Elec­tion Project, it’s still a mys­tery who is ulti­mate­ly financ­ing this activ­i­ty. The dark mon­ey sys­tem is work­ing as intend­ed.

    As we’re also going to see, it appears that the Hon­est Elec­tion Project is basi­cal­ly try­ing to play ‘good cop’ in some sort of ‘good cop’/‘bad cop’ vot­er fraud the­atrics. The group is shy­ing away from endors­ing the spe­cif­ic vot­er fraud claims in rela­tion to Don­ald Trump’s 2020 elec­toral loss. It’s also brand­ing itself as the Repub­li­can estab­lish­men­t’s answer to the ques­tions about vot­er fraud swirling around the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s very core iden­ti­ty at this point. But it’s still ful­ly endors­ing the gen­er­al Repub­li­can nar­ra­tives about vot­er fraud, busi­ly fil­ing briefs with courts in favor or more restric­tive laws. And in that sense it is indeed a fit­ting estab­lish­ment response. Tox­i­cal­ly decep­tive to the end:

    Asso­ci­at­ed Press

    Con­ser­v­a­tive group push­es pro­pos­als to tight­en vot­ing laws

    By NICHOLAS RICCARDI
    March 2, 2021

    As Don­ald Trump made false alle­ga­tions about vot­ing fraud and tried to over­turn the will of the peo­ple in last year’s elec­tion, one of his chief allies was con­spic­u­ous­ly silent. The Hon­est Elec­tions Project, a lead­ing advo­cate for more restric­tive vot­ing laws, stayed away from Trump’s doomed effort.

    But now the group found­ed by con­ser­v­a­tive activist and infor­mal Trump advis­er Leonard Leo, is re-join­ing the debate with a new set of rec­om­men­da­tions like­ly to guide GOP law­mak­ers as they over­haul vot­ing sys­tems. The sug­ges­tions range from ones that are like­ly to be embraced by Democ­rats and vot­ing rights groups — allow­ing elec­tion offices to start pro­cess­ing mail bal­lots weeks before Elec­tion Day — to ones like­ly to spark fierce oppo­si­tion, such as manda­to­ry vot­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for both mail and in-per­son vot­ing, and cre­ation of a secure sys­tem that would link an absen­tee bal­lot to its vot­er.

    The pro­pos­als come as the GOP remains divid­ed by Trump’s false claims. Repub­li­cans are wrestling with how far to go in over­haul­ing vot­ing laws with­out embrac­ing Trump’s con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries or dam­ag­ing Repub­li­cans’ polit­i­cal prospects. Hon­est Elec­tions’ push is essen­tial­ly an estab­lish­ment Repub­li­can answer to some of those ques­tions.

    “There is much more to the elec­tion reform push than what hap­pened after the Novem­ber elec­tion,” said Jason Snead, the group’s exec­u­tive direc­tor.

    Snead argued that the pro­pos­als are crit­i­cal to restore what he says is a slid­ing con­fi­dence in the country’s vot­ing sys­tem.

    “A lot of vot­ers on both sides are primed to view the cred­i­bil­i­ty of elec­tions through a par­ti­san lens. They tend to view the valid­i­ty of an elec­tion through its out­comes,” Snead said. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons and we should be doing what we can to tight­en up the process.”

    But Snead made a point to sep­a­rate his group from the post-elec­tion efforts — launched by Trump but embraced by many GOP groups and law­mak­ers — to reverse the out­come of the pres­i­den­tial vote.

    The Hon­est Elec­tions Project was cre­at­ed in ear­ly 2020 to advo­cate for greater con­trols on elec­tions. The group has drawn scruti­ny in part because of Leo’s influ­ence in con­ser­v­a­tive legal cir­cles. As co-chair­man of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, Leo helped spear­head the effort to appoint con­ser­v­a­tive judges to the fed­er­al courts.

    The group does not dis­close its donors and there will be no pub­lic report­ing of how it spends its mon­ey until lat­er this year, at the ear­li­est.

    Last year, Hon­est Elec­tions was part of the GOP legal strat­e­gy to fight vot­ing changes, many of which were aimed at mak­ing vot­ing eas­i­er dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. It sued Michi­gan, forc­ing the state to clean up its list of reg­is­tered vot­ers, and blocked a set­tle­ment eas­ing absen­tee vot­ing rules in Min­neso­ta.

    But the group, along with some oth­er GOP legal and elec­tion pol­i­cy experts, stayed away from Trump’s insis­tence the elec­tion had been stolen from him. Repeat­ed audits and reviews turned up no sig­nif­i­cant-scale fraud in the elec­tion and Trump and his allies lost more than 50 court cas­es try­ing to prove it.

    “We looked very care­ful­ly at all the alle­ga­tions that were com­ing out after the elec­tion,” Snead said. “We con­clud­ed, as did a lot of oth­er folks, that there was no evi­dence of wide­spread fraud.”

    The false claim of fraud drove Trump’s sup­port­ers’ assault on the U.S. Capi­tol on Jan. 6. It’s still an ani­mat­ing force for the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment, as shown by last week’s Con­ser­v­a­tive Polit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence in Flori­da, where Trump false­ly claimed that ille­gal immi­grants and dead peo­ple vot­ed and the crowd chant­ed “You won!”

    It’s also dri­ven Repub­li­can-con­trolled states to increase bar­ri­ers to vot­ing. In Iowa, the leg­is­la­ture has vot­ed to cut absen­tee and in-per­son ear­ly vot­ing and pre­vent local elec­tions offi­cials from set­ting up addi­tion­al loca­tions to make ear­ly vot­ing eas­i­er. In Geor­gia, the House on Mon­day vot­ed for a law to require iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to vote by mail and allow coun­ties to can­cel ear­ly in-per­son vot­ing on Sun­days, when many Black vot­ers cast bal­lots after church.

    Snead says his group hasn’t weighed in on these pro­pos­als because it was busy research­ing its own rec­om­men­da­tions. Among them are ones that would like­ly find bipar­ti­san sup­port, such as extend­ing the time when elec­tion offices can per­form the time-con­sum­ing work of open­ing and sort­ing mail bal­lots to ready them for elec­tion night count­ing. The fail­ure of key swing states to per­mit this led to pro­longed vote counts that Trump used to false­ly claim fraud was occur­ring.

    Oth­er rec­om­men­da­tions will find resis­tance, such as requir­ing a pho­to iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to vote by mail or paus­ing vot­er reg­is­tra­tion 30 days before Elec­tion Day. Per­haps the most sig­nif­i­cant rec­om­men­da­tion is to cre­ate a sys­tem enabling elec­tion offices to tie a mail bal­lot back to the enve­lope in which it was sub­mit­ted. Trump demand­ed that elec­tion offi­cials do that, but they were unable to do so because it would have vio­lat­ed the secre­cy of the bal­lot.

    Snead said that to pre­serve the prin­ci­ple of a secret bal­lot, elec­tion offices should use data ran­dom­iza­tion to keep vot­ers’ iden­ti­ties anony­mous dur­ing bal­lot count­ing.

    ...

    ———-

    “Con­ser­v­a­tive group push­es pro­pos­als to tight­en vot­ing laws” by NICHOLAS RICCARDI; Asso­ci­at­ed Press; 03/02/2021

    “The pro­pos­als come as the GOP remains divid­ed by Trump’s false claims. Repub­li­cans are wrestling with how far to go in over­haul­ing vot­ing laws with­out embrac­ing Trump’s con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries or dam­ag­ing Repub­li­cans’ polit­i­cal prospects. Hon­est Elec­tions’ push is essen­tial­ly an estab­lish­ment Repub­li­can answer to some of those ques­tions.

    LOL! Hon­est Elec­tions’ push is essen­tial­ly an estab­lish­ment Repub­li­can answer to the ques­tion of how far to go in over­haul­ing vot­ing laws with­out embrac­ing Trump’s con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries or dam­ag­ing Repub­li­cans’ polit­i­cal prospects. That was the spin we were get­ting back in March of 2021. So the GOP estab­lish­ment appar­ent­ly felt like a cou­ple of months was enough time to wait after the insur­rec­tion to resume its sup­port for exact­ly the kind of mass vot­er fraud lies that the insur­rec­tion was pred­i­cat­ed on.

    We see Jason Snead inter­viewed as the group’s exec­u­tive direc­tor and Leonard Leo list­ed as the founder. Snead was clear­ly try­ing to empha­size how the Hon­est Elec­tion Project was­n’t alleg­ing the kind of wide­spread fraud the Trump team and many of its allies — like Cle­ta Mitchell — were aggres­sive­ly alleg­ing. No, the Hon­est Elec­tion Project was focused on more gen­er­al vot­er fraud. At the same time, Snead falls back on the favored GOP argu­ment that the US should pass restric­tive new vot­er laws due to vot­er per­cep­tions that there’s a major prob­lem with vot­er fraud. It’s like Hon­est Elec­tions Project is play­ing the role of ‘good cop’ in a ‘good cop’/‘bad cop’ gaslight­ing schtick:

    ...
    But now the group found­ed by con­ser­v­a­tive activist and infor­mal Trump advis­er Leonard Leo, is re-join­ing the debate with a new set of rec­om­men­da­tions like­ly to guide GOP law­mak­ers as they over­haul vot­ing sys­tems. The sug­ges­tions range from ones that are like­ly to be embraced by Democ­rats and vot­ing rights groups — allow­ing elec­tion offices to start pro­cess­ing mail bal­lots weeks before Elec­tion Day — to ones like­ly to spark fierce oppo­si­tion, such as manda­to­ry vot­er iden­ti­fi­ca­tion for both mail and in-per­son vot­ing, and cre­ation of a secure sys­tem that would link an absen­tee bal­lot to its vot­er.

    ...

    There is much more to the elec­tion reform push than what hap­pened after the Novem­ber elec­tion,” said Jason Snead, the group’s exec­u­tive direc­tor.

    Snead argued that the pro­pos­als are crit­i­cal to restore what he says is a slid­ing con­fi­dence in the country’s vot­ing sys­tem.

    “A lot of vot­ers on both sides are primed to view the cred­i­bil­i­ty of elec­tions through a par­ti­san lens. They tend to view the valid­i­ty of an elec­tion through its out­comes,” Snead said. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons and we should be doing what we can to tight­en up the process.”

    But Snead made a point to sep­a­rate his group from the post-elec­tion efforts — launched by Trump but embraced by many GOP groups and law­mak­ers — to reverse the out­come of the pres­i­den­tial vote.

    ...

    But the group, along with some oth­er GOP legal and elec­tion pol­i­cy experts, stayed away from Trump’s insis­tence the elec­tion had been stolen from him. Repeat­ed audits and reviews turned up no sig­nif­i­cant-scale fraud in the elec­tion and Trump and his allies lost more than 50 court cas­es try­ing to prove it.

    “We looked very care­ful­ly at all the alle­ga­tions that were com­ing out after the elec­tion,” Snead said. “We con­clud­ed, as did a lot of oth­er folks, that there was no evi­dence of wide­spread fraud.”
    ...

    And note how the Hon­est Elec­tions Project was act­ing in March of 2021 like it had noth­ing to do with those dis­taste­ful attempts to over­turn the 2020 vote after the elec­tion, a nar­ra­tive that con­ve­nient­ly ignores the real­i­ty that the project spent 2020 act­ing to make it hard­er to vot­er. Whether or not the group backed Trump’s stolen elec­tion nar­ra­tive after the elec­tion ignores the real­i­ty that the GOP and its allies were prepar­ing to steal the 2020 elec­tion for Trump long before the first votes were cast:

    ...
    The Hon­est Elec­tions Project was cre­at­ed in ear­ly 2020 to advo­cate for greater con­trols on elec­tions. The group has drawn scruti­ny in part because of Leo’s influ­ence in con­ser­v­a­tive legal cir­cles. As co-chair­man of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety, Leo helped spear­head the effort to appoint con­ser­v­a­tive judges to the fed­er­al courts.

    The group does not dis­close its donors and there will be no pub­lic report­ing of how it spends its mon­ey until lat­er this year, at the ear­li­est.

    Last year, Hon­est Elec­tions was part of the GOP legal strat­e­gy to fight vot­ing changes, many of which were aimed at mak­ing vot­ing eas­i­er dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. It sued Michi­gan, forc­ing the state to clean up its list of reg­is­tered vot­ers, and blocked a set­tle­ment eas­ing absen­tee vot­ing rules in Min­neso­ta.
    ...

    Ok, and now here’s a Guardian arti­cle from back in May of 2020, cov­er­ing a pre­vi­ous­ly unknown group that seemed to sud­den­ly pop out of nowhere push­ing ques­tion­able claims about mas­sive vot­er fraud and the need for new vot­ing restric­tions. But it turns out this group, the Hon­est Elec­tion Project, isn’t quite is inde­pen­dent as it claims. Because it turns out the Hon­est Elec­tion Project goes by anoth­er name: The Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project, a group that has been almost entire­ly fund­ed for the last decade from the Kochs’ major dark mon­ey vehi­cle, DonorsTrust.

