Conservative Partnership Institute Linked to Trump Gains Prominence in Washington

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TL/DR –

The Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing group with a $36 million annual budget from private donors, is providing a platform for former Trump allies and offering an incubator for policies the former president could pursue if re-elected. Its activities include hosting fundraisers, offering training sessions, providing a TV news studio, and supporting a variety of conservative causes. Critics argue that the CPI is violating laws that prohibit tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from engaging in partisan activity, with two watchdog organizations filing a formal complaint to the Internal Revenue Service claiming that CPI’s offerings of funds and services are reserved for a single political party.


The Conservative Partnership Institute: A Powerhouse for Right-Wing Activity

In the grand Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla., the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a new force in Washington’s right-wing ecosystem, held its winter conference. In attendance was Cleta Mitchell, a former Trump legal adviser, who expressed her excitement about a podcast by Stephen K. Bannon, former Trump White House senior adviser. The event drew approximately 150 conservative donors and activists, including Ben Carson, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development, and Representative Byron Donalds of Florida.

Top executives like Jim DeMint, the former U.S. senator from South Carolina, and Mark Meadows, President Donald J. Trump’s former chief of staff, were present. Meadows receives an annual salary of $847,000 as the organization’s senior adviser.

CPI operates on a $36 million annual budget from private donors, serving as a full-service nerve center for right-wing activity. It facilitates fundraisers, staff training sessions, TV news hits, and more. CPI’s overarching aim is to advance conservative messaging and counter what it perceives as a leftist “cultural revolution”.

Campaign for Accountability, a watchdog organization, and Accountable.US, a progressive nonprofit research group, have filed a formal complaint about the group to the Internal Revenue Service. They accuse CPI of violating laws that prohibit tax-exempt nonprofit organizations from engaging in partisan activity.

CPI’s Growth and Controversies

Since its foundation in 2017, CPI has seen significant growth. After Trump’s defeat in the 2020 election, the group positioned itself as the primary vehicle for the outrage from the MAGA wing of the Republican Party. It recruited key figures from the Trump administration, such as Meadows, and has seen its annual revenue swelled to $45.7 million in 2021.

CPI has been involved in several controversies, including allegations of partisan activity, unreported lobbying, and high executive salaries. Some conservatives have also criticized the organization for spending on luxuries like a 2,200-acre hunting lodge rather than protecting the party’s House majority.

CPI’s Nonprofit Status

CPI has exploited a gray area in the law. While a tax-exempt nonprofit like CPI cannot be partisan, they are permitted to be ideological. CPI has used this to its advantage, launching numerous conservative organizations. However, CPI’s status as a nonprofit organization that has raised questions.

In 2021, CPI received a million-dollar contribution from the Trump-affiliated Save America PAC. As first reported by The Guardian, the donation was followed by the creation of a shell company that subsequently provided $1 million to the audit of the 2020 election results in Arizona by the Cyber Ninjas group.

In 2022, CPI established a nonprofit to “educate and defend conservative, America First civil servants and their advisers.” This included funding the legal defense of individuals subjected to a “Leftist purge,” such as Meadows. However, the company dissolved a year later.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse has voiced his concerns about CPI’s operations, describing it as “a sneaky political operation” rather than an honest nonprofit. Despite his efforts to obtain more information, Whitehouse has yet to receive a reply from CPI.

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