The Council for National Policy (CNP) is a good example of how a small organization with a modest budget can have a big impact. Founded in 1981 by Tim LaHaye and other right-wing activists, the CNP undertakes just one task: convening meetings of the heads of various right-wing groups at posh hotels around the country to share ideas, plot strategy and vet GOP presidential hopefuls.
The CNP does not lobby or file lawsuits. Membership is by invitation only, and the group actively shuns media attention. As far as the CNP’s leadership is concerned, it would be better if Americans didn’t even know the group existed.
In 1999, the CNP attracted more attention than usual after it was reported that George W. Bush had addressed the group. Bush was pressed by reporters to give details about what went on during the closed-door meeting but refused.
In 2004, a New York Times reporter managed to attend a meeting of the group and even obtained its membership list. At that time, reported David Kirkpatrick, the CNP’s membership included Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson, the Free Congress Foundation’s Paul Weyrich (now deceased), Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association and Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform.
The Times described the CNP as a “little-known group of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country.” However, the CNP self defines in its IRS filings as an 600-member “educational foundation” with members “united in their belief in…traditional western values.”
Steve Baldwin, a California Religious Right activist, is the group’s executive director. (Most recently, Baldwin – not to be confused with the actor of the same name – coauthored a book titled From Crayons to Condoms: The Ugly Truth About America’s Public Schools.)
The CNP’s Board of Directors consists of direct mail guru Richard Viguerie; Family Research Council President Tony Perkins; anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist; Richard P. Bott Sr., president of Bott Radio Network; Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, a wealthy Michigan financier of right-wing causes; Stuart W. Epperson, chairman of Salem Radio; Robert Fischer; Kevin L. Gentry; J. Keet Lewis; Christopher Long; Eugene Meyer; Ken Raasch; Adam B. Ross and Stacy W. Taylor.
Others who have been affiliated with the CNP include TV preacher Pat Robertson, the late Jerry Falwell, longtime anti-feminist crusader Phyllis Schlafly, Iran-Contra figure turned right-wing talk radio host Oliver North, the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), wealthy California savings-and-loan heir Howard Ahmanson, former House Majority Leader Dick Army (R-Texas), former Attorney General John Ashcroft, Tommy Thompson, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the late Christian Reconstructionist guru Rousas J. Rushdoony and the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church and The Washington Times.
Some CNP activities are carried on by CNP Action, its 501(c)(4) affiliate.
Baldwin quote: “The vast majority of conservatives are lining up behind him [John McCain], despite their concerns, because Obama scares the daylights out of us.”