    So weren’t we being told in March of 2021 that the Hon­est Elec­tions Project was found­ed by Leonard Leo? Well, it turns out The Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project is indeed one of Leo’s projects. So the Hon­est Elec­tions Project is, in real­i­ty, The Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project which has been led by Leo but financed by who­ev­er hap­pened to direct that mon­ey through DonorsTrust. But we don’t get to know who that ulti­mate­ly is. It could be Leo him­self. Maybe Charles Koch. Or Robert Mer­cer. Or Bet­sy DeVos. Or any of the oth­er right-wing mega-donors are use DonorsTrust to anony­mous dish out dona­tions.

    And in addi­tion to Leonard Leo being an CNP, and we also learn about anoth­er CNP mem­ber involved with the Hon­est Elec­tions Project: Car­rie Sev­eri­no. So at this point, two out of the three peo­ple we know of who are involved with the Hon­est Elec­tion Project are mem­bers of the CNP:

    The Guardian

    Revealed: con­ser­v­a­tive group fight­ing to restrict vot­ing tied to pow­er­ful dark mon­ey net­work

    Sam Levine and Anna Mas­soglia
    Wed 27 May 2020 07.00 EDT
    Last mod­i­fied on Tue 15 Dec 2020 09.32 EST

    This sto­ry was report­ed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with OpenSe­crets.

    A pow­er­ful new con­ser­v­a­tive orga­ni­za­tion fight­ing to restrict vot­ing in the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is real­ly just a rebrand­ed group that is part of a dark mon­ey net­work already help­ing Don­ald Trump’s unprece­dent­ed effort to remake the US fed­er­al judi­cia­ry, the Guardian and OpenSe­crets reveal.

    The orga­ni­za­tion, which calls itself the Hon­est Elec­tions Project, seemed to emerge out of nowhere a few months ago and start­ed stok­ing fears about vot­er fraud. Backed by a dark mon­ey group fund­ed by rightwing stal­warts like the Koch broth­ers and Bet­sy DeVos’ fam­i­ly, the Hon­est Elec­tions Project is part of the net­work that pushed the US supreme court picks Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gor­such, and is quick­ly becom­ing a jug­ger­naut in the esca­lat­ing fight over vot­ing rights.

    The project announced it was spend­ing $250,000 in adver­tise­ments in April, warn­ing against vot­ing by mail and accus­ing Democ­rats of cheat­ing. It facil­i­tat­ed let­ters to elec­tion offi­cials in Col­orado, Flori­da and Michi­gan, using mis­lead­ing data to accuse juris­dic­tions of hav­ing bloat­ed vot­er rolls and threat­en­ing legal action.

    Call­ing vot­er sup­pres­sion a “myth”, it has also been extreme­ly active in the courts, fil­ing briefs in favor of vot­ing restric­tions in Neva­da, Vir­ginia, Texas, Wis­con­sin and Min­neso­ta, among oth­er places, at times rep­re­sent­ed by lawyers from the same firm that rep­re­sents Trump. By hav­ing a hand in both vot­ing lit­i­ga­tion and the judges on the fed­er­al bench, this net­work could cre­ate a sys­tem where con­ser­v­a­tive donors have an avenue to both oppose vot­ing rights and appoint judges to back that effort.

    Despite appear­ing to be a free-stand­ing new oper­a­tion, the Hon­est Elec­tions Project is just a legal alias for the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project, a well-financed non­prof­it con­nect­ed to a pow­er­ful net­work of dark mon­ey con­ser­v­a­tive groups, accord­ing to busi­ness records reviewed by the Guardian and OpenSe­crets.

    “These are real­ly well-fund­ed groups that in the con­text of judi­cial nom­i­na­tions have been sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly, over the long term but also the short term, kind of push­ing an agen­da to pack the courts with pret­ty extreme right wing nom­i­nees,” said Vani­ta Gup­ta, the pres­i­dent and CEO of the Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence on Civ­il and Human Rights. “The infra­struc­ture that they’ve built over the years has been a real­ly impor­tant vehi­cle for them to do this.”

    For near­ly a decade, the orga­ni­za­tion has been almost entire­ly fund­ed by DonorsTrust, known as a “dark mon­ey ATM” backed by the Koch net­work and oth­er promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tive donors, accord­ing to data tracked by OpenSe­crets. In 2018, more than 99% of the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project’s fund­ing came from a sin­gle $7.8m dona­tion from DonorsTrust.

    The Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project is also close­ly linked to Leonard Leo, one of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton who has shaped Don­ald Trump’s unprece­dent­ed effort to remake the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry with con­ser­v­a­tive judges.

    The orga­ni­za­tion has deft­ly hid­den the changes to its name from pub­lic view. In Decem­ber, the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project for­mal­ly changed its legal name to The 85 Fund, a group Leo backed to fun­nel “tens of mil­lions” of dol­lars into con­ser­v­a­tive caus­es, accord­ing to Axios. The Hon­est Elec­tions Project is mere­ly a fic­ti­tious name – an alias – the fund legal­ly adopt­ed in Feb­ru­ary. The change was near­ly indis­cernible because The 85 Fund reg­is­tered two oth­er legal alias­es on the same day, includ­ing the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project, its old name. The legal maneu­ver allows it to oper­ate under four dif­fer­ent names with lit­tle pub­lic dis­clo­sure that it is the same group.

    The Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project is close­ly aligned with the Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work, a group with unmatched influ­ence in recent years in shap­ing the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry. The Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work spear­head­ed the cam­paigns to get Gor­such and Kavanaugh con­firmed to the US supreme court, spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in each instance. It has also spent sig­nif­i­cant­ly on crit­i­cal state supreme court races across the coun­try.

    There is a lot of over­lap between the Hon­est Elec­tions Project and the Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work. Both groups share per­son­nel, includ­ing Car­rie Sev­eri­no, the influ­en­tial pres­i­dent of the Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work. Both groups have been fund­ed by The Well­spring Com­mit­tee, a group Leo raised mon­ey for until it shut down in 2018. Both have also paid mon­ey to BH Group, an LLC Leo once dis­closed as his employ­er, that made a $1m mys­tery dona­tion to Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion.

    “This is a small com­mu­ni­ty that is real­ly try­ing to push for­ward these more sup­pres­sive tac­tics that will be chal­lenged in court and hav­ing those judges on the bench, they’re real­ly hop­ing it’s going to con­tin­ue to rig the sys­tem in their favor,” said Lena Zwaren­steyn, who close­ly fol­lows judi­cial nom­i­na­tions at the Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence. “By chang­ing the rules of the game and who the ref­er­ees are, they’re try­ing to change the land­scape.”

    ...

    The Hon­est Elec­tions Project has become active as Repub­li­cans are scal­ing up their efforts to fight to keep vot­ing restric­tions in place ahead of the elec­tion. The Repub­li­can Nation­al Com­mit­tee will spend at least $20m on lit­i­ga­tion over vot­ing rights and wants to recruit up to 50,000 peo­ple to help mon­i­tor the polls and oth­er elec­tion activ­i­ties.

    ...

    ———–

    “Revealed: con­ser­v­a­tive group fight­ing to restrict vot­ing tied to pow­er­ful dark mon­ey net­work” by Sam Levine and Anna Mas­soglia; The Guardian; 05/27/2020

    “The orga­ni­za­tion, which calls itself the Hon­est Elec­tions Project, seemed to emerge out of nowhere a few months ago and start­ed stok­ing fears about vot­er fraud. Backed by a dark mon­ey group fund­ed by rightwing stal­warts like the Koch broth­ers and Bet­sy DeVos’ fam­i­ly, the Hon­est Elec­tions Project is part of the net­work that pushed the US supreme court picks Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gor­such, and is quick­ly becom­ing a jug­ger­naut in the esca­lat­ing fight over vot­ing rights.”

    The Hon­est Elec­tions Project just seemed to emerge out of nowhere back in May of 2020. A new dark­money group that sud­den­ly pops up, stok­ing fears about vot­er fraud, and call­ing vot­er sup­pres­sion a “myth” while it wages one legal brief­ing after anoth­er in favor of vot­ing restric­tions. The project was act­ing as a ‘friends-of-the-court’ mill, in keep­ing with the increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar dark mon­ey prac­tice. But it’s the fact that the peo­ple behind the Hon­est Elec­tion Project are simul­ta­ne­ous­ly behind the stack­ing of state and fed­er­al courts courts with right-wing judges that makes this a par­tic­u­lar­ly potent lob­by­ing net­work. They’re effec­tive­ly lob­by­ing their own plants:

    ...
    Call­ing vot­er sup­pres­sion a “myth”, it has also been extreme­ly active in the courts, fil­ing briefs in favor of vot­ing restric­tions in Neva­da, Vir­ginia, Texas, Wis­con­sin and Min­neso­ta, among oth­er places, at times rep­re­sent­ed by lawyers from the same firm that rep­re­sents Trump. By hav­ing a hand in both vot­ing lit­i­ga­tion and the judges on the fed­er­al bench, this net­work could cre­ate a sys­tem where con­ser­v­a­tive donors have an avenue to both oppose vot­ing rights and appoint judges to back that effort.
    ...

    But here’s where we get to see why the US’s dark mon­ey laws are so wild­ly con­ve­nient for oli­garchs inter­est­ed in secret­ly wield­ing influ­ence: it turns out the Hon­est Elec­tions Project is just a legal alias for a dif­fer­ent enti­ty. The Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project, which has long been almost entire­ly fund­ed by DonorsTrust, the main dark mon­ey vehi­cle favored by not just the Kochs but all sorts of oth­er right-wing mega-donors like Robert Mer­cers or Bet­sy DeVos. In 2018, 99% of the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Projects fund­ing came from a sin­gle $7.8 mil­lion dona­tion from DonorsTrust. So the Hon­est Elec­tions Project is basi­cal­ly just a new anony­mous front for an exist­ing anony­mous front. Then, in Decem­ber of 2020, the Judi­cial Elec­tions Project changed its name to The 85 Fund. As we’ve seen, while they may have changed the name to The 85 Fund, the under­ly­ing mes­sage was the same, with the group focused on push­ing bogus vot­er fraud claims in the weeks fol­low­ing the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion. The 85 Fund then reg­is­tered two new names for itself on the same day, includ­ing the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project. In the end, the same enti­ty was legal­ly allowed to oper­ate under four dif­fer­ent names:

    ...
    Despite appear­ing to be a free-stand­ing new oper­a­tion, the Hon­est Elec­tions Project is just a legal alias for the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project, a well-financed non­prof­it con­nect­ed to a pow­er­ful net­work of dark mon­ey con­ser­v­a­tive groups, accord­ing to busi­ness records reviewed by the Guardian and OpenSe­crets.

    ...

    For near­ly a decade, the orga­ni­za­tion has been almost entire­ly fund­ed by DonorsTrust, known as a “dark mon­ey ATM” backed by the Koch net­work and oth­er promi­nent con­ser­v­a­tive donors, accord­ing to data tracked by OpenSe­crets. In 2018, more than 99% of the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project’s fund­ing came from a sin­gle $7.8m dona­tion from DonorsTrust.

    The Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project is also close­ly linked to Leonard Leo, one of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in Wash­ing­ton who has shaped Don­ald Trump’s unprece­dent­ed effort to remake the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry with con­ser­v­a­tive judges.

    The orga­ni­za­tion has deft­ly hid­den the changes to its name from pub­lic view. In Decem­ber, the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project for­mal­ly changed its legal name to The 85 Fund, a group Leo backed to fun­nel “tens of mil­lions” of dol­lars into con­ser­v­a­tive caus­es, accord­ing to Axios. The Hon­est Elec­tions Project is mere­ly a fic­ti­tious name – an alias – the fund legal­ly adopt­ed in Feb­ru­ary. The change was near­ly indis­cernible because The 85 Fund reg­is­tered two oth­er legal alias­es on the same day, includ­ing the Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project, its old name. The legal maneu­ver allows it to oper­ate under four dif­fer­ent names with lit­tle pub­lic dis­clo­sure that it is the same group.
    ...

    Final­ly, note the shared per­son­nel between the Hon­st Elec­tions Project and the Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work: both groups share Car­rie Sev­eri­no, pres­i­dent of the Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work. And, yes, in addi­tion to Leonard Leo, Sev­eri­no is also a CNP mem­ber. You can’t real­ly sep­a­rate the Hon­est Elec­tions Project from the Koch net­work or the CNP. It’s a project of the oli­garchy:

    ...
    The Judi­cial Edu­ca­tion Project is close­ly aligned with the Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work, a group with unmatched influ­ence in recent years in shap­ing the fed­er­al judi­cia­ry. The Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work spear­head­ed the cam­paigns to get Gor­such and Kavanaugh con­firmed to the US supreme court, spend­ing mil­lions of dol­lars in each instance. It has also spent sig­nif­i­cant­ly on crit­i­cal state supreme court races across the coun­try.

