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Featuring the Work and Ideas of the National
Center for Public Policy Research & Project 21

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Featuring the Work and Ideas of the National Center for Public Policy Research & Project 21

Character Takes a Backseat to Policy in Modern Politics

Making a case for the appeal of politicians without the most sterling character wasn’t the easiest assignment, but it’s what InsideSources wanted.

David Almasi

David Almasi

In my latest commentary – “Character Is Valued, but Policy Is Now Priority” – I argue:

In our increasingly polarized political environment, character is becoming a want instead of a need.

Consider that Roy Moore, a deeply flawed and scandal-plagued candidate, almost won an open Senate seat in Alabama last year. He got a lot of devout Christian votes, I contend, because his opponent, now U.S. Senator Doug Jones – was too liberal for them:

They considered the alternative. Within four months, the newly elected Jones has already been denounced by the Alabama state senate for voting against a proposed ban on abortions after five months of pregnancy. His first Senate speech called for greater restrictions on guns. Values voters undoubtedly held their noses as they voted for Moore over Jones.

People certainly must desire a more moral candidate. When they feel an existential threat, however, polls show they are willing to hold their nose and vote for the person they know will look out for them:

Evangelical Christians may desire candidates with moral character, but they ultimately want someone who will fight for them. A 2015 poll by the Barna Group, a Christian-oriented research organization, found evangelicals placed policy positions over character by a margin of 58 percent to 46 percent. The economy was as important to them as abortion.

More importantly, values voters want someone fighting for them. A 2016 Barna poll found 87 percent of evangelicals “frustrated” with the government. A 2015 poll by LifeWay Research found 82 percent of evangelicals feared increasing anti-Christian intolerance.

Today’s political environment is not “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” There’s a 24/7 news cycle that’s very rough on candidates. There’s also plenty of opposition research and negative campaigning. It’s a different environment than even a few years ago. Slime and muck can be used to make even the most pious candidate seem tainted.

As a bonus, the InsideSources commentary even includes an insight into my own criteria for picking presidential candidates – and my wife’s as well.

To read the commentary in its entirety, click here.

Remembering Ken Boehm, the Original Happy Warrior

The conservative movement has lost one of its most effective warriors: Ken Boehm, chairman emeritus of the National Legal and Policy Center.

All of us at the National Center for Public Policy Research join Ken’s family and colleagues at the National Legal and Policy Center in mourning his loss.

Ken fought cancer for eight years and, although the disease ultimately took his life, it never defeated him.

Ken was the original happy warrior. He absolutely loved what he did and you could tell.

You couldn’t talk to Ken for more than a few minutes without feeling better about the future. None of this changed while he was fighting cancer.

Ken was an incredible investigator and, although his life was short, he packed more than a lifetime into it.

It was Ken who exposed the Boeing Tanker Deal as corrupt. The ensuing scandal led to the resignation of Boeing’s CEO and the imprisonment of two other company officials. It also resulted in saving taxpayers billions of dollars.

There are few people I’ve enjoyed working with more than Ken.

He was generous with his time and eager to share his knowledge to advance the conservative cause. Ken taught my staff how to file Freedom of Information Act requests and guided them through every step of the process. Under Ken’s and Peter’s leadership, the National Legal and Policy Center always put the interests of the conservative movement above their own.

Ken was – like my late wife – one of those rare individuals who exemplified one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite quotes: “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

That’s what has made his group dollar-for-dollar one of the most effective organizations in the conservative movement.

Ken made the world a better place. He was a role model of what a conservative leader ought to be.

He was a friend, a mentor, and a trusted ally who I will greatly miss. I know, however, that his passing is the beginning and not the end:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14: 1-3

My prayers are with Ken’s family, including his daughter, Christine, son-in-law and two grandchildren.

Silicon Valley Subterfuge Against Conservatives Exposed Before This Week

While most people experienced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s deer-in-the-headlights response to questioning only this week – when the tech billionaire faced Capitol Hill lawmakers about the lack of privacy and political bias on the social media platform he developed – it was nothing new to the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project (FEP).

