Far-right House Republicans and related groups have some pretty tall demands for approving a stopgap budget bill and averting a government shutdown. There’s only one catch: Their demands have nothing to do with the federal budget.
Recent demands from members of the House Freedom Caucus over budget talks have been spawned by right-wing think tanks and operatives attempting to clothe culture war priorities in financial finery. Caucus members are claiming that they will oppose any short-term continuing budget resolutions unless their demands for addressing “wokeness” in the military, “weaponization” of the Department of Justice and FBI, and building a border wall are met.
The “No Security, No Funding” framework used by the Freedom Caucus for its demands is echoed in materials being circulated by right-wing groups including the Conservative Partnership Institute (or CPI, which effectively provides staffing for the Freedom Caucus), the secretive Council for National Policy’s Conservative Action Project, the America First Policy Institute, the Heritage Foundation, Club for Growth, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Family Research Council, and the Eagle Forum, all of which are pushing for a government shutdown unless their ideological demands are met.
Although these groups’ arguments focus on reigning in government spending, their demands have hardly anything to do with the federal budget since they’re all based on culture war priorities.
For example, a recent letter circulated by the Conservative Action Project and signed by more than 100 individuals — including representatives from the groups mentioned above — contends that any spending bill must include policy reforms that would “stop the woke cancer that has infected the Pentagon.” Signatories include Trump lawyers Cleta Mitchell and Ken Cuccinelli — influential MAGA legal operatives at the CPI — as well as several elected representatives, mostly from Arizona.
Funding the Shutdown
Each of the following 15 funders has contributed more than $1 million to the groups pushing for a government shutdown at the end of this month. In roughly 10 years, these groups have provided over $64 million to the organizations attempting to force a shutdown.
The CPI–Freedom Caucus Pipeline
The genesis of this platform — which prioritizes ending “the Left’s cancerous woke policies in the Pentagon,” the “unprecedented weaponization of the Justice Department and FBI,” as well as illegal immigration — can be most directly traced back to the CPI, a right-wing organization founded in 2017 and headed by Trump’s former chief of staff and recently indicted co-conspirator Mark Meadows. CPI creates a pipeline of staffers that it trains and feeds to the House Freedom Caucus. Caucus members and staffers regularly convene at CPI headquarters, using the space to host their PAC and serve as basecamp for their ongoing fight against House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.).
CPI has held numerous training sessions for right-wing congressional staffers, as the Center for Media and Democracy has previously reported. In 2022, CPI held four training sessions as well as a Winter Leadership Conference for members of the Freedom Caucus. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) —who cofounded the caucus in 2015 when he was a congressman — gave the keynote address.
“Conservative members and public policy leaders need like-minded staffers who are dedicated to conservative principles and know how to get things done,” CPI states on its website, under the tagline “Where Conservatives Go to Win.” It goes on to explain that “CPI identifies, interviews, and recommends proven conservatives on the Hill and in organizations throughout Washington.”
In 2021, CPI heralded the inauguration of state-level networks of like-minded activists known as the State Freedom Caucus Network (SFCN). “The SFCN will provide each state freedom caucus with the tools and resources they need to mirror the success of the House Freedom Caucus,” the press release announced. CPI also incubates the voter suppression outfit Election Integrity Network, headed by Mitchell, as well as the American Accountability Foundation, established to defeat President Biden’s nominees for a wide range of government positions.
CPI’s two largest financial backers are Richard Uihlein, a GOP megadonor and cofounder of Uline shipping and packaging company, who has given $3.3 million (2018–21), and Donald Trump, who contributed $1 million in 2021 via his Save America PAC.