    There is a lot of over­lap between the Hon­est Elec­tions Project and the Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work. Both groups share per­son­nel, includ­ing Car­rie Sev­eri­no, the influ­en­tial pres­i­dent of the Judi­cial Cri­sis Net­work. Both groups have been fund­ed by The Well­spring Com­mit­tee, a group Leo raised mon­ey for until it shut down in 2018. Both have also paid mon­ey to BH Group, an LLC Leo once dis­closed as his employ­er, that made a $1m mys­tery dona­tion to Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion.
    ...

    Also recall how the BH Group’s mys­tery dona­tion to the Trump inau­gur­al fund could be a lot more scan­dalous than present­ly rec­og­nized giv­en the pay-to-play cor­rup­tion bonan­za of that time. It’s a reminder of the extreme flex­i­bil­i­ty of these dark mon­ey laws.

    So we’ll see what the Hon­est Elec­tion Project has planned for upcom­ing elec­tion cycles. Although we can be pret­ty con­fi­dent that it will involve more decep­tive yet reas­sur­ing calls for the need for new restric­tive vot­er laws. Pre­sum­ably along with anoth­er name change or two.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 8, 2022, 4:22 pm
  2. Here’s a piece pub­lished a few days ago, on the one year anniver­sary of the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion, that is the per­fect exam­ple of the kind of dan­gers inher­ent in calls for spe­cial big­otry priv­i­leges just for con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians. The piece is writ­ten by CNP mem­ber , the Man­ag­ing Attor­ney at the Lib­er­ty Jus­tice Cen­ter, one of the many right-wing ‘think tanks’ financed by the Koch net­work of meta-donors. Suhr was also the Chief of Staff of Wis­con­sin’s for­mer Lt. Gov­er­nor Rebec­ca Kleefisch. Kleefisch is run­ning for the gov­er­nor’s office in this year’s elec­tions. In oth­er words, Suhr appears to be posi­tioned to become the Chief of Staff of the next gov­er­nor of Wis­con­sin, should Kleefisch win.

    So check out Suhr’s recent opin­ion piece pub­lished on Jan­u­ary 6, 2022. A piece that warns about the dan­gers of ‘wok­ism’ in the mil­i­tary. Dan­gers that were exac­er­bat­ed by all of the con­cern aroused by the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion and the large num­ber of cur­rent and for­mer mem­bers of the mil­i­tary and law enforce­ment involved with insur­rec­tion. First, Suhr makes the point of dis­tin­guish­ing between the peo­ple who actu­al­ly rushed the Capi­tol vs those who were mere­ly at the ral­ly at the Ellipse that imme­di­ate­ly pre­ced­ed and com­plains about the lat­ter group fac­ing pun­ish­ment for attend­ing a legal protest. This com­plaint was made despite the fact that no one is being pun­ished pure­ly for attend­ing hte Ellipse ral­ly.

    But then Suhr goes on to tie in the renewed focus in the US mil­i­tary on root­ing out vio­lent extrem­ists with the dan­ger of pun­ish­ing pun­ish­ing Chris­tians mere­ly for uphold­ing Bib­li­cal teach­ings. Yep, that’s the spin. As Suhr puts it, “Jan. 6 is now claimed as the social­ly accept­able rea­son to tar­get “extrem­ism” and “domes­tic ter­ror­ism” and “hate,” lead­ing to poli­cies like this new one. But those words, like all oth­ers, require def­i­n­i­tion. Words like “extrem­ist” and “hate” are now applied to some Chris­tians in our cul­ture, mere­ly for uphold­ing Bib­li­cal teach­ings.” Suhr goes on to warn that con­ser­v­a­tives are right to wor­ry that the mil­i­tary’s diver­si­ty, equi­ty, and inclu­sion (DEI) agen­da is not a legit­i­mate exer­cise in main­tain­ing morale but rather a stalk­ing horse for an ide­o­log­i­cal agen­da creep­ing into the mil­i­tary. That ide­o­log­i­cal agen­da being crit­i­cal race the­o­ry. He also warns about trans­gen­dered troops, just for good mea­sure. Along with warn­ings about sol­diers being forced to take a COVID vac­cine despite their reli­gious objec­tions. All the great­est hits.

    So that’s the mes­sage the like­ly future chief of staff of the next gov­er­nor of Wis­con­sin decid­ed to pub­lish on the one year anniver­sary of Capi­tol insur­rec­tion: a warn­ing to the pub­lic that mea­sures to root out extrem­ism in the mil­i­tary, ele­vat­ed in response to the insur­rec­tion, were actu­al­ly part of a sin­is­ter ide­o­log­i­cal attempt to oppress Chris­tians and pro­mote crit­i­cal race the­o­ry:

    World News Group

    The dan­ger of woke war­riors

    New Pen­ta­gon pol­i­cy could mark anoth­er ide­o­log­i­cal agen­da in the nation’s mil­i­tary

    by Daniel Suhr
    Post Date:
    Jan­u­ary 6, 2022

    Late last month, buried in the slow news days of the hol­i­days, the U.S. Depart­ment of Defense issued new guide­lines on “com­bat­ting extrem­ist activ­i­ties” with­in the mil­i­tary. The doc­u­ment stems from a work­ing group set up to study par­tic­i­pa­tion by mem­bers of the U.S. mil­i­tary in the events in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021. The guide­lines tar­get “advo­cat­ing, engag­ing in, or sup­port­ing” var­i­ous “extrem­ist activ­i­ties,” such as ter­ror­ism or the vio­lent over­throw of the gov­ern­ment. Note that the report also comes at a time when the U.S. Army now employs a “chief diver­si­ty offi­cer” who is “aggres­sive­ly work­ing to elim­i­nate extrem­ism” in the ranks, accord­ing to the U.S. Army News Ser­vice.

    In prin­ci­ple, a pol­i­cy against extrem­ist activ­i­ties by mem­bers of the mil­i­tary is not inher­ent­ly wrong. Indeed, such poli­cies have been on the books for a while and make sense. The dead­liest mass shoot­ing on a mil­i­tary base in U.S. his­to­ry occurred in 2009, when an Army major rad­i­cal­ized by Islamist pro­pa­gan­da attacked fel­low sol­diers at Fort Hood in Texas. Uti­liz­ing intel­li­gence and mil­i­tary police tools to pre­vent attacks like that is appro­pri­ate.

    But the con­text in which these new guide­lines arise is not intra-mil­i­tary vio­lence like Fort Hood but par­tic­i­pa­tion in the events of Jan. 6 by mem­bers of the mil­i­tary. Though what hap­pened a year ago at the U.S. Capi­tol was despi­ca­ble and ille­gal, what hap­pened on the Nation­al Mall that day was legal, a ral­ly in our nation’s pub­lic square enti­tled to the fullest pro­tec­tion of the First Amend­ment to the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion. Too few make that impor­tant dis­tinc­tion, and too many have been pun­ished for par­tic­i­pat­ing in a legit­i­mate protest.

    But Jan. 6 is now claimed as the social­ly accept­able rea­son to tar­get “extrem­ism” and “domes­tic ter­ror­ism” and “hate,” lead­ing to poli­cies like this new one. But those words, like all oth­ers, require def­i­n­i­tion. Words like “extrem­ist” and “hate” are now applied to some Chris­tians in our cul­ture, mere­ly for uphold­ing Bib­li­cal teach­ings. The Defense Department’s new guide­lines apply to activ­i­ties like “Advo­cat­ing wide­spread unlaw­ful dis­crim­i­na­tion based on race, col­or, nation­al ori­gin, reli­gion, sex (includ­ing preg­nan­cy), gen­der iden­ti­ty, or sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion” or “Advo­cat­ing or engag­ing in unlaw­ful force or vio­lence to achieve goals that are polit­i­cal, reli­gious, dis­crim­i­na­to­ry, or ide­o­log­i­cal in nature.”

    Again, it’s nec­es­sary to have vig­i­lant safe­guards in place. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shoot­er, would have been guilty of engag­ing in vio­lence to achieve reli­gious and ide­o­log­i­cal goals. And though neo-Nazis had a right to march through Skok­ie, Ill., they have no right to wear the nation’s uni­form.

    But con­ser­v­a­tives are right to wor­ry that these new reg­u­la­tions are not a legit­i­mate exer­cise in main­tain­ing morale but rather a stalk­ing horse for an ide­o­log­i­cal agen­da creep­ing into the mil­i­tary. Con­sid­er: In the last few years, the U.S. mil­i­tary has spent $8 mil­lion on hor­mone ther­a­py and surg­eries for trans­gen­der troops.

    The mil­i­tary is increas­ing­ly in tune with the diver­si­ty, equi­ty, and inclu­sion (DEI) agen­da that can be a Tro­jan horse for crit­i­cal race the­o­ry. Again, a mil­i­tary that looks like Amer­i­ca is some­thing to be cel­e­brat­ed in the abstract, as the recent pass­ing of Col­in Pow­ell reminds us. But we can­not under­mine the prop­er patri­o­tism that moti­vates men to fight by attack­ing the nation we ask them to defend.

    And in these days when COVID vac­cine man­dates are front and cen­ter, a fed­er­al judge is very con­cerned that mil­i­tary pol­i­cy­mak­ers are ignor­ing the legit­i­mate exemp­tion requests of ser­vice mem­bers with reli­gious objec­tions.

    ...

    We will have to wait and see how the new guide­lines are enforced. But we should be wary, espe­cial­ly if we start see­ing DEI bureau­crats embed­ded in actu­al units.

    Any­one who has seen the clas­sic movies about the Sovi­et era, such as The Hunt for Red Octo­ber or Ene­my at the Gates, knows that every Russ­ian mil­i­tary unit had a “polit­i­cal offi­cer” whose job was to spread regime pro­pa­gan­da and ensure ide­o­log­i­cal loy­al­ty among the troops, espe­cial­ly oth­er offi­cers.

    Let’s hope we nev­er see a day when “polit­i­cal offi­cers” invade the U.S. mil­i­tary.

    ———

    “The dan­ger of woke war­riors” by Daniel Suhr; World News Group; 01/06/2022

    But Jan. 6 is now claimed as the social­ly accept­able rea­son to tar­get “extrem­ism” and “domes­tic ter­ror­ism” and “hate,” lead­ing to poli­cies like this new one. But those words, like all oth­ers, require def­i­n­i­tion. Words like “extrem­ist” and “hate” are now applied to some Chris­tians in our cul­ture, mere­ly for uphold­ing Bib­li­cal teach­ings. The Defense Department’s new guide­lines apply to activ­i­ties like “Advo­cat­ing wide­spread unlaw­ful dis­crim­i­na­tion based on race, col­or, nation­al ori­gin, reli­gion, sex (includ­ing preg­nan­cy), gen­der iden­ti­ty, or sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion” or “Advo­cat­ing or engag­ing in unlaw­ful force or vio­lence to achieve goals that are polit­i­cal, reli­gious, dis­crim­i­na­to­ry, or ide­o­log­i­cal in nature.””

    The hor­ror of it all. Jan 6 is being used as the social­ly accept­able rea­son to tar­get “extrem­ism” and “domes­tic ter­ror­ism” and “hate”, a moral drag­net that could end up ensnar­ing inno­cent Chris­tians mere­ly fol­low­ing Bib­li­cal teach­ings. Sure, you can tar­get Islam­ic extrem­ists and neo-Nazis. Just be sure to not ensnare any Chris­tians who hap­pen to hold those same extrem­ist beliefs. Because those are pro­tect­ed tra­di­tion­al beliefs, or at least should be pro­tect­ed tra­di­tion­al beliefs. It’s the Project Blitz par­a­digm — of spe­cial pro­tec­tions for con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­tians alone — applied in the con­text of gov­ern­ment anti-extrem­ism actions:

    ...
    Again, it’s nec­es­sary to have vig­i­lant safe­guards in place. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shoot­er, would have been guilty of engag­ing in vio­lence to achieve reli­gious and ide­o­log­i­cal goals. And though neo-Nazis had a right to march through Skok­ie, Ill., they have no right to wear the nation’s uni­form.

    But con­ser­v­a­tives are right to wor­ry that these new reg­u­la­tions are not a legit­i­mate exer­cise in main­tain­ing morale but rather a stalk­ing horse for an ide­o­log­i­cal agen­da creep­ing into the mil­i­tary. Con­sid­er: In the last few years, the U.S. mil­i­tary has spent $8 mil­lion on hor­mone ther­a­py and surg­eries for trans­gen­der troops.