Almost two years ago, FEP Director Justin Danhof, Esq. got an even more pronounced reaction when he engaged in the same kind of questioning at Facebook’s annual shareholder meeting. In fact, and since it was on Zuckerberg’s turf, he actually refused to directly answer Justin’s inquiry altogether.

So we had little sympathy for Facebook’s founder this week as he was being questioned by Senator Ted Cruz about evident anti-conservative bias on the part of the company.

In 2016, Justin – a veteran of over 100 corporate shareholder meetings across America – called the Facebook meeting “amateur hour.” From the inability to start the meeting on time to Zuckerberg’s ducking of Justin’s question, the meeting was simply not up to par.

Back then, long before this week’s hearings, Justin declared:

Despite the company’s protestations, it is quite clear that it continues to mistreat conservative groups and individuals. Most conservatives have known for years that Facebook is biased against them, but the evidence was largely anecdotal.

Given less time than most companies allow to ask questions (shareholder meetings are pretty much the only opportunity for investors to interact with company leaders), Justin asked:

Whether you’re willing to admit the company has a bias problem or if you think bias is merely a matter of perception, the fact is that perception is very often reality. Facebook has an extra duty to overcome this problem now that the company has been called out by former employees for targeting conservatives.

My question is this: what affirmative steps are in place to increase transparency regarding Facebook’s news section and its removal of pages and posts, and what do you have to say to the conservative individuals and groups who have been harmed – and continue to be harmed – by the company’s biased actions?

Instead of answering Justin, or – as he did on Capitol Hill – suggest that his “team” would follow-up, Zuckerberg gave his now-famous blank stare, said nothing and had an underling make an excuse. Justin noted:

When I confronted Zuckerberg over Facebook’s mistreatment of conservatives, he sat mute and deferred to another company executive. That gentleman claimed that Facebook’s own internal investigation had exonerated the company, saying that there is no bias against conservatives on the company’s platforms. In his next breath, though, he admitted that Facebook is making changes to its trending news platforms. Why is Facebook making changes if there is nothing wrong?

During Senator Cruz’s questioning of Zuckerberg, it was admitted that Silicon Valley is very liberal. Zuckerberg replied: “I understand where that concern is coming from, because Facebook and the tech industry are located in Silicon Valley, which is an extremely left-leaning place.”

That’s not news. And neither is the intolerance to other points of view. Justin revealed this last year at the shareholder meeting of Alphabet – the parent company of Google.

At that 2017 shareholder meeting, Justin confronted Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt about perceived anti-conservative bias. Schmidt arrogantly responded: “The company was founded under the principles of freedom of expression, diversity, inclusiveness and science-based thinking. And you’ll also find that all other companies in our industry agree with us.”

That was on June 7, 2017. On August 7, 2017, the company founded under the principles of freedom of expression, diversity, inclusiveness and science fired software engineer James Damore for posting a memo questioning the scientific appropriateness of expecting equality of skills among the genders in the hi-tech field.

Ironically, Damore’s memo was titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber.”

After that shareholder meeting, Justin commented:

I left today’s meeting with the feeling that Alphabet and Google are companies of, by and for liberals. It is hard to see how a conservative viewpoint would ever have a place in that corporate atmosphere.

Carson Criticized for Attempting to Drain HUD’s Swamp

“Swamp creatures are terrified of what Ben Carson is doing to clean up HUD. Let’s all hope he keeps at it.”

In a new Daily Caller commentary, Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper describes the new mindset that Dr. Ben Carson is bringing to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – and why the left is so angry about it.

As Horace explained:

Liberals love HUD because it hands out billions of dollars in the name of social justice. Not coincidentally, the money is often hard to account for, which is why it often ends up in the pocket of corrupt officials…

This level of institutional corruption is the very essence of the swamp. And indeed, the swamp dwellers are fighting to keep things the way they were.

Then Ben Carson moved in and started turning things around.

