This alt-right network has pushed the envelope of political legality since Watergate and the Reagan Administration. It is comprised of white nationalists that have worked strategically to infiltrate local and state governments, members of the Republican party, alt-right media strategists; conservative policy think-tanks and generous donors.
All their activity, though, can be traced back to the efforts of five people: Bert Rein, Richard Wiley, the Koch Brothers, and Robert Mercer.
Wiley and Rein also became prominent figures in the Reagan Administration. Rein worked as part of Reagan’s presidential transition team, while Wiley and Rein both work with conservative billionaire Robert Mercer through collaborations between the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation describes itself as a conservative think-tank “whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.” The Heritage Foundation was a dominant figure in directing President Reagan’s transition team as well as in formulating the Administration’s policy.
Ed Meese, John Bolton, Paul Manafort and Jeff Sessions are all key figures in the Trump campaign that originally made a name for themselves, whether for the good or the bad, during the Reagan Administration.
Ed Meese, an early critic of Trump who recently joined the transition team and was also part of the Reagan transition team with Bert Rein, joined the Heritage Foundation in 1988 as the organization’s first Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow. Meese was, and is, an important liaison for the evangelical community, chaired the Just Say No program, and is staunchly anti-immigrant. Counseled Reagan during the Iran-Contra affair and would eventually have to resign his position in the Administration as a result of the Wedtech scandal.
John Bolton and Ed Meese worked together directly on what would come to be known as the Iran-Contra scandal. Then a “controversial UN ambassador,” Bolton has gone on to serve in a number of federal positions including Assistant Attorney General under Ronald Reagan. Bolton was a protégé of Jesse Helms, actively calls for military interference in Iran, supports the War on Drugs, is anti-UN, and was an active promoter of the false WMD narrative for Iraq and similar accusations made about Cuba. He was the Vice President of the American Enterprise Institute - the organization strongly influenced by Bert Rein, supported with funding from Charles and David Koch and that is responsible for the gutting of the Voting Right Act in 2013. He is one of the front runners to serve as the Secretary of State should Trump be allowed to assume the presidency.
Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager, is another alumni of the Reagan Administration. Manafort is a campaign strategist that designs campaigns both nationally and internationally. In the US, he has worked on the Ford, Reagan and Bush campaigns. Internationally, he has been linked to the campaigns of Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, Jonas Savimbi of the Angolan rebel group UNITA, admitted to writing the strategy for the Karachi Affair and served as an advisor on the campaign of pro-Russian Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovich. Manafort worked closely with the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute to support Savimbi and met Trump through his partnership at Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelley - where Trump was a client. Manafort also has an apartment in Trump Tower. He became Trump’s lead strategist in March 2016 after the departure of Americans for Prosperity’s (Koch) Corey Lewandowski. He is credited with helping Trump destroy decades of potentially damaging documents and emails and is currently under FBI investigation for his ties to foreign nations.
Newt Gingrich is also prominent figure from the Reagan Era with close ties to the Trump campaign. On the short list to be one of Trump’s running mates, the former Congressman from Georgia’s 6th District designed Reagan’s “Open Society” platform for Reagan’s 1984 Presidential Campaign. He would go on to write 1994’s Contract with America and praise Trump’s 2016 Contract with the American Voter, which was noticeably similar. During his time in Congress, Gingrich practiced and refined his strategies to remove his Democratic colleagues from office. He was able to successfully unseat the Democratic Speaker of the House, Jim Wright. He led the Republicans to the first house majority since before the Civil Rights era. Gingrich became Speaker of the House, led two government shut downs, initiated the efforts to impeach Bill Clinton and was named 1995 Time Magazine’s Man of the Year. He unsuccessfully launched a presidential campaign in 2012, but has continued to influence federal elections through the Trump campaign.
Finally, Jeff Sessions rounds out Trump’s team of Reagan Administration veterans. Sessions is the Senator for Alabama, the same state that launched the Shelby County vs Holder case that resulted in the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and has been ranked as the US’s fifth most conservative senator. Sessions was originally nominated by the Reagan administration to serve on the United States District Court of Alabama; however, his nomination was not confirmed. Reagan then submitted his nomination for United States Attorney of Southern Alabama. Sessions was confirmed and held this position for twelve years. He earned the title of “amnesty’s worst enemy” by rejecting virtually every path to citizenship that has come across his desk. He has fought to restrict legal as well as illegal immigration as well. Sessions is a climate change skeptic, anti-marijuana, anti-LGBTQ rights, and voted against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. He has advised Trump on all his major policy platforms thus far and has been chosen to serve under his as the Attorney General should he be allowed to occupy the White House.