    The mil­i­tary is increas­ing­ly in tune with the diver­si­ty, equi­ty, and inclu­sion (DEI) agen­da that can be a Tro­jan horse for crit­i­cal race the­o­ry. Again, a mil­i­tary that looks like Amer­i­ca is some­thing to be cel­e­brat­ed in the abstract, as the recent pass­ing of Col­in Pow­ell reminds us. But we can­not under­mine the prop­er patri­o­tism that moti­vates men to fight by attack­ing the nation we ask them to defend.
    ...

    It’s also worth recall­ing the per­son­al his­to­ry of David Bar­ton, who was open­ly affil­i­at­ing with white suprema­cist Chris­t­ian Iden­ti­ty move­ment of Pete Peters’ Scrip­tures for Amer­i­ca in the ear­ly 90s before Bar­ton was embraced by the GOP. It’s an exam­ple of why Suhr’s insis­tence that we dis­tin­guish between the extrem­ist views of a Nazi and a con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian does­n’t make sense. You can be a con­ser­v­a­tive Chris­t­ian Nazi. Plen­ty of such peo­ple unfor­tu­nate­ly exist. But if we lis­ten to Daniel Suhr, no, we need to carve out a spe­cial excep­tion for Chris­tians when car­ry­ing out anti-extrem­ism inves­ti­ga­tions.

    And don’t for­get: Project Blitz is still going. The dri­ve to con­fer spe­cial pro­tec­tions to Bib­li­cal­ly-based extrem­ism isn’t going away. So just keep in mind that should Rebec­ca Kleefisch end up Wis­con­sin’s next gov­er­nor, extrem­ists will pre­sum­ably be wel­come to join her admin­is­tra­tion, but only as long as they’re also self-pro­fessed Chris­tians. So if you’re an extrem­ist in Wis­con­sin with polit­i­cal ambi­tions, now would be the right time to find a church that shares your extrem­ist beliefs. Specif­i­cal­ly a Chris­t­ian church, so your hate can get its extra God-giv­en con­sti­tu­tion­al pro­tec­tions.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 9, 2022, 7:49 pm
  3. Here’s a set of excerpts that under­score how incred­i­ble main­stream the CNP is with­in con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles. But also how remark­ably secre­tive the group is about that main­stream influ­ence. The first arti­cle, from Jason Wil­son at the Guardian, was pub­lished in Sep­tem­ber and based on a new­ly leaked list of CNP mem­bers. The arti­cle describes how the group is so secre­tive it not only instructs mem­bers to keep their mem­ber­ship secret but also instructs them to nev­er even name the group. The CNP is like Volde­mort. No one dare speak its name. Which all the more remark­able giv­en how many pow­er­ful and influ­en­tial peo­ple are mem­bers. Peo­ple in pol­i­tics and indus­try.

    But as Hei­di Beirich puts it, “this new CNP list makes clear that the group still serves as a key venue where main­stream con­ser­v­a­tives and extrem­ists mix”, adding that CNP “clear­ly remains a crit­i­cal nexus for main­stream­ing extrem­ism from the far right into con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles”. And that’s the cru­cial aspect of the CNP’s extreme secre­cy that can’t be lost: the CNP’s extreme secre­cy cov­ers for fact that it acts as a vehi­cle for main­stream­ing right-wing extrem­ism.

    We’re going to get a bet­ter sense of the reach of the CNP inside the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment with the sec­ond arti­cle excerpt, from Octo­ber 2017, when the Her­itage foun­da­tion was search for a replace­ment for then-for­mer pres­i­dent Jim DeMint. Yes, DeMint is a CNP mem­ber. As we’re going to see, of the four peo­ple Her­itage was look­ing at to replace DeMint, three of them were CNP mem­bers. Lisa B. Nel­son, David Trulio, and Kay Coles James. The only non-CNP mem­ber they were report­ed­ly inter­est­ed in at the time was Mike Pence’s then-chief of staff Marc Short. In the end, James got the job.

    But there’s an inter­est­ing twist to all this in the third excerpt below. Her­itage has already select­ed its replace­ment for Kay Coles James as pres­i­dent. Dr. Kevin Roberts, cur­rent the CEO of the Texas Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Foun­da­tion (TPPF). Recall how the TPPF was found to be run­ning the “79 Days report” elec­tion sim­u­la­tions in the final weeks of the 2020 elec­tion in coor­di­na­tion with the Clare­mont Insti­tute. The Clare­mont Insti­tute hap­pens to have John East­man, one of the cen­tral fig­ures in devel­op­ing legal jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for the events that led up to the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion. So Roberts seems like an appro­pri­ate fit for the job. He’s got the rel­e­vant expe­ri­ence in try­ing to over­turn elec­tions.

    Here’s the twist: while Roberts does NOT show up in the most recent­ly leaked list of CNP mem­bers, there’s one place where he is indeed list­ed as a CNP mem­ber. And it’s the kind of place that would appear to vio­late the CNP rules on not acknowl­edg­ing either his mem­ber­ship to the CNP or its very exis­tence: Roberts is list­ed as a CNP mem­ber in a Sep­tem­ber 1, 2021 news post on gov.texas.gov web­site, where Texas gov­er­nor Greg Abbott announced that Roberts was appoint­ed to the Texas 1836 Project Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee. They spell it out clear­ly in the pro­file:

    Kevin Roberts, Ph.D. of Lib­er­ty Hill is the CEO of the Texas Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Foun­da­tion. Pre­vi­ous­ly, he served as Pres­i­dent of Wyoming Catholic Col­lege in Lan­der, WY, and as founder and head­mas­ter of John Paul the Great Acad­e­my in Lafayette, LA. He is a mem­ber of the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy and the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Schol­ars. Roberts received a Bach­e­lor of Arts in His­to­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Louisiana, a Mas­ter of Arts in His­to­ry from Vir­ginia Tech, and a Doc­tor of Phi­los­o­phy in Amer­i­can His­to­ry from The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin.

    Note that the Texas 1836 Project is just the lat­est right-wing attempt to rewrite his­to­ry. Start­ed in 2021 by Gov­er­nor Abbott, the project aims at pro­mot­ing “patri­ot­ic edu­ca­tion” to Texas res­i­dent, with echos of Pro­ject­Blitz. Roberts is clear­ly tick­ing off all the right wedge issues, and it land­ed him the pres­i­den­cy of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

    And yet, what are we to make of the fact that Roberts does­n’t show up in the leaked CNP lists but open­ly touts his mem­bers in his pub­lic Texas pro­file? That’s the weird twist here. Per­haps Roberts is such a new mem­ber his mem­ber­ship has­n’t had a chance to get leaked. But if that’s not the case, you have to won­der if the CNP has decid­ed it’s eas­i­er to just come out of the shad­ows. Being a hyper-secre­tive hyper-pow­er­ful group isn’t exact­ly a great look, after all. Again, it’s a mys­tery.

    Ok, first, here’s a Sept 2021 look at the recent­ly updat­ed leaked list of CNP mem­bers. Mem­bers that stretch across pol­i­tics, the media, and busi­ness. And mem­bers that high­light how the CNP real­ly is an orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed allow­ing right-wing extrem­ists to cavort with the ‘main­stream’. Cavort­ing that’s sup­posed to all be done under the strictest secre­cy:

    The Guardian

    Top Repub­li­cans rub shoul­ders with extrem­ists in secre­tive rightwing group, leak reveals

    Wealthy entre­pre­neurs and media moguls also named on mem­ber­ship list for influ­en­tial Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy

    Jason Wil­son
    Thu 30 Sep 2021 13.34 EDT
    First pub­lished on Thu 30 Sep 2021 05.00 EDT

    A leaked doc­u­ment has revealed the mem­ber­ship list of the secre­tive Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy (CNP), show­ing how it pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties for elite Repub­li­cans, wealthy entre­pre­neurs, media pro­pri­etors and pil­lars of the US con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment to rub shoul­ders with anti-abor­tion and anti-Islam­ic extrem­ists.

    The South­ern Pover­ty Law Cen­ter (SPLC), which mon­i­tors rightwing hate groups, describes the CNP as “a shad­owy and intense­ly secre­tive group [which] has oper­at­ed behind the scenes” in its efforts to “build the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment”.

    The leaked mem­ber­ship list dates from Sep­tem­ber last year, and reveals the 40-year-old CNP put influ­en­tial Trump admin­is­tra­tion fig­ures along­side lead­ers of orga­ni­za­tions that have been cat­e­go­rized as hate groups.

    The group was found­ed in 1981 by activists influ­en­tial in the Chris­t­ian right, includ­ing Tim LaHaye, Howard Phillips and Paul Weyrich, who had also been involved in found­ing and lead­ing the Moral Major­i­ty. Ini­tial­ly they were seek­ing to max­i­mize their influ­ence on the new Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion. In sub­se­quent years, CNP meet­ings have played host to pres­i­den­tial aspi­rants like George W Bush in 1999 and Mitt Rom­ney in 2007, and sit­ting pres­i­dents includ­ing Don­ald Trump in 2020.

    In videos obtained by the Wash­ing­ton Post in 2020, the CNP exec­u­tive com­mit­tee chair­man, Bill Wal­ton, told atten­dees of the upcom­ing elec­tion: “This is a spir­i­tu­al bat­tle we are in. This is good ver­sus evil.”

    The CNP is so secre­tive, accord­ing to reports, that its mem­bers are instruct­ed not to reveal their affil­i­a­tion or even name the group.

    Hei­di Beirich, of the Glob­al Project Against Hate and Extrem­ism, said in an email that “this new CNP list makes clear that the group still serves as a key venue where main­stream con­ser­v­a­tives and extrem­ists mix”, adding that CNP “clear­ly remains a crit­i­cal nexus for main­stream­ing extrem­ism from the far right into con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles”.

    The doc­u­ment – which reveals email address­es and phone num­bers for most mem­bers – shows that the CNP includes mem­bers of SPLC-list­ed hate groups.

    They include lead­ers of orga­ni­za­tions list­ed as anti-Mus­lim hate groups, includ­ing:

    * Frank Gaffney, founder and exec­u­tive chair­man of the Cen­ter for Secu­ri­ty Pol­i­cy (CSP)

    * Brigitte Gabriel, founder and chair­man of Act For Amer­i­ca (AFA)

    They also include sev­er­al founders or lead­ers of groups list­ed as anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups, such as:

    * Michael P Far­ris, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Alliance Defend­ing Free­dom (ADF)

    * Brad Dacus, founder and pres­i­dent of the Pacif­ic Jus­tice Insti­tute

    * Tony Perkins, pres­i­dent of the Fam­i­ly Research Coun­cil

    * Matthew Staver, founder and chair­man of Lib­er­ty Coun­sel

    * Tim Wild­mon, pres­i­dent of the Amer­i­can Fam­i­ly Asso­ci­a­tion

    Also, there are mem­bers of orga­ni­za­tions list­ed as anti-immi­grant hate groups, includ­ing James and Amap­o­la Hans­berg­er, co-founders of Legal Immi­grants For Amer­i­ca (Lifa).

    Addi­tion­al­ly, the list includes mem­bers of groups that have been accused of extrem­ist posi­tions on abor­tion. They include Mar­garet H Hartshorn, chair of the board of Heart­beat Inter­na­tion­al, which has report­ed­ly spread mis­in­for­ma­tion world­wide to preg­nant women.

    Sev­er­al high-pro­file fig­ures asso­ci­at­ed with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, or con­spir­a­cy-mind­ed char­ac­ters in Trump’s orbit, are also on the list, such as Jerome R Cor­si, who has writ­ten con­spir­a­cy-mind­ed books about John Ker­ry, Barack Oba­ma and the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks. Cor­si is list­ed as a mem­ber of CNP’s board of gov­er­nors.

    Along with these rep­re­sen­ta­tives of extrem­ist posi­tions, the CNP rolls include mem­bers of osten­si­bly more main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive groups, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of major Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions. Still oth­ers come from the Repub­li­can par­ty, a net­work of rightwing activist orga­ni­za­tions, and the com­pa­nies and foun­da­tions that back them.

    A new­com­er to the group since a pre­vi­ous ver­sion of the mem­ber list was exposed is Char­lie Kirk, founder and pres­i­dent of Turn­ing Point USA (TPUSA), a con­ser­v­a­tive youth orga­ni­za­tion.

    Although TPUSA works hard to make inroads into main­stream cul­ture with stunts and on-cam­pus events, Kirk has recent­ly staked out more hard-right posi­tions, say­ing last week that Demo­c­ra­t­ic immi­gra­tion poli­cies were aimed at “dimin­ish­ing and decreas­ing white demo­graph­ics in Amer­i­ca”, a day after Tuck­er Carl­son ven­ti­lat­ed racist “great replace­ment” con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries on his Fox News pro­gram.