In particular, the Trump Administration is seeking a dramatic decrease in HUD grants by delegating more responsibility to state and local governments – among other things. HUD’s new chief financial officer is a former partner with a major accounting firm. And that person is tasked with strengthening the place while rooting out waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

This change obviously hasn’t gone over well with the Washington establishment. Horace wrote:

From the standpoint of swamp dwellers, accountable and lower HUD budgets are intolerable. However, Ben Carson is a very smart black conservative leader who understands the importance of applying conservative principles to our nation’s housing and urban planning needs. Nevertheless, the stakes are high. If he succeeds as an administrator in whipping HUD into shape, the progressive left will be humiliated. It’s no surprise that the mainstream media, leftist elected officials, and progressive, George Soros-funded groups attack HUD and Carson almost daily.

This is why those who appeared to look the other way on past HUD abuses are now fixating on things such as Dr. Carson’s proposed office renovations.

To read Horace’s commentary – “Swamp Creatures are TERRIFIED of What Ben Carson is Doing to Clean Up HUD” – in its entirety, click here.

Actress Milano No Smart Cookie on Second Amendment

It’s not uncommon for members of the Hollywood elite to demonize the National Rifle Association, but former child star Alyssa Milano took it a step further by injecting race into the conversation. Members of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network are responding to the smear.

In a tweet sent out last week, Milano – previously seen in “Commando,” “Who’s the Boss?” and “Alyssa Milano’s Teen Steam” – asserted the NRA and its NRATV media affiliate “would be labeled a terrorist organization with hate propaganda programming that incites violence” if it were “run by black or brown people.”

Guns served as an equalizer for blacks during Jim Crow and segregation. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently pointed out how guns saved her family from marauders during the Civil Rights era. And the organization has always sought to protect the rights of people of all races.

For trying to smear gun rights advocates with a poorly crafted racial comments meant to cause division, black conservatives affiliated with Project 21 are calling Milano out.

For example, Project 21 Co-Chairman Stacy Washington, a U.S. Air Force veteran who has worked with the NRA, questioned Milano’s credentials to speak about race:

I’m not sure why Alyssa Milano is suddenly an expert on race relations. She’s not black, nor has she spent a significant portion of her career working for or with blacks. In fact, Milano’s Hollywood acting career has been typical in its lack of integration.

Our country faces difficult issues surrounding race: progress is stymied as many of those called on to comment are as uninformed as Milano.

If we apply Milano’s leftist standards to her activist credentials, we find her acting career to be lily-white. She has never stood up for more roles for blacks or minorities with such vigor. She doesn’t even seem to star in movies with people of color.

Does Milano volunteer or donate to disadvantaged communities of color? She’s not a civil rights leader. I’m sure she doesn’t read Sowell, Williams or Swain. Why should we care what she thinks about the Second Amendment or the National Rifle Association?

Stacy also sent Milano a few tweets of her own.

Project 21 member Emery McClendon, a tea party activist and U.S. Air Force veteran, added about the history of gun rights:

It’s very hard to believe that Alyssa Milano actually understands American history. Apparently she didn’t do any research on the NRA before making such an absurd comment. Then again, she is an entertainer.

The Second Amendment was placed in our Constitution to give us a clear example of how we can defend ourselves from a tyrannical and abusive government. The NRA has a clear history of helping Americans of all colors understand that God-given right.

If the NRA was spearheaded and run by minorities, it would have the protection of every American citizen as it first priority. That is mainly why it was created. When American’s think about the NRA, they shouldn’t equate them with terrorism or as a militant group.  They should praise and thank them for helping us preserve our Founding Principles.

I would urge Alyssa Milano to rethink her ridiculous comment.

Using rhetorical judo, Project 21 member Richard Holt, a political strategist and another U.S. Army veteran, sought to use Milano’s comment as a “teachable moment” for the NRA:

Alyssa Milano made a great point when discussing how we see people with guns in our society.

