In February, members the Council for National Policy (CNP) gathered at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, California, for its first meeting of the year. According to The Center for Media and Democracy’s David Armiak, CNP “laid out its plans for influencing this year’s midterm elections, abolishing abortion rights, defunding the left, limiting China’s influence, and countering a topic of great concern to Republicans: ‘wokeness.’”
The CNP has been a hyperactive force during the COVID pandemic. According to Armiak, research director with the Center for Media and Democracy, (https://www.exposedbycmd.org/2022/03/11/revealed-new-leaders-of-council-for-national-policy-set-extremist-agenda/), it has led efforts “to ignore public health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) … .It played a leading role in the anti-lockdown coalition known as ‘Save Our Country,’ with members making up half of its leadership council and organizing weekly conference calls to coordinate response tactics.”
The CNP is an influential, hyper-secretive and shadowy right-wing organization. It was founded in 1981, during the Reagan administration by Tim LaHaye, then the head of the Moral Majority, Nelson Bunker Hunt, T. Cullen Davis, William Cies, Howard Phillips, and Paul Weyrich. Reagan praised the group for seeking the “return of righteousness, justice and truth” to America.
The CNP has been described by The New York Times as "a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country," who meet three times yearly behind closed doors at undisclosed locations for a confidential conference. The Nation has called it a secretive organization that "networks wealthy right-wing donors together with top conservative operatives to plan long-term movement strategy."
In her book, Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right, Columbia University Professor Anne Nelson writes that the group is known for “connecting the manpower and media of the Christian right with the finances of Western plutocrats and the strategy of right-wing Republican political operatives.”
Recently the CNP was in the headlines when it was reported that Virginia Thomas, the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas a longtime right-wing activist, “had taken on a prominent role at the council during the Trump years and by 2019 had joined the nine-member board of C.N.P. Action, an arm of the council organized as a 501(c)4 under a provision of the tax code that allows for direct political advocacy,” according to The New Your Times’ Danny Hakim and Jo Becker (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/magazine/clarence-thomas-ginni-thomas.html).
The group “brings together old-school Republican luminaries, Christian conservatives, Tea Party activists and MAGA operatives, with more than 400 members who include leaders of organizations like the Federalist Society, the National Rifle Association and the Family Research Council,” Hakim and Becker pointed out.
Over the years, just about every conservative and religious right figure of consequence has been part of the organization (https://cfnp.org/).Members of the CNP have included: General John Singlaub, shipping magnate J. Peter Grace, Edein J. Feulner, of the Heritage Foundation, Rev. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, U.S. Senator Trent Lott, lawyer and paleoconservative activist Michael Peroutka, former United States Attorneys GeneralEdwin Meese and John Ashcroft, gun-rights activist Larry Pratt, and Colonel Oliver North, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, philanthropist Elsa Prince (mother of Blackwater founder and former CEO Erik Prince, and Leonard Leo.
CNP has recently undergone significant leadership changes. According to Armiak, “The group’s Executive Committee is headed by Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, who has taken over from William Walton as CNP’s president. Judicial Watch’s ‘Election Integrity Project’ has pushed for voter roll purges and promotes the myth that voter fraud is widespread in the U.S. J. Kenneth Blackwell, a former secretary of state in Ohio and member of Trump’s failed voter fraud panel, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.” Blackwell “currently chairs the Center for Election Integrity at the America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a nonprofit spin-off of the Trump administration.”
Armiak reported that “Others joining the CNP executive committee this year include Jerry A. Johnson (treasurer), former president of the National Religious Broadcasters; William G. Boykin, retired Army lieutenant general and executive vice president of the Family Research Center; Chad Connelly, president of Faith Wins; and Millie Hallow, managing director of executive operations at the National Rifle Association.
CMD’s Armiak reported that at its February meeting, Dave Bossie, president of Citizens United, spoke on “the most pressing political battles in DC and their impact on the Conservative Movement.” A general session titled “Virginia 2021: Lessons Learned” featured Chad Connelly, founder and president of Faith Wins; Mark Campbell, campaign manager for Glenn Youngkin, the Republican who won the 2021 governor’s race in Virginia; Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation of Virginia; and Chris Wilson, CEO of WPA Intelligence sharing “their analyses of the Virginia race” and “what it means for 2022.”
A general session on the Supreme Court featured included Alan Sears, founder of the Christian right litigation powerhouse Alliance Defending Freedom; Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser; and First Liberty President Kelly Shackelford.
In October 2020, Anne Nelson told the Associated Press that “CNP has been strategizing to dominate the Supreme Court for decades. They have worked through the Federalist Society, the Heritage Foundation, and the National Rifle Association, all run by members of the CNP.”
There were also Panels titled “Defunding the Left,” and New CNP Executive Member Boykin led a panel discussion focused on the question: “Can a Woke Military Address Future Threats?”
“What you have now is a nationwide effort across dozens of states involving voter suppression bills that are being advanced in state legislatures, and they’re being promoted by several groups run by the Council for National Policy,” Nelson told Byline Times’ Heidi Siegmund Cuda last July (https://bylinetimes.com/2021/07/02/end-game-why-the-council-for-national-policys-machine-is-threat-to-u-s-democracy-in-2022/).
Nelson added: “If the Republicans get Congress in the midterms, they will capture our legal procedures. They will have the powers that they need on the courts; they will block Biden’s nominations; and they will remake the courts more and more in their image. And these are the people who will define our future and that of our children.
“So my question to Americans: are you looking at the states with the contested elections, the tight races where their surrogates, many of whom are supported by QAnon, and promoted by QAnon media? Are you trying to safeguard our democracy? Not to push the country to the left, but to maintain a civil centre where we can have an actual functional democracy.”
Two more meetings are scheduled for later this year.