    Con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment heavy­weights in the group include Lisa B Nel­son, chief exec­u­tive of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil; Eugene May­er, pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety; Grover Norquist, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform; Daniel Schnei­der, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Amer­i­can Con­ser­v­a­tive Union, which orga­nizes the CPac con­fer­ence; and L Brent Bozell III, the founder of the Media Research Cen­ter and a mem­ber of the Bozell and Buck­ley dynas­ties of con­ser­v­a­tive activists.

    Oth­er mem­bers include pil­lars of the Repub­li­can polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment, includ­ing for­mer GOP con­gres­sion­al major­i­ty leader Tom DeLay; for­mer Wis­con­sin gov­er­nor Scott Walk­er; Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion attor­ney gen­er­al Edwin Meese III; and for­mer RNC chair and Trump White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.

    Their num­ber also includes sit­ting con­gress­men such as Bar­ry Lou­d­er­milk and influ­en­tial oper­a­tives like David Trulio, who was the senior advis­er and chief of staff to the under-sec­re­tary of defense in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.

    The mem­ber list also includes rep­re­sen­ta­tives of major US cor­po­ra­tions, such as Marc Johansen, vice-pres­i­dent for the satel­lites and intel­li­gence pro­gram for Boe­ing; Jef­frey Coors, of the Coors brew­ing fam­i­ly, who have exten­sive­ly spon­sored con­ser­v­a­tive groups; Lee Roy Mitchell, the founder and chair­man of the board for movie chain own­er Cin­e­mark Hold­ings; Steve Forbes, the founder and chief exec­u­tive of the Forbes busi­ness media empire; and Scott Brown, a senior vice-pres­i­dent at Mor­gan Stan­ley.

    Oth­er mem­bers of the group rep­re­sent orga­ni­za­tions that oper­ate under a veil of secre­cy, with con­ser­v­a­tive “dark mon­ey” orga­ni­za­tions well rep­re­sent­ed.

    One mem­ber, Law­son Bad­er, is the pres­i­dent of Donor’s Trust and Donors Cap­i­tal Fund, non­prof­its that dis­guise the iden­ti­ties of their own donors, and whose largesse to rightwing caus­es has earned them the rep­u­ta­tion as “the dark-mon­ey ATM of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment”.

    Anoth­er mem­ber, Richard Graber, is the pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive of the Lyn­de and Har­ry Bradley Foun­da­tion. The Bradley foun­da­tion has long bankrolled con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment caus­es, includ­ing Donors Trust, and has report­ed­ly spon­sored wide­spread efforts to dis­cred­it the elec­tion of Joe Biden in 2020.

    Con­ser­v­a­tive media fig­ures are also on the list: Neil Patel, co-founder and pub­lish­er of the Dai­ly Caller; Lar­ry Beasley, chief exec­u­tive of the rightwing news­pa­per the Wash­ing­ton Times; and Floyd Brown, the founder of the Ari­zona-based West­ern Jour­nal and founder of the Cit­i­zens Unit­ed Pac.

    Pro-gun groups are also rep­re­sent­ed, with NRA chief exec­u­tive Wayne LaPierre and Gun Own­ers of Amer­i­ca founder Tim Macy each list­ed as mem­bers.

    The 220-page doc­u­ment – which includes a state­ment of prin­ci­ples and an indi­ca­tion of mem­bers’ pol­i­cy inter­ests along­side a com­plete mem­ber list – was leaked and pro­vid­ed to jour­nal­ists via a trans­paren­cy orga­ni­za­tion, Dis­trib­uted Denial of Secrets.

    An ear­li­er, redact­ed ver­sion of the list was pub­lished along with report­ing by the Cen­ter for Media and Democ­ra­cy in late 2020. DDOSecret’s pub­li­ca­tion restored per­son­al infor­ma­tion, which allowed fur­ther report­ing and ver­i­fi­ca­tion of the list’s con­tents.

    ...

    ———

    “Top Repub­li­cans rub shoul­ders with extrem­ists in secre­tive rightwing group, leak reveals” by Jason Wil­son; The Guardian; 09/30/2021

    “The CNP is so secre­tive, accord­ing to reports, that its mem­bers are instruct­ed not to reveal their affil­i­a­tion or even name the group.”

    Not only can mem­bers not reveal their affil­i­a­tion, they can’t even name the group. It’s hard to get more secre­tive than that. Under­stand­able secre­cy when we learn that one of the pri­ma­ry func­tions of the CNP has to act as a nexus for the main­stream­ing extrem­ism from the far right into the main­stream con­ser­v­a­tive mix. It’s why we should­n’t be at all sur­prised to see names like Jerome Cor­si
    on the CNP list. Recall how Cor­si joined Alex Jone’s InfoWars pro­gram in 2017, act­ing as the head of the InfoWars DC bureau, although his ties to Jones frayed and even­tu­al­ly descend­ed into Cor­si suing Jones over defama­tion of char­ac­ter. Palling around with Alex Jones. These are the kinds of things CNP mem­bers have been up to:

    ...
    Hei­di Beirich, of the Glob­al Project Against Hate and Extrem­ism, said in an email that this new CNP list makes clear that the group still serves as a key venue where main­stream con­ser­v­a­tives and extrem­ists mix”, adding that CNP “clear­ly remains a crit­i­cal nexus for main­stream­ing extrem­ism from the far right into con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles”.

    The doc­u­ment – which reveals email address­es and phone num­bers for most mem­bers – shows that the CNP includes mem­bers of SPLC-list­ed hate groups.

    ...

    Sev­er­al high-pro­file fig­ures asso­ci­at­ed with the Trump admin­is­tra­tion, or con­spir­a­cy-mind­ed char­ac­ters in Trump’s orbit, are also on the list, such as Jerome R Cor­si, who has writ­ten con­spir­a­cy-mind­ed books about John Ker­ry, Barack Oba­ma and the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks. Cor­si is list­ed as a mem­ber of CNP’s board of gov­er­nors.
    ...

    And inter­min­gled with the extrem­ists are the high-pro­file con­ser­v­a­tive fig­ures, like Lisa Nel­son of ALEC or Grover Norquist. Recall how Nel­son report­ed­ly informed the CNP in Feb­ru­ary of 2020 that ALEC was work­ing with Repub­li­can lawyers to strate­gize paths for win­ning the elec­tion by con­test­ing the valid­i­ty of the elec­tion. The CNP is the con­ser­v­a­tive main­stream. A super-secret main­stream:

    ...

    Con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment heavy­weights in the group include Lisa B Nel­son, chief exec­u­tive of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil; Eugene May­er, pres­i­dent of the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety; Grover Norquist, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform; Daniel Schnei­der, exec­u­tive direc­tor of the Amer­i­can Con­ser­v­a­tive Union, which orga­nizes the CPac con­fer­ence; and L Brent Bozell III, the founder of the Media Research Cen­ter and a mem­ber of the Bozell and Buck­ley dynas­ties of con­ser­v­a­tive activists.

    ...

    Their num­ber also includes sit­ting con­gress­men such as Bar­ry Lou­d­er­milk and influ­en­tial oper­a­tives like David Trulio, who was the senior advis­er and chief of staff to the under-sec­re­tary of defense in the Trump admin­is­tra­tion.
    ...

    And when we see for­mer Wis­con­sin gov­ern­ment Scott Walk­er, it’s worth not­ing that fel­low Wis­con­si­nite CNP-mem­ber Dani­uel Suhr also has ties to Walk­er. Recall how Suhr has served as the chief of staff to for­mer Wis­con­sin Lt Gov­ern­ment Rebec­ca Kleefisch. Suhr then decid­ed to pub­lish an opin­ion piece in WORLD this Jan­u­ary 6 warn­ing about the inves­ti­ga­tion into the insur­rec­tion and a ‘woke mil­i­tary’ lead­ing to the per­se­cu­tion of Chris­tians in the mil­i­tary who may hold views now deemed to be extrem­ist. Well, it also turns out that Scott Walk­er made Suhr his Pol­i­cy Direc­tor in Jan of 2018. Inter­est­ing­ly, War­ren C. Smith, the asso­ciate pub­lish­er of WORLD, is also a CNP mem­ber. This is what secret net­work­ing looks like:

    ...
    Oth­er mem­bers include pil­lars of the Repub­li­can polit­i­cal estab­lish­ment, includ­ing for­mer GOP con­gres­sion­al major­i­ty leader Tom DeLay; for­mer Wis­con­sin gov­er­nor Scott Walk­er; Rea­gan admin­is­tra­tion attor­ney gen­er­al Edwin Meese III; and for­mer RNC chair and Trump White House chief of staff Reince Priebus.
    ...

    The cor­po­rate exec­u­tives on the CNP are also quite notable. Marc Johansen, vice-pres­i­dent for the satel­lites and intel­li­gence pro­gram for Boe­ing. There’s Steve Forbes. And then there’s Jef­frey Coors of the Coors fam­i­ly dynasty, one of the most impor­tant fam­i­lies in fund­ing the con­tem­po­rary US con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment. And this is just a sam­ple of the pow­er­ful peo­ple in the world of busi­ness:

    ...
    The mem­ber list also includes rep­re­sen­ta­tives of major US cor­po­ra­tions, such as Marc Johansen, vice-pres­i­dent for the satel­lites and intel­li­gence pro­gram for Boe­ing; Jef­frey Coors, of the Coors brew­ing fam­i­ly, who have exten­sive­ly spon­sored con­ser­v­a­tive groups; Lee Roy Mitchell, the founder and chair­man of the board for movie chain own­er Cin­e­mark Hold­ings; Steve Forbes, the founder and chief exec­u­tive of the Forbes busi­ness media empire; and Scott Brown, a senior vice-pres­i­dent at Mor­gan Stan­ley.
    ...

    As anoth­er exam­ple of how deeply inter­twined the CNP is with the Koch net­work of GOP mega-donors, we we find Law­son Bad­er, the pres­i­dent of Donor’s Trust and Donors Cap­i­tal Fund, the most impor­tant right-wing Dark Mon­ey group oper­at­ing today. And then we find Richard Graber, the pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive of the Lyn­de and Har­ry Bradley Foun­da­tion. Recall that Repub­li­can lawyer Cle­ta Mitchell — who began strate­giz­ing in prepa­ra­tion for ques­tion­ing elec­tion results as ear­ly as August 2019sits on the board of direc­tors of the Bradley Foun­da­tion. Mitchell has been at the cen­ter of the con­ser­v­a­tive estab­lish­men­t’s efforts to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion:

    ...
    Oth­er mem­bers of the group rep­re­sent orga­ni­za­tions that oper­ate under a veil of secre­cy, with con­ser­v­a­tive “dark mon­ey” orga­ni­za­tions well rep­re­sent­ed.

    One mem­ber, Law­son Bad­er, is the pres­i­dent of Donor’s Trust and Donors Cap­i­tal Fund, non­prof­its that dis­guise the iden­ti­ties of their own donors, and whose largesse to rightwing caus­es has earned them the rep­u­ta­tion as “the dark-mon­ey ATM of the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment”.

    Anoth­er mem­ber, Richard Graber, is the pres­i­dent and chief exec­u­tive of the Lyn­de and Har­ry Bradley Foun­da­tion. The Bradley foun­da­tion has long bankrolled con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment caus­es, includ­ing Donors Trust, and has report­ed­ly spon­sored wide­spread efforts to dis­cred­it the elec­tion of Joe Biden in 2020.

    ...

    Pro-gun groups are also rep­re­sent­ed, with NRA chief exec­u­tive Wayne LaPierre and Gun Own­ers of Amer­i­ca founder Tim Macy each list­ed as mem­bers.
    ...

    You almost can’t get more main­stream inside the GOP than the CNP. It’s like almost any­body who’s any­body in the move­ment is a CNP mem­ber. To illus­trate the point, here’s an Octo­ber 2017 piece in the Wash­ing­ton Post about the spec­u­la­tion over whether or not Marc Short — then Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence’s chief of staff — was going to leave the Trump admin­is­tra­tion and take a job as the next head of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion. As we saw, Short did NOT end up tak­ing the job and stuck with Mike Pence until the end...hence the poten­tial inter­est by House Jan 6 Insur­rec­tion inves­ti­ga­tors in talk­ing to Short.

    Notably, Short does­n’t appear to show up on any CNP mem­ber­ship lists. Part of what makes that notable is look­ing at all the oth­er peo­ple who were on the Her­itage wish list for the job at the time. Vir­tu­al­ly all of them are known CNP mem­bers: Lisa B. Nel­son, David Trulio, and Kay Coles James. All three show up on the CNP mem­ber­ship list. And that’s to replace the then-for­mer head of Her­itage, Jim DeMint, anoth­er CNP mem­ber.

    The arti­cle men­tions some oth­er CNP mem­bers who also affil­i­at­ed with Her­itage. CNP Mem­ber Steve Forbes also sits on the Her­itage board. And Kay Coles James was, at the time, already a Her­itage board mem­ber and close to Her­itage founder Edwin J. Feul­ner. Yes, Feul­ner is a CNP mem­ber too. Because of course he is.

