Leadership Institute

Morton Blackwell created the Leadership Institute (LI) in 1979 with the intention of training conservative activists “in campaigns, fundraising, grassroots organizing, youth politics, and communications.” It boasts over “47 types of training schools, workshops, and seminars; a free employment placement service; and a national field program that trains conservative students to organize campus groups.” And claims to have trained “more than 200,000 conservative activists, leaders, and students” through its “more than 1,700 conservative campus groups and newspapers.” The Leadership Institute is clear that it exists to “actively support[ ] the entire conservative movement” and that it “freely shares its most valuable resource – its list of students trained and its list of conservative student campus groups – with other conservative organizations.” Campus Reform is a project of the LI, helping to train, fund, and place conservative students within the right-wing media ecosystem.

Morton Blackwell created the Council for National Policy (CNP) along with Paul Weyrich–founder of the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council [ALEC], and the Moral Majority–and Richard Viguerie, the pioneer in political direct marketing. Nelson describes the CNP as a secretive organization that transformed the American right by developing the political technology that brought together “the manpower and media of the Christian right with the finances of Western plutocrats and the strategy of right-wing Republican political operatives.” In other words, “bring[ing] together the ‘donors and the doers’” (p. xiv). The CNP meets a few times a year, and its meetings are secret. However, leaked materials demonstrate that the group includes many of the most prominent right-wing and libertarian donors.  Recently the CNP has been central to the promotion of voter suppression and promoting the Big Lie.

According to tax information compiled by DeSmog blog, the LI’s  main funders through 2018 also include a number of ultra-libertarian and ultra-wealthy political donors, including the Kirby Foundation ($1.2 million), Uihlein Foundation ($1.165 million), Bradley Foundation ($950,000), $302,292 from Koch family foundations, as well as from DonorsTrust ($848,000) and Donors Capital Fund ($630,000)–the donor advised funds that serve as “the ATM of the conservative movement.”