Charlie Kirk is the smiling young man pictured above in the ad for this year’s Lincoln Day Dinner on Saturday April 13th. He is a 24 year old conservative hustler, founder and president of “Turning Point USA,” a non-profit organization, a 501(c)(3), with a 9 million dollar budget and 130 employees. In 2012 Mr. Kirk was fresh out of high school and angered that someone of “a different ethnicity and gender” took the position at West Point he thought was his. He founded Turning Point USA that year and gained non-profit status two years later. In 2014 he talked wealthy conservatives into donating 2 million dollars, in 2016, 8.2 million. The list of donors to Turning Point USA (sleuthed by The International Business Times) reads like an advertisement for Jane Mayer’s book and exposé Dark Money: DeVos, Bradley, Uihlein, and Home Depot co-founder, Bernie Marcus. (click the link for more.)
The mission of Turning Point USA? To “to identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” The motto: “Big Government Sucks.” The methods? First, establish and maintain The Professor Watchlist to expose professors “who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The website offers a method to “Submit a Tip,” a tactic reminiscent of the McCarthy Era and blacklisting. Second, use non-profit money (tax free) to influence student government elections, elections not governed by campaign finance law, elections never before in need of transparency or subject to political partisan influence. Jane Mayer in The New Yorker and Joseph Guinto in Trump’s Man on Campus (Politico) point out Mr. Kirk consistently overstates his accomplishments in his pitch to donors. He frequently drifts out of non-profit territory, away from advocacy and into electioneering. (But with Trump at the helm and the agency underfunded and understaffed, is the IRS likely to investigate?)
There was a time when one could argue the Republican Party was a party of high-minded ideas led by thought leaders like William F. Buckley, a party dedicated to fiscal conservatism, limiting the national debt, personal freedom (including the freedom of a woman to control her own body), and even racial equality (before Nixon, Goldwater, and the “Southern Strategy” of appealing to racism in pursuit of votes). Based on the invited speakers to Republican events in Spokane County over the last few years you should no longer mistake the Republican Party for a party of ideas: Jason Chaffetz and Deneen Borelli, Tomi Lahren, (all Fox News commentators), Nigel Farage (Mr. Brexit), and now a new and rising star, Mr. Charlie Kirk, a young man whose claim to fame isn’t ideas, but raising money to support blacklisting professors and injecting money into campus politics.
Keep to the high ground,