    So who ulti­mate­ly got the job? Kay Coles James. The CNP got to keep its hands on the Her­itage pres­i­den­cy, solid­i­fy­ing its secret grip on the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment:

    The Wash­ing­ton Post

    Her­itage Foun­da­tion con­sid­ers top White House aide, Cubs co-own­er as next leader

    By Robert Cos­ta, Ash­ley Park­er and John Wag­n­er
    Octo­ber 17, 2017

    The Her­itage Foun­da­tion has nar­rowed its search for a new pres­i­dent down to a short­list of final­ists, a group that includes Todd Rick­etts, a co-own­er of the Chica­go Cubs, and Marc Short, a senior Trump White House offi­cial, accord­ing to three peo­ple famil­iar with the dis­cus­sions.

    In addi­tion to Rick­etts and Short, Heritage’s board of trustees also has expressed inter­est in Lisa B. Nel­son, the chief exec­u­tive of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil, and David Trulio, a vice pres­i­dent at Lock­heed Mar­tin, the peo­ple said on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss pri­vate delib­er­a­tions.

    The con­ser­v­a­tive think tank’s trustees, how­ev­er, remain torn over their deci­sion. Kay Coles James — a Her­itage board mem­ber who served as the direc­tor of the U.S. Office of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush and is close to Her­itage founder Edwin J. Feul­ner — has been men­tioned by sev­er­al asso­ciates as some­one who could serve in a tem­po­rary capac­i­ty if the board can­not set­tle on a can­di­date.

    The group’s clout in Wash­ing­ton was under­scored by Pres­i­dent Trump’s appear­ance Tues­day night at a gath­er­ing of its President’s Club at a Wash­ing­ton hotel.

    Her­itage’s board includes many wealthy right-wing fig­ures, includ­ing Steve Forbes, Rebekah A. Mer­cer and Thomas A. Saun­ders III.

    The top job at the influ­en­tial con­ser­v­a­tive out­post has been open since May, when Jim DeMint, the Repub­li­can fire­brand and for­mer South Car­oli­na sen­a­tor, was pushed out, although Fuel­ner has been serv­ing as the inter­im pres­i­dent. The search process is still in flux, and it is not clear whether the lead­ing can­di­dates under con­sid­er­a­tion have for­mal­ly been con­tact­ed by the Her­itage board — or would accept the posi­tion.

    For Rick­etts — a long­time Repub­li­can activist whose father, Joe, is the founder of TD Amer­i­trade and broth­er is Pete Rick­etts, the cur­rent Nebras­ka gov­er­nor — the post­ing would offer him and his fam­i­ly even greater influ­ence in help­ing to shape the direc­tion of the Repub­li­can Par­ty and the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment.

    Trump select­ed Rick­etts to serve as deputy com­merce sec­re­tary, but in April he with­drew his nom­i­na­tion from con­sid­er­a­tion, cit­ing an inabil­i­ty to untan­gle his finan­cial hold­ings to the sat­is­fac­tion of the Office of Gov­ern­ment Ethics.

    Rick­etts’s father helped finance Future45, a super PAC that spent lav­ish­ly for Trump in the final weeks of the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, giv­ing the group at least $1 mil­lion through the end of Sep­tem­ber, Fed­er­al Elec­tion Com­mis­sion fil­ings show. Joe Rick­etts and his wife, Mar­lene, also con­tributed near­ly $344,000 to sup­port Trump’s cam­paign and the Repub­li­can Par­ty. The Rick­ettses’ finan­cial sup­port for Trump was a dra­mat­ic rever­sal from the pri­maries, when Joe and Mar­lene Rick­etts gave more than $5.5 mil­lion to Our Prin­ci­ples PAC, a super PAC that ran a slew of hard-hit­ting ads against Trump.

    Short, the direc­tor of leg­isla­tive affairs at the White House, has strong con­ser­v­a­tive cre­den­tials, pre­vi­ous­ly lead­ing Free­dom Part­ners, the polit­i­cal oper­a­tion for bil­lion­aire broth­ers Charles and David Koch, and before that work­ing for Vice Pres­i­dent Pence when Pence was a ris­ing star on the right dur­ing his days in the U.S. House.

    ...

    ———–

    “Her­itage Foun­da­tion con­sid­ers top White House aide, Cubs co-own­er as next leader” by Robert Cos­ta, Ash­ley Park­er and John Wag­n­er; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 10/17/2017

    “The top job at the influ­en­tial con­ser­v­a­tive out­post has been open since May, when Jim DeMint, the Repub­li­can fire­brand and for­mer South Car­oli­na sen­a­tor, was pushed out, although Fuel­ner has been serv­ing as the inter­im pres­i­dent. The search process is still in flux, and it is not clear whether the lead­ing can­di­dates under con­sid­er­a­tion have for­mal­ly been con­tact­ed by the Her­itage board — or would accept the posi­tion.”

    CNP mem­ber Jim DeMint was out as Her­itage’s pres­i­dent and they need­ed a replace­ment. Marc Short was one option, along with CNP mem­bers Lisa B. Nel­son, David Trulio, and Kay Coles James, who ulti­mate­ly got the job. Who knows whether or not fel­low CNP mem­bers Ed Feul­ner and Steve Forbes used their influ­ence to secure her the job. But the fact that all of the can­di­dates, oth­er than Marc Short, for this pow­er­ful posi­tion inside the con­ser­v­a­tive move­ment were CNP mem­bers tells us some­thing about the lev­el of influ­ence the CNP wields. It’s like the ulti­mate club of DC power­bro­kers:

    ...
    In addi­tion to Rick­etts and Short, Heritage’s board of trustees also has expressed inter­est in Lisa B. Nel­son, the chief exec­u­tive of the Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil, and David Trulio, a vice pres­i­dent at Lock­heed Mar­tin, the peo­ple said on the con­di­tion of anonymi­ty to dis­cuss pri­vate delib­er­a­tions.

    The con­ser­v­a­tive think tank’s trustees, how­ev­er, remain torn over their deci­sion. Kay Coles James — a Her­itage board mem­ber who served as the direc­tor of the U.S. Office of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment under Pres­i­dent George W. Bush and is close to Her­itage founder Edwin J. Feul­ner — has been men­tioned by sev­er­al asso­ciates as some­one who could serve in a tem­po­rary capac­i­ty if the board can­not set­tle on a can­di­date.

    The group’s clout in Wash­ing­ton was under­scored by Pres­i­dent Trump’s appear­ance Tues­day night at a gath­er­ing of its President’s Club at a Wash­ing­ton hotel.

    Her­itage’s board includes many wealthy right-wing fig­ures, includ­ing Steve Forbes, Rebekah A. Mer­cer and Thomas A. Saun­ders III.
    ...

    And, in the end, Kay Coles James got the job. But her term is almost up and that job went to Dr. Kevin Roberts back in Octo­ber. The same Kevin Roberts who was pub­licly out­ing him­self as a CNP mem­ber just a month ear­li­er when he got appoint­ed to Abbot­t’s 1836 project:

    Office of the Texas Gov­er­nor

    Gov­er­nor Abbott Appoints Three to Texas 1836 Project Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee

    Sep­tem­ber 1, 2021 | Austin, Texas

    Gov­er­nor Greg Abbott has appoint­ed Car­oli­na Castil­lo Crimm, Ph.D., Don Fra­zier, Ph.D., and Kevin Roberts, Ph.D., who will serve as pre­sid­ing offi­cer, to the Texas 1836 Project Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee for terms set to expire on Sep­tem­ber 1, 2023. The Texas 1836 Project Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee was estab­lished by HB 2497 (87R) to pro­mote patri­ot­ic edu­ca­tion and increase aware­ness of the Texas val­ues that con­tin­ue to stim­u­late bound­less pros­per­i­ty across this state.

    Car­oli­na Castil­lo Crimm, Ph.D. of Huntsville retired as Pro­fes­sor Emer­i­tus at Sam Hous­ton State Uni­ver­si­ty. She has over 30 years of expe­ri­ence in teach­ing, busi­ness, and gov­ern­ment. She has taught at ele­men­tary and high school lev­els in Flori­da and Texas and at col­lege and uni­ver­si­ty lev­els. She is a mem­ber of the Texas State His­tor­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion, past mem­ber of Human­i­ties Texas, board mem­ber of the Walk­er Coun­ty His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sion, Main Street Com­mis­sion, Cen­tral Texas His­tor­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion, and the East Texas His­tor­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion. Addi­tion­al­ly, she is a mem­ber of the League of Latin Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens, Daugh­ters of the Amer­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion, and a board mem­ber of the Old Town The­ater in Huntsville. Crimm received a Bach­e­lor of Arts in His­to­ry and Social Stud­ies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mia­mi, a Mas­ter of Arts in Archi­tec­ture Preser­va­tion from Texas Tech Uni­ver­si­ty, and a Doc­tor of Phi­los­o­phy in Latin Amer­i­can His­to­ry from The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin.

    Don Fra­zier, Ph.D. of Ker­rville is the Direc­tor of The Texas Cen­ter at Schrein­er Uni­ver­si­ty, and pre­vi­ous­ly was a Pro­fes­sor at McMur­ry Uni­ver­si­ty in Abi­lene for over 25 years. He is an elect­ed mem­ber of Philo­soph­i­cal Soci­ety of Texas, scholar/director of the Texas His­tor­i­cal Foun­da­tion, and a for­mer mem­ber of the Texas State His­tor­i­cal Asso­ci­a­tion. Addi­tion­al­ly, he is a board mem­ber of the Heart of the Hills Her­itage Cen­ter and is an advi­sor to The Alamo His­tor­i­cal Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee. Fra­zier received a Bach­e­lor of Arts in Com­mu­ni­ca­tion from The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Arling­ton and a Mas­ter of Arts and a Doc­tor of Phi­los­o­phy in His­to­ry from Texas Chris­t­ian Uni­ver­si­ty.

    Kevin Roberts, Ph.D. of Lib­er­ty Hill is the CEO of the Texas Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Foun­da­tion. Pre­vi­ous­ly, he served as Pres­i­dent of Wyoming Catholic Col­lege in Lan­der, WY, and as founder and head­mas­ter of John Paul the Great Acad­e­my in Lafayette, LA. He is a mem­ber of the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy and the Nation­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Schol­ars. Roberts received a Bach­e­lor of Arts in His­to­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Louisiana, a Mas­ter of Arts in His­to­ry from Vir­ginia Tech, and a Doc­tor of Phi­los­o­phy in Amer­i­can His­to­ry from The Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin.

    ———-

    “Gov­er­nor Abbott Appoints Three to Texas 1836 Project Advi­so­ry Com­mit­tee”; Office of the Texas Gov­er­nor; 09/01/2021

    Roberts could­n’t be any more clear. He is a mem­ber of the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy. There it is.

    Was Robert­s’s mem­ber­ship admis­sion a mis­take by a CNP-new­bie? Or a sign of things to come? We’ll get our answer even­tu­al­ly. An answer that is either deliv­ered in the form of hun­dreds of pub­lic mem­ber­ship admis­sions by many of the most pow­er­ful peo­ple in the US. Or ongo­ing Volde­mort-ing silence.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 12, 2022, 12:22 am
  4. Rolling Stone mag­a­zine has a new piece high­light­ing the con­ser­v­a­tive mega-donor net­works’ financ­ing the Clare­mont Insti­tute. As we’ve seen, the Clare­mont Insti­tute has become one of the key right-wing enti­ties involved with the schem­ing focused on over­turn­ing the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion results. In par­tic­u­lar, the key role played by con­sti­tu­tion­al lawyer John East­man in devel­op­ing the legal jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for the Trump admin­is­tra­tion’s attempts to over­turn the 2020 elec­tion results.

    Recall how it was East­man who met with the Trump team in the days before the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion, advo­cat­ing a plan where Mike Pence would uni­lat­er­al­ly assert the pow­er to reject the elec­toral vote, throw­ing the issue to the Supreme Court in the hopes of ulti­mate­ly hav­ing the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives choose the next pres­i­dent under a one-state-one-vote process. As we’ve seen, East­man has been ful­ly wel­comed back into con­ser­v­a­tive polite soci­ety and was event sched­ule to appear at a Clare­mont Insti­tute “Elec­tion Integri­ty and the Future of Amer­i­can Repub­li­can Gov­ern­ment” event last year. East­man actu­al­ly gave mul­ti­ple options for over­turn­ing the elec­tion, includ­ing one sce­nario where Pence reject­ed con­test­ed states entire­ly and award­ed Trump the pres­i­den­cy based on win­ning a major­i­ty of the remain­ing uncon­test­ed states.

