Network of “Christian” and Fossil Fuel Interests Targets 22 Election

March 26, 2021

Jesus would puke.


Five years ago, at the dawn of the Trump era, few national observers were focused on the role of the Council for National Policy. That was not a coincidence; over the past four decades, this coalition of Christian nationalists and fossil fuel interests has deliberately kept a low public profile, maintaining both its meetings and its membership under a veil of secrecy. Although it is registered with the IRS as a tax-exempt “educational” organization, it has advanced an unapologetically partisan agenda, promoting Republican candidates from the radical right and purging moderates. Key to its success is the expansion of its information ecosystem, composed of fundamentalist broadcasting outlets and myriad digital platforms. Often masquerading as “news” outlets, these organizations have served as vehicles for partisan propaganda and dangerous disinformation, including the ongoing hydroxychloroquine hoax claiming that the drug cures COVID-19.

Even Washington insiders who were familiar with the CNP often discounted its influence. As of 2020 this was no longer possible. CNP affiliates played an outsized role in helping Trump win the 2016 election (as documented in my book Shadow Network), offering his campaign the money, the strategy, and the ground troops his primitive operation lacked—enhanced by state-of-the-art digital campaign tools and the Koch Brothers’ i360 data platform. The CNP went on to reap the benefits: CNP’s then-president Tony Perkins, became a regular visitor to the Oval Office, where he successfully lobbied to restrict the civil rights of LGBTQ populations. Trump granted a day of exclusive coverage at the White House to Salem Media, co-founded by another former president of the CNP. CNP leadership pushed the nominations of right-wing federal judges, and turned out in force for the Rose Garden super-spreader event to celebrate the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett

In early 2020, CNP members had every reason to feel confident of Trump’s reelection, based on strong economic indicators and a contentious Democratic opposition. Then COVID-19 struck. For the next ten months, the CNP and its partner organizations supported Trump’s increasingly desperate attempts to remain in office. CNP Gold Circle member Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Koch Brothers’ Tea Party Patriots, orchestrated the promotion of the hydroxychloroquine hoax, designed to reopen the country in time to benefit Trump’s campaign rallies. A steep price was paid, by both gullible followers and patients with auto-immune diseases who had a legitimate need for the drug.

As the campaign season advanced, the CNP leadership realized that Trump’s chances were eroding. They held a series of strategy meetings, which were accessed and recorded for the first time by researcher Brent Allpress. There the CNP strategists laid out a series of options: If Trump lost the popular vote, they would emphasize the Electoral College. If he lost the Electoral College, they would promote spurious claims of election fraud and support challenges to the electors in Republican-controlled statehouses. Videos of the meetings record the presentation of these strategies by various CNP members, including Lisa Nelson, CEO of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), attorney Cleta Mitchell, and Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and a member of the Board of Directors of CNP Action, the organization’s lobbying arm.

After the November votes were counted, the organization went into overdrive. On December 10 the CNP leadership released a letter(drafted by Mitchell) calling on legislators in swing states to throw out over 25 million votes based on false claims of electoral fraud. On January 2, 2021, Cleta Mitchell represented Trump on his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pressuring him to alter his state’s count.

Finally, as a last-gasp effort, a number of members helped to organize the January 6 “Stop the Steal” protest on Capitol Hill. CNP members Jenny Beth Martin, Charlie Kirk, and Virginia Thomas all publicized the event in advance. Ali Alexander, a former CNP member, was a lead organizer, and Trump advisor Michael Flynn, who appeared on the CNP’s staff roster, gave an address at the protest saluting his QAnon supporters. 

That attempt to sabotage the electoral process failed to halt the certification of the electoral votes — barely—but so far there have been shockingly few consequences. Jenny Beth Martin has gone on to attack Biden nominations and policies without missing a beat. Martin’s front woman, Dr. Simone Gold, has expanded the hydroxychloroquine hoax into an anti-vaccine crusade, labelling COVID-19 vaccines “an experimental biological agent deceptively named a vaccine.” Equally worrisome, the CNP has regrouped to assert its influence on a state level. Working through Republican-controlled state legislatures, ALEC has renewed its attempt to restrict voting rights in time for the 2022 midterm elections.

The Biden administration came to office with a nearly 7 million lead in the popular vote, but his Electoral College victory was based on a razor-thin margin of less than 45,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona (both current targets of voting suppression legislation), and Wisconsin. As election-watchers look ahead to 2024, they should bear in mind that the Council for National Policy is characterized by three traits: it does not give up; its tactics are infinitely morphable; and it is willing to operate on the very fringes of legality, without regard for public safety or the principles of democracy.

more at link.

On May 20, 1981, during Ronald Reagan’s first year in office, the Council for National Policy’s first gathering took place in direct mail entrepreneur Richard Richard Art Viguerie’s home in McLean, Virginia. According to a 1981 news report from the New York Times, Virguerie said “we have never had, up to now, any kind of broad, all-inclusive organization of conservative-thinking people, people who have a lot of leverage.” 

CNP founding members include Viguerie and:

  • Tim LaHaye and his wife Beverly, a Christian minister who also founded Concerned Women for America 
  • Phyllis Schalfy, founder of the Eagle Forum 
  • Nelson Bunker Hunt, a gay-rights opponent and Texas oilman 
  • Anita Bryant, an anti-gay activist who founded the first national anti-gay group, Save Our Children
  • Joseph Coors, president of Coors Brewing Company and grandson of Adolph Coors who founded the beer company
  • Paul Weyrich who co-founded the Heritage Foundation, Free Congress Foundation, and American Legislative Exchange Council
  • Morton Blackwell, Leadership Institute Founder and President

During the Trump Administration, CNP has had numerous Trump appointees at their meetings, ranging from cabinet officials to Vice President Pence and President Donald Trump. 

After convening regularly for nearly forty years, CNP has mainly avoided the spotlight of news reports. From its founding, CNP has closely guarded its membership rosters and meeting agendas and has avoided public scrutiny.

A recent and groundbreaking investigation by the Washington Post revealed numerous moments from recent CNP sessions, showing conservative activists discussing “election tactics, amplifying conspiracy theories and describing much of America in dark and apocalyptic terms.”  

4 Responses to “Network of “Christian” and Fossil Fuel Interests Targets 22 Election”

  1. doldrom Says:

    … amplifying conspiracy theories …


    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      It’s very patriarchal. One of the founding members was Phyllis Schlafly, a woman who made a career out of telling women not to have careers.

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Key to its success is the expansion of its information ecosystem, composed of fundamentalist broadcasting outlets and myriad digital platforms.

    So, Peter, are you part of the Sinclair Group?

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