In addition to these strategists, two organizations associated with the Trump campaign would also emerge to assert their positions as far right political powerhouses. As described, the Heritage Foundation fueled by Robert Mercer, Ed Meese and Wiley Rein functioned to influence policy from within the political system. Robert Mercer, Charles Koch and David Koch would also combine forces to support the formation of a grassroots education and advocacy group that could apply political pressure from the outside called Citizens United. Citizens United would also produce another strategist for the Trump Campaign – David Bossie.
The far-right continued testing the boundaries of political behavior through the 1990s as the election of Democrat Bill Clinton put the Republicans on the defensive. Attack campaigns increased in prevalence and pundits that engaged in political attacks also increased their value in both the public eye and within the Republican party. Legal attacks against Democrats such as the Clintons also because a widely-used tactic to advance the right-wing agenda. Among those that gained prominence for their methods of attack were Kellyanne Fitzpatrick (Conway), George T. Conway III, Matt Drudge and Andrew Breitbart.
KellyAnne Conway, formerly KellyAnne Fitzpatrick, began her political career working in polling for the GOP’s Wirthlin Group. She gained a name for herself as a far-right television pundit along with other right wing colleagues such as Anne Coulter and Laura Ingraham. While engaged in this work, she caught the eye of George T. Conway III. Conway was a lawyer that had been involved in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case against Bill Clinton. He was also part of the efforts to impeach him. It is said that the same month that George Conway fed Matt Drudgethe information that allowed him to break the Monica Lewinski Story, he saw Fitzpatrick on the cover of a magazine and asked a mutual friend to set them up. They met a year later, married in 2001 and had four children.
Kellyanne went on to start her own polling group, The Polling Company Inc./Woman Trend and boasts a list of clients that includes the NRA, Freedomworks, Americans for Prosperity, The Heritage Foundation, Newt Gingrich and Mike Pence. Kellyanne Conway also served as the spokesperson for Robert Mercer. In the 1990’s, though, Kellyanne was part of a nework of political organizations, people, pundits and news outlets that specialized in attacking the Clintons.
One of the most prominent members of this network was Matt Drudge, creator of the Drudge Report. The Drudge Report gained notoriety in 1996 when it broke the news that Jack Kemp was chosen to be Bob Dole’s running mate in the presidential election. In addition to breaking this story and the Lewinski scandal, he is also credited with breaking a number of widely publicized, disparaging stories against leading Democrats. Drudge has consistently served as an important link between political insiders and their alt-right constituency. In the 1990’s, though, that he took on a protégé that would eventually join this network with his own alt-right media network - Andrew Breitbart.
Breitbart worked as an editor for Drudge until he left amicably to start Breitbart News Network with Larry Solov in 2007. Breitbart.com had just began making its presence known when Breitbart himself died of a massive heart attack in 2012. He would be replaced at the network by Trump’s current Chief Strategist, Stephen Bannon.
In the 1990s, Bannon was running a boutique investment bank that specialized in media production. Bannon and Co. would eventually be sold but Bannon would remain focused on the media. He moved to Hollywood and began producing films such as Occupy Unmasked, The Undefeated (a film about Sarah Palin), and a documentary about Ronald Reagan entitled In the Face of Evil. It was during the making of this film that he met Andrew Brietbart.
The two developed a strong working relationship and Bannon became a member of the board at Breitbart in 2007. When he became the executive chair, Bannon reshaped Breitbart and turned it to a media home and safe space for members of the alt-right. In 2016, the website Breitbart.com declared itself “the platform for the alt-right” and in August of that same year, Bannon brought that platform to the race for the White House when he became the chief executive for the Donald Trump campaign.
The alt-right political network, though, had been preparing for the 2016 election since long before Bannon joined the team. The Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute and Citizen’s United all continued to gather influence in the political field. Charles and David Koch’s organization Citizens for a Sound Economy split into two groups in 2004. One group, the Americans for Prosperity, would become the protest and media arm of the alt-right’s political movement. The other arm, Freedomworks, would serve as the ground team for state and local elections and a political lifeline for the Tea Party.
The Koch Brothers teamed up again with Bert Rein and American Enterprise Institute’s Ed Blum to push their alt-right agenda in the courts through the Project on Fair Representation (founded in 2005). The mission of this organization is to “is to facilitate pro bono legal representation to political subdivisions and individuals that wish to challenge government distinctions and preferences made on the basis of race and ethnicity.” Their primary target was the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Specifically, the Project on Fair Representation sought to remove the provision that required certain jurisdictions to gain approval of the federal government before making changes in their voting policies. The removal of this restriction would allow states to make adjustments to their voting policies that directly benefitted the Republican party and the alt-right agenda.
