The Grid’s feature on “the Insurrectionists’ Clubhouse” is must reading. It all relates to a Capitol Hill property leased by the Conservative Partnership Institute. Located at 300 Independence Avenue near the John Adams Building annex to the Library of Congress, the townhouse is listed as the headquarters of “roughly a dozen” Trump-aligned “dark money and advocacy groups.” It has studios for television and podcasting, which are utilized by a Who’s Who of Deplorables.
The offices at 300 Independence boast an in-house podcasting studio, a television studio and a host of employees with large Twitter followings. Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert is a “frequent visitor” to CPI’s television studio, according to CPI’s annual report, and she records her podcast, “Bullet Points,” at CPI, as do Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona (“What’s the Biggs Idea?”) and Matt Gaetz of Florida (“Firebrand”), as well as several other right-wing figures.
CPI also opens its facilities to right-wing outlets who help promote Trump-friendly messaging. The Epoch Times, a far-right media company affiliated with the anti-Chinese Communist Party Falun Gong religious movement, films two shows in the building, according to CPI. Right-wing outlet Newsmax filmed a documentary about Jan. 6 at CPI’s television studio.
Please note and store for future reference the close working relationship between Trumpists and the Falun Gong. The cult’s presence at the “Clubhouse” is one strong indicator that the Conservative Partnership Institute is not a normal Washington policy shop. Consider that it’s run by Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows and ex-Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who was moved out of the Heritage Foundation in 2017 for turning it into “more of a tea party organization than a think tank.”
The Conservative Partnership Institute is quickly becoming the most essential conservative organization in Washington.
While today’s Washington is designed to defeat conservatives, CPI is designed to build them up. CPI trains, equips, and brings together the movement’s best leaders—and we do it right here, where and when conservative heroes need us.
Traditional think tanks certainly serve some similar purposes. They’re both a landing spot for members of outgoing administrations and a launching pad for staffing future ones. But they’re mostly concerned with influencing a narrow group of people in Washington who actually have the power to put ideas into action. They don’t actually seek a national audience or focus on getting the most clicks. They do want some visibility for fundraising purposes, so they have media strategies, but that’s ancillary to their purpose.
The CPI, however, is all about influencing the electorate, mainly through gross misinformation.
CPI is structured in part to act as a 21st century megaphone for pro-Trump messaging, including media perpetuating false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, furthering MAGA-friendly culture war battles and pushing back against efforts to hold Trumpworld figures accountable.
Its tools reflect a growing right-wing communications strategy, which largely avoids mainstream media in favor of direct-to-supporter platforms like podcasts and social media, or engagements with MAGA-friendly outlets.
Even though Trump was president for four years, his media strategy is completely anti-establishmentarian. And yet the CPI is well-funded, directly raising $20 million in 2021, and much more through it’s network of affiliates.
The left does not do this. Certainly, people associated with former presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama do not do this. When I was part of a vibrant community of progressive anti-war writers in Philadelphia during the Bush and early Obama years, we got absolutely no support from anyone important in the Democratic power structure, and there were no left-leaning philanthropists offering to promote our work or turn us into polished television or radio personalities. There are many reasons why this didn’t happen, and one of them is that we weren’t interested in taking money in return for selling the party line.
Maybe it was wise for the Democrats to keep an arm’s length from us, considering that right wound up losing control of their message and platform to a group of supposedly well-heeled radicals. We could have turned out to be a left-wing monster that couldn’t be controlled. But I can’t help feeling that a lot of talent and energy was squandered, and that when the Tea Party arose there was nothing on the other side that could compete on direct-to-supporter platforms.
The chickens really came home to roost in 2016 when Trump’s campaign was almost entirely subterranean and invisible to people not locked into conservative social networks. Why is there so little money being dedicated to promoting left-leaning podcasts and developing media talent?
It’s not that I think the left needs the equivalent of CPI in terms of radicalism or misinformation, but it does need something that can meet CPI on the battlefield.