    Dur­ing the insur­rec­tion, East­man was there at Steve Ban­non’s and Rudy Giu­lian­i’s “war room” at the Willard Hotel. And Ban­non was­n’t the only known CNP mem­ber in that “war room”. CNP mem­bers Rus­sell J. Ram­s­land Jr. and J. Keet Lewis were also there. Also recall how it was the evening of Jan 5 when the Trump team learned that Mike Pence was unwill­ing to go along with any plans of reject­ing the elec­toral vote, mean­ing the plan­ning that took place in the “war room” that evening was like­ly plan­ning that includ­ed talk of using a mob of sup­port­ers to just open­ly block the vote by raid­ing the Capi­tol.

    The sto­ry about the role John East­man played in schem­ing to over­turn the elec­tion does­n’t end on Jan 6. Recall how the con­ser­v­a­tive move­men­t’s ongo­ing defense of East­man’s actions include an attempt by the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety to pre­vent a Stan­ford law stu­dent from grad­u­at­ing after the stu­dent made joke fly­ers that made light of the many Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety mem­bers who con­tin­ue to sup­port the ‘stolen elec­tion’ Big Lie, includ­ing East­man.

    But the sto­ry of East­man’s role in under­min­ing US elec­tions did­n’t start with the 2020 elec­tion either. This is a long-stand­ing project. Recall how the Clare­mont Insti­tute and ALEC held a work­shop in 2017 where East­man argued that the pow­er of the states had been erod­ed with the direct pop­u­lar elec­tion of Sen­a­tors and advo­cat­ed for the repeal of the 17th Amend­ment. Yep, the guy thinks the direct elec­tion of Sen­a­tors is appar­ent­ly too pop­ulist. As expect. Don’t for­get that the repeal of the 17th Amend­ment is on the Koch mega-donor net­work’s con­sti­tu­tion­al over­haul wish list.

    So that’s all part of the con­text of how the sup­port for the Clare­mont Insti­tute became a top­i­cal issue. An enti­ty pre­vi­ous­ly asso­ci­at­ed with bland con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics is at the heart of a coup plot. A coup plot that’s arguably ongo­ing.

    And as we’re going to see, while the Rolling Stone arti­cle does­n’t men­tion the Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy (CNP), it’s filled with ref­er­ences to CNP mem­bers. Because of course it is. That’s the nature of the CNP. It’s like the con­ser­v­a­tive move­men­t’s fas­cist meta-lob­by. And that’s why why we should­n’t be at all sur­prised to learn that the Clare­mont Insti­tute has long been financed by three of the biggest names in con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics: The DeVos­es, Scaifes, and Bradleys. All con­ser­v­a­tive mega-donors. And all fam­i­lies with long-stand­ing Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy con­nec­tion:

    * The now-deceased Richard Mel­lon Scaife shows up on the CNP mem­ber­ship list.

    * As we’ve seen, a num­ber of The Bradley Foun­da­tion board mem­bers have CNP ties. Richard Graber, the pres­i­dent and CEO of the foun­da­tion, is a CNP mem­ber. Bradley Foun­da­tion board board mem­ber Cle­ta Mitchell is also a CNP mem­ber. Recall how Mitchell has played a cen­tral role in orches­trat­ing the con­ser­v­a­tive efforts to not just over­turn the 2020 elec­tion results but gen­er­al­ly under­mine vot­er pro­tec­tions. Ongo­ing efforts to under­mine vot­er pro­tec­tions.

    * Dick DeVos, Father-in-law of Bet­sy DeVos, , was the pres­i­dent of the CNP from 1986–88 and 1990–93. Richard’s wife, Helen DeVos, was also a mem­ber.

    It turns out those three fam­i­lies have been giv­ing heav­i­ly to the Clare­mont Insti­tute in recent years and those dona­tions only appear to be grow­ing. The Clare­mont Institute’s tax fil­ings show that its rev­enue rose from 2019 to 2020 by a half-mil­lion dol­lars to $6.2 mil­lion, one of the high­est sums since the orga­ni­za­tion was found­ed in 1979. Rev­enue for the 2021 fis­cal year had increased to $7.5 mil­lion accord­ing to recent esti­mates. The donors clear­ly approve of the insti­tute’s pro-insur­rec­tion work.

    But it’s also worth not­ing the oth­er known CNP mem­bers with ties to the Clare­mont Insti­tute:

    * Dr. Lar­ry P. Arnn — the Pres­i­dent of Hills­dale Col­lege, Her­itage Foun­da­tion trustee, and co-founder of the Clare­mont Insti­tute — is on the CNP mem­ber­ship list.

    * Dou­glas A. Jef­frey — VP for Exter­nal Affairs and Hills­dale Col­lege, and for­mer exec­u­tive Vice Pres­i­dent of the Clare­mont Insti­tuteis also on the CNP mem­ber­ship list.

    * Elsa Prince — moth­er of Bet­sy DeVos and Erik Prince — is anoth­er CNP mem­ber. It’s worth not­ing that Elsa also sits on the board of the Acton Insti­tute, which was also heav­i­ly patron­ized by the DeVos fam­i­ly and named for ultra-right­ist Lord Acton, a cel­e­brat­ed his­to­ri­an on the right who felt the wrong side won the US civ­il war. Recall how the Acton Insti­tute pub­lished an essay in the weeks fol­low­ing Don­ald Trump’s 2016 elec­tion vic­to­ry call­ing for the relax­ation of child-labor laws. It was par­tic­u­lar­ly notable at the time due to the fact that Bet­sy DeVos sat on the Acton Insti­tute’s board for a decade and was poised to join the Trump admin­is­tra­tion. Also recall how the Acton Insti­tute has been work­ing with Steve Ban­non — anoth­er CNP mem­berin attempt­ing to open a “glad­i­a­tor school for cul­ture war­riors” in Italy.

    The Rolling Stone arti­cle men­tions a cou­ple of the more con­tro­ver­sial new Clare­mont Insti­tute mem­bers in recent years: ‘Alt Right’ per­son­al­i­ty Jack Poso­biec and Char­lie Kirk of Turn­ing Point USA. Kirk is a CNP mem­ber.

    So while the fol­low­ing arti­cle is focused on the impor­tant role these mega-donor fam­i­ly foun­da­tions are play­ing in the financ­ing of one of the key insti­tu­tions con­tin­u­ing to threat­en what’s left of the US’s democ­ra­cy, it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that any sto­ry about the Clare­mont Insti­tute is also just a sub­chap­ter in the larg­er sto­ry of the CNP’s decades-long push to sub­vert Amer­i­can democ­ra­cy:

    The Rolling Stone

    Revealed: The Bil­lion­aires Fund­ing the Coup’s Brain Trust

    Con­ser­v­a­tive mega-donors includ­ing the DeVos­es and Bradleys are pump­ing big mon­ey into the Clare­mont Insti­tute think tank that fueled Trump’s elec­tion-fraud fan­tasies

    By Andy Kroll
    Jan­u­ary 12, 2022 11:58AM ET

    The Clare­mont Insti­tute, once a lit­tle-known think tank often con­fused with the lib­er­al-arts col­lege of the same name, has emerged as a dri­ving force in the con­ser­v­a­tive movement’s cru­sade to use bogus fraud claims about the 2020 elec­tion to rewrite vot­ing laws and remake the elec­tion sys­tem in time for the 2022 midterms and 2024 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Most infa­mous­ly, one of the group’s legal schol­ars craft­ed mem­os out­lin­ing a plan for how then-Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence could poten­tial­ly over­turn the last elec­tion.

    Con­ser­v­a­tive mega-donors like what they see.

    The biggest right-wing megadonors in Amer­i­ca made major con­tri­bu­tions to Clare­mont in 2020 and 2021, accord­ing to foun­da­tion finan­cial records obtained by Rolling Stone. The high-pro­file donors include sev­er­al of the most influ­en­tial fam­i­lies who fund con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics and pol­i­cy: the DeVos­es of West Michi­gan, the Bradleys of Mil­wau­kee, and the Scaifes of Pitts­burgh.

    The Dick and Bet­sy DeVos Foun­da­tion donat­ed $240,000 to Clare­mont in 2020 and approved anoth­er $400,000 to be paid out in the future, tax records show. The Bradley Foun­da­tion donat­ed $100,000 to Clare­mont in 2020 and anoth­er $100,000 in 2021, accord­ing to tax records and a spokes­woman for the group. The Sarah Scaife Foun­da­tion, one of sev­er­al char­i­ties tied to the late right-wing bil­lion­aire Richard Mel­lon Scaife, sup­plied anoth­er $450,000 to Clare­mont in 2020, accord­ing to its lat­est tax fil­ings.

    Claremont’s own tax fil­ings show that its rev­enue rose from 2019 to 2020 by a half-mil­lion dol­lars to $6.2 mil­lion, one of the high­est sums since the orga­ni­za­tion was found­ed in 1979, accord­ing to the most recent avail­able data. A Clare­mont spokesman said the group wouldn’t com­ment about its donors beyond pub­licly avail­able data but esti­mat­ed that Claremont’s rev­enue for the 2021 fis­cal year had increased to $7.5 mil­lion.

    The DeVos­es, Bradleys, and Scaifes are among the most promi­nent donor fam­i­lies in con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics. For Bradley and Scaife, the giv­ing to Clare­mont tracks with a long his­to­ry of fund­ing right-wing caus­es and advo­ca­cy groups, from the Amer­i­can Enter­prise Insti­tute think tank and the “bill mill” Amer­i­can Leg­isla­tive Exchange Coun­cil, to anti-immi­gra­tion zealot David Horowitz’s Free­dom Cen­ter and the cli­mate-deny­ing Heart­land Insti­tute.

    Bradley in par­tic­u­lar has giv­en heav­i­ly to groups that traf­fic in mis­lead­ing or base­less claims about “elec­tion integri­ty” or wide­spread “vot­er fraud.” Thanks to a $6.5 mil­lion infu­sion from the Bradley Impact Fund, a relat­ed non­prof­it, the under­cov­er-sting group Project Ver­i­tas near­ly dou­bled its rev­enue in 2020 to $22 mil­lion, accord­ing to the group’s tax fil­ing. Bradley is also a long-time fun­der of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, which helped archi­tect the wave of vot­er sup­pres­sion bills intro­duced in state leg­is­la­tures this year, and True the Vote, a con­ser­v­a­tive group that trains poll watch­ers and stokes fears of ram­pant vot­er fraud in the past.

    The Bradley Foun­da­tion was found­ed in 1942 by the Bradley fam­i­ly. Broth­ers Har­ry and Lyn­de Bradley co-found­ed the Allen-Bradley com­pa­ny, which would lat­er pro­vide much of the fund­ing for the Bradley Foun­da­tion. The non­prof­it, which has giv­en out more than $1 bil­lion in its his­to­ry, no longer has any Bradley fam­i­ly mem­bers on its board.

    But while the Bradley dona­tions are to be expect­ed, the con­tri­bu­tions from the Dick and Bet­sy DeVos Foun­da­tion to Clare­mont are per­haps more sur­pris­ing. Bet­sy DeVos, in one of her final acts as Trump’s edu­ca­tion sec­re­tary, con­demned the “angry mob” on Jan­u­ary 6 and said “the law must be upheld and the work of the peo­ple must go on.”

    A spokesman for the DeVos­es, Nick Was­miller, said Bet­sy DeVos’s let­ter “speaks for itself.” He added: “Clare­mont does work in many areas. It would be base­less to assert the Foundation’s sup­port has any con­nec­tion to the one item you cite.” While the foundation’s 2020 tax fil­ing said its grants to Clare­mont were unre­strict­ed, Was­miller said the fil­ing was wrong and the mon­ey had been ear­marked. How­ev­er, he declined to say what it was ear­marked for.

    The dona­tions flow­ing into Clare­mont illus­trate that although the group’s full-throat­ed sup­port for Trump and fix­a­tion on elec­tion crimes may be extreme, they’re not fringe views when they have the back­ing of influ­en­tial con­ser­v­a­tive fun­ders. “Were it not for the patron­age of bil­lion­aire con­ser­v­a­tives and their fam­i­ly foun­da­tions, the Clare­mont Insti­tute would like­ly be rel­e­gat­ed to scream­ing about its anti-gov­ern­ment agen­da on the street cor­ner,” says Kyle Her­rig, pres­i­dent of gov­ern­ment watch­dog group Accountable.US.

    The Clare­mont spokesman respond­ed to Herrig’s com­ment by say­ing “We think the dark mon­ey behind Accountable.US, under left-wing umbrel­la groups like Ara­bel­la Advi­sors, are threats to democ­ra­cy and West­ern civ­i­liza­tion. We defer to Herrig’s exper­tise on street cor­ners.”