In 2011, the Charles and David Koch founded Freedom Partners in order to funnel grant money into activist organizations and ground level political actions. In 2013, the alt-right network was successful in their efforts to gut the Voting Rights Act when they won the case of Shelby County vs Holden (2013). In related practical efforts, Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity were taken to court for accusations of voter suppression efforts in states such as Florida, Virginia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Michigan. Using characteristically aggressive tactics, including the strategic suppression of minority voters, the alt-right network was able to make dramatic waves in the 2010 and 2014 elections - and the Republican party was able to take control of Congress.
The Alt-right’s checklist to take control of the federal government without the use of military force was as follows:
- Infiltrate Congress – Achieved 2010
- Eliminate Funding Restrictions – Achieved 2010
- Take Control of the RNC – Achieved in 2011
- Kill Voting Protections – Achieved in 2013
- Take Control of Congress – Achieved in 2014
- Take Control of the Supreme Court – Achieved if 1) Obama administration doesn’t successfully counter efforts to delay appointment and 2) if the Republican candidate secures the Presidency
- Take Control of the Presidency – Goal:2016
By 2016, all that was left for the alt-right to achieve a full takeover of the government of the United States - without firing one shot - was gaining control of the Presidency.
In efforts to alter the course of the 2016 Presidential Election, the alt-right experimented with a number of candidates. The two most notable of these being Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. While the two candidates were competitors in the Republican presidential primaries, they were both being funded and directed by key players from the alt-right.
Ted Cruz’s dominant SuperPAC was Keep the Promise 1. This SuperPAC was funded by Robert Mercer and headed by KellyAnne Conway. Donald Trump’s campaign was a project of Charles Koch and David Koch.
Trumps original core group of handlers for the campaign included Roger Stone (of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly), Corey Lewandowski (of Americans for Prosperity), and Alan Cobb (a government affairs executive for Koch). Early supporters of Trump also included Jeff Sessions, Stephen Bannon, and Rudy Giuliani. It was Jeff Sessions that submitted Trumps name as the GOP presidential nominee at the Republican National Convention. In March of 2016, Paul Manafort formally joined the campaign. And after Ted Cruz was pulled out of the campaign, all resources shifted to Trump.
The Keep the Promise 1 SuperPAC was rebranded as Defeat Crooked Hillary by Citizen’s United’s David Bossie. Kellyanne Conway was moved from the Cruz campaign to the Trump campaign. The media campaign in support of Trump and attacking Clinton was re-launched by Stephen Bannon and Jared Kushner, Trump’s son in law and the director of Project Alamo and the campaign acquired the open support of Reince Priebus and Mike Pence.
With full funding, a strategic team that spans from Nixon to Conway, a fully functioning alt-right media network, the social and tactical support of the Tea Party and the reluctant backing of the Republican party, the alt-right engaged in a full-scale attack for control of the White House. This attack included timely interference from the FBI director James Comey and Wikileaks, potential interference from Russian intelligence organizations, and widespread efforts to suppress the votes of target Democrats and people of color in key locations. These locations included states that Trump was able to turn from Blue to Red.
Without the suppression efforts that were reported in pivotal swing states, it is unlikely that Trump would have been able to secure the votes needed to win Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona. Without these votes, he and the alt-right would not have been able to win the 2016 presidential election. Without suppressing people of color’s Constitutional right to vote, the alt-right would not have been able to execute their strategy to take full control of the federal government.
In light of the information tying the Trump campaign to voting suppression tactics nationally and specifically in key swing states, and with consideration for the Safe Harbor deadline of December 13th - the Strategic Institute of Intersectional Policy is calling for an immediate cessation to all activities related to the transfer of power to the Republican Party. This call includes firm requests for President Obama, Hillary Clinton, Lorretta Lynch, and the Democratic members of Congress to exercise their full authority to stop the transfer of power; investigate the states, organizations and people involved in the strategic design and implementation of voter suppression efforts, and postpone the electoral college accordingly.
The Strategic Institute of Intersectional Policy is also calling for a Suppression Extension to be mobilized in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Arizona. This extension would be granted to those that were prevented from exercising their Constitutional right to vote as a result of voter suppression efforts engaged in by the government and by private organizations and individuals. These states would then be allowed to add these votes to those already counted in the election. In this way, the voices of all those that are Constitutionally granted the right to vote are able to do so to choose the next president of the United States.
This effort needs your support. Please go to the Strategic Institute for Intersectional Policy’s website for more information: http://strategycampsite.org/strategy-to-stop-trump.html
Update: This article has been updated to reflect the Wiley and Rein are key white supremacist figures involved with the Heritage Foundation’s network. They did not found the Heritage Foundation.