    The Clare­mont Institute’s mis­sion, as its pres­i­dent, Ryan Williams, recent­ly put it, is to “save West­ern civ­i­liza­tion.” Since the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race, Clare­mont tried to give an intel­lec­tu­al veneer to the frothy mix of nativism and iso­la­tion­ism rep­re­sent­ed by can­di­date Don­ald Trump. The think tank was per­haps best known for its mag­a­zine, the Clare­mont Review of Books, and on the eve of the ’16 elec­tion, the Review pub­lished an essay called “The Flight 93 Elec­tion,” com­par­ing the choice fac­ing Repub­li­can vot­ers to that of the pas­sen­gers who ulti­mate­ly chose to bring down the fourth plane on Sep­tem­ber 11th. If con­ser­v­a­tives didn’t rush the prover­bial cock­pit, the author, iden­ti­fied by the pen name Pub­lius Decius Mus, “death is cer­tain. To com­pound the metaphor: a Hillary Clin­ton pres­i­den­cy is Russ­ian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylin­der and take your chances.”

    The essay’s author, lat­er revealed to be a con­ser­v­a­tive writer named Michael Anton, went to work in the Trump White House, which made sense giv­en his descrip­tion in “Flight 93 Elec­tion” of “the cease­less impor­ta­tion of Third World for­eign­ers with no tra­di­tion of, taste for, or expe­ri­ence in lib­er­ty means that the elec­torate grows more left, more Demo­c­ra­t­ic, less Repub­li­can, less repub­li­can, and less tra­di­tion­al­ly Amer­i­can with every cycle.”

    For­mer Clare­mont schol­ars said they were aghast by the think tank’s full-on embrace of Trump in 2016. “The Clare­mont Insti­tute spent 36 years as a res­olute­ly anti-pop­ulist insti­tu­tion, [and] preached right­ly that norms and insti­tu­tions were hard to build and easy to destroy, so to watch them sud­den­ly embrace Trump in May 2016 was like if PETA sud­den­ly pub­lished a bar­be­cue cook­book,” one for­mer fel­low told Vice News.

    In recent years, the think tank court­ed con­tro­ver­sy when it award­ed paid fel­low­ships to Jack Poso­biec, a right-wing influ­encer who was an ear­ly pro­mot­er of the Seth Rich and Piz­za­gate con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, and Char­lie Kirk, head of the pro-Trump activist group Turn­ing Point USA who has pushed base­less elec­tion-fraud the­o­ries and vowed to defend young peo­ple who wouldn’t refused vac­ci­na­tion from what he called “med­ical apartheid.”

    But Clare­mont wouldn’t ful­ly land in the spot­light until the end of Trump’s pres­i­den­cy. On Jan. 6, John East­man, a law pro­fes­sor and Clare­mont schol­ar, spoke at the “Save Amer­i­ca” ral­ly on Jan. 6, 2021, that pre­ced­ed the Capi­tol insur­rec­tion. East­man repeat­ed sev­er­al elec­tion-relat­ed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, alleg­ing that “machines con­tributed to that fraud” by “unload­ing the bal­lots from the secret fold­er,” a ver­sion of the ram­pant con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries spread by Trump cam­paign lawyers about the com­pa­ny Domin­ion Vot­ing Sys­tems.

    As would lat­er be revealed, East­man also wrote two mem­os out­lin­ing a plan for how then-Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence could over­turn the 2020 result on Jan­u­ary 6. “The main thing here is that Pence should do this with­out ask­ing for per­mis­sion — either from a vote of the joint ses­sion or from the Court,” East­man wrote. “Let the oth­er side chal­lenge his actions in court…” (Worth not­ing: The Clare­mont Review would lat­er pub­lish its own cri­tique of Eastman’s mem­os by a pro­fes­sor of gov­ern­ment and ethics at Clare­mont McKen­na col­lege. After walk­ing through a key piece of Eastman’s argu­ment, the pro­fes­sor, Joseph Bes­sette, wrote: “One doesn’t have to be a schol­ar of the Amer­i­can Found­ing, a pro­fes­sor of con­sti­tu­tion­al law, or an expert in elec­tion law to know that this sim­ply can­not be right.”)

    Clare­mont con­tin­ues to push the stolen-elec­tion myth and has appar­ent­ly helped state law­mak­ers draft leg­is­la­tion to make elec­tion laws more favor­able to the Repub­li­can Par­ty. In Octo­ber, Clare­mont Pres­i­dent Ryan Williams told an under­cov­er lib­er­al activist that East­man was “still very involved with a lot of the state leg­is­la­tors and advis­ing them on elec­tion integri­ty stuff.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Revealed: The Bil­lion­aires Fund­ing the Coup’s Brain Trust” by Andy Kroll; The Rolling Stone; 01/12/2022

    “The biggest right-wing megadonors in Amer­i­ca made major con­tri­bu­tions to Clare­mont in 2020 and 2021, accord­ing to foun­da­tion finan­cial records obtained by Rolling Stone. The high-pro­file donors include sev­er­al of the most influ­en­tial fam­i­lies who fund con­ser­v­a­tive pol­i­tics and pol­i­cy: the DeVos­es of West Michi­gan, the Bradleys of Mil­wau­kee, and the Scaifes of Pitts­burgh.”

    The DeVos­es, Scaifes, and Bradleys. All con­ser­v­a­tive mega-donors. And all fam­i­lies with long-stand­ing Coun­cil for Nation­al Pol­i­cy con­nec­tions, along with new mem­ber Char­lie Kirk:

    ...
    Bradley in par­tic­u­lar has giv­en heav­i­ly to groups that traf­fic in mis­lead­ing or base­less claims about “elec­tion integri­ty” or wide­spread “vot­er fraud.” Thanks to a $6.5 mil­lion infu­sion from the Bradley Impact Fund, a relat­ed non­prof­it, the under­cov­er-sting group Project Ver­i­tas near­ly dou­bled its rev­enue in 2020 to $22 mil­lion, accord­ing to the group’s tax fil­ing. Bradley is also a long-time fun­der of the Her­itage Foun­da­tion, which helped archi­tect the wave of vot­er sup­pres­sion bills intro­duced in state leg­is­la­tures this year, and True the Vote, a con­ser­v­a­tive group that trains poll watch­ers and stokes fears of ram­pant vot­er fraud in the past.

    The Bradley Foun­da­tion was found­ed in 1942 by the Bradley fam­i­ly. Broth­ers Har­ry and Lyn­de Bradley co-found­ed the Allen-Bradley com­pa­ny, which would lat­er pro­vide much of the fund­ing for the Bradley Foun­da­tion. The non­prof­it, which has giv­en out more than $1 bil­lion in its his­to­ry, no longer has any Bradley fam­i­ly mem­bers on its board.

    ...

    In recent years, the think tank court­ed con­tro­ver­sy when it award­ed paid fel­low­ships to Jack Poso­biec, a right-wing influ­encer who was an ear­ly pro­mot­er of the Seth Rich and Piz­za­gate con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, and Char­lie Kirk, head of the pro-Trump activist group Turn­ing Point USA who has pushed base­less elec­tion-fraud the­o­ries and vowed to defend young peo­ple who wouldn’t refused vac­ci­na­tion from what he called “med­ical apartheid.”
    ...

    Then there’s the infa­mous “The Flight 93 Elec­tion” essay pub­lished on the eve of the 2016 elec­tion by Michael Anton, essen­tial­ly mak­ing a kind of ‘red-pilled’ ratio­nale for why the risks of asso­ci­at­ed with Trump’s open fas­cism pale in com­par­i­son to the dan­gers of a Hillary Clin­ton pres­i­den­cy. The Clare­mont Insti­tute been fas­cism-friend­ly for years:

    ...
    The Clare­mont Institute’s mis­sion, as its pres­i­dent, Ryan Williams, recent­ly put it, is to “save West­ern civ­i­liza­tion.” Since the 2016 pres­i­den­tial race, Clare­mont tried to give an intel­lec­tu­al veneer to the frothy mix of nativism and iso­la­tion­ism rep­re­sent­ed by can­di­date Don­ald Trump. The think tank was per­haps best known for its mag­a­zine, the Clare­mont Review of Books, and on the eve of the ’16 elec­tion, the Review pub­lished an essay called “The Flight 93 Elec­tion,” com­par­ing the choice fac­ing Repub­li­can vot­ers to that of the pas­sen­gers who ulti­mate­ly chose to bring down the fourth plane on Sep­tem­ber 11th. If con­ser­v­a­tives didn’t rush the prover­bial cock­pit, the author, iden­ti­fied by the pen name Pub­lius Decius Mus, “death is cer­tain. To com­pound the metaphor: a Hillary Clin­ton pres­i­den­cy is Russ­ian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylin­der and take your chances.”

    The essay’s author, lat­er revealed to be a con­ser­v­a­tive writer named Michael Anton, went to work in the Trump White House, which made sense giv­en his descrip­tion in “Flight 93 Elec­tion” of “the cease­less impor­ta­tion of Third World for­eign­ers with no tra­di­tion of, taste for, or expe­ri­ence in lib­er­ty means that the elec­torate grows more left, more Demo­c­ra­t­ic, less Repub­li­can, less repub­li­can, and less tra­di­tion­al­ly Amer­i­can with every cycle.”
    ...

    It’s worth not­ing that Anton pub­lished an essay in the Clare­mont Review of Books in the days fol­low­ing the insur­rec­tion where he lament­ed how the insur­rec­tion would be used to cur­tail civ­il lib­er­ties while mak­ing the case that there real­ly were mas­sive elec­tion anom­alies. In May of 2021, Anton held a two-hour pod­cast with ‘Alt Right’ per­son­al­i­ty Cur­tis Yarvin (a.k.a. Men­cius Mold­bug) on the top­ic of whether or not the US should have an ‘Amer­i­can Cae­sar’.

    But it’s John East­man’s ongo­ing role as one of the lead­ing ‘con­sti­tu­tion­al schol­ars’ back­ing the ‘stolen elec­tion’ nar­ra­tive that makes this sto­ry a warn­ing of what’s to come. John East­man’s cred­i­bil­i­ty as a con­sti­tu­tion­al lawyer is root­ed in large part with his asso­ci­a­tion with insti­tu­tions like the Fed­er­al­ist Soci­ety and the Clare­mont Insti­tute. It’ an exam­ple of how the attempt to steal the 2020 elec­tion was for all prac­ti­cal pur­pos­es a Repub­li­can estab­lish­ment plan:

    ...
    But Clare­mont wouldn’t ful­ly land in the spot­light until the end of Trump’s pres­i­den­cy. On Jan. 6, John East­man, a law pro­fes­sor and Clare­mont schol­ar, spoke at the “Save Amer­i­ca” ral­ly on Jan. 6, 2021, that pre­ced­ed the Capi­tol insur­rec­tion. East­man repeat­ed sev­er­al elec­tion-relat­ed con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, alleg­ing that “machines con­tributed to that fraud” by “unload­ing the bal­lots from the secret fold­er,” a ver­sion of the ram­pant con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries spread by Trump cam­paign lawyers about the com­pa­ny Domin­ion Vot­ing Sys­tems.

    As would lat­er be revealed, East­man also wrote two mem­os out­lin­ing a plan for how then-Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence could over­turn the 2020 result on Jan­u­ary 6. “The main thing here is that Pence should do this with­out ask­ing for per­mis­sion — either from a vote of the joint ses­sion or from the Court,” East­man wrote. “Let the oth­er side chal­lenge his actions in court…” (Worth not­ing: The Clare­mont Review would lat­er pub­lish its own cri­tique of Eastman’s mem­os by a pro­fes­sor of gov­ern­ment and ethics at Clare­mont McKen­na col­lege. After walk­ing through a key piece of Eastman’s argu­ment, the pro­fes­sor, Joseph Bes­sette, wrote: “One doesn’t have to be a schol­ar of the Amer­i­can Found­ing, a pro­fes­sor of con­sti­tu­tion­al law, or an expert in elec­tion law to know that this sim­ply can­not be right.”)

    Clare­mont con­tin­ues to push the stolen-elec­tion myth and has appar­ent­ly helped state law­mak­ers draft leg­is­la­tion to make elec­tion laws more favor­able to the Repub­li­can Par­ty. In Octo­ber, Clare­mont Pres­i­dent Ryan Williams told an under­cov­er lib­er­al activist that East­man was “still very involved with a lot of the state leg­is­la­tors and advis­ing them on elec­tion integri­ty stuff.”
    ...

    So as we can see, if the Clare­mont Insti­tute learned any­thing from the Jan­u­ary 6 Capi­tol insur­rec­tion, it’s the les­son that there are no costs to wag­ing an insur­rec­tion. Sure, the rab­ble who stormed the Capi­tol might end up fac­ing con­se­quences. But the archi­tects and financiers will walk. And not only will they walk, but they’ll be wel­comed back into polite soci­ety and giv­en shov­els of cash to pre­pare for the next insur­rec­tion. Con­se­quences are for the poor. It’s not exact­ly a new les­son for the oli­garchy. Kind of the same les­son they just keep learn­ing over and over.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 16, 2022, 8:03 pm

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