When we picture the gun debate, the NRA is always careful to show us white sportsmen and hunters. What about the black youth who are terrified they won’t make it home from school? What about the poor single mother living “in hell,” as Trump said, in housing projects where drug lords and criminals roam virtually free?

The NRA got its start teaching former slaves how to arm themselves in self-defense. The NRA has a history to be proud of, but I think Milano’s comments have the greatest impact in asking: why has the NRA run away from its own history?

Why do we frame the gun debate about white rural males while avoiding the tragic reality of law-abiding minorities whose circumstances land them in less than friendly neighborhoods? Although her comments are a bit extreme, they do present us with an important question of how we see guns in our society and emphasizes the racial paradigm of this important debate.

National Guard at Border “Works for the President”

With an increase in illegal southern border crossings, National Center Senior Fellow Horace Cooper commended President Donald Trump on his “investment” of thousands of National Guard troops to help with federal law enforcement efforts there. During an interview with Stuart Varney on the “Varney and Co.” program on the Fox Business Network, Horace also laid out the potential political costs for politicians opposing a stronger stance against illegal immigration.

While the President currently approved between 2,000 and 4,000 guardsmen, Horace noted it’s a number that could change depending on the initial results of the deployment.

Talking about the political price that might be paid by liberal politicians decrying increased security efforts, Horace said:

[They] really need to be paying attention on this particular issue. We had a federal government shutdown over the issue of immigration. And – overwhelmingly – Democrats admitted that they were receiving a great amount of negative pressure. This was one of the first shutdowns where it was Democrats who ended up feeling the pain over having done this.

Asked about the possibility of building a border wall and overall enhanced security efforts, Horace said “it looks like the issue works for the President.” He added that “if the issue stays the way that it is, it might be prudent for Democrats to rush up and say ‘let’s take this issue off the table’” rather than have it hurt their popularity.

Horace, who impressed Varney in previous interviews, drew more praise from the veteran Fox host. He told Horace: “You’ve got such a logical, forward-looking brain. You gotta come back on the show – we miss you!”

King’s Dream Denied by Left

Despite their deification of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the political left in America today acts in ways quite estranged from his teachings.

Project 21 member Jerome Danner suggests remedying this through a reintroduction to Dr. King’s specific goal of a colorblind society through a generous repetition of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

In a new Daily Caller commentary, Jerome prescribes society get a healthy dose of the speech in conjunction with the public observances of the birth and death of the civil rights icon – along with Black History Month in between – to help overcome the modern left’s insistence on a “collectivist mindset as one’s identity is tied up in their race.”

That famous speech, which celebrates its 55th anniversary this August, was when Dr. King famously described: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

In his commentary, Jerome wrote:

[T]he words continue to deserve a hearing because many people still have not quite captured its genius. There are lessons to still be learned – specifically, a thought he had on judging people by the color of their skin.

The newfound embrace of identity politics after so much racial reconciliation has been accomplished, Jerome noted, creates a false narrative:

It is why “white privilege” is argued as a very real issue in our country, even for Caucasian people who have never felt any actual privilege in their lives or have had to work just as hard as their counterparts who are minorities…

There are those who play up identity politics and see identities wrapped in skin color or being almost completely associated with it. Then, their logic becomes the melanin in your skin will determine how you vote and sometimes reveal your worldview…

Until our society remembers this particular truth, the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech should continue to be played. Consequently, it will do society even better if a discussion was initiated in classrooms and other forums each time it is revisited.

To read Jerome’s commentary – “Americans Need To Hear Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech Again and Again” – in its entirety, click here.

Cooper Debates Federal Diversity

When all else fails, play the race card.

CNN recently ran a report that cited three anonymous sources (naturally) who claimed Trump Administration Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke downplayed the importance of diversity in federal staffing.

As the nation just humbly observed the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., it still seems that those who claim to value his teachings the most are nonetheless the ones who act the least interested in the truly colorblind society Dr. King gave his life to help create.

That’s why people like Horace Cooper, co-chairman of the National Center’s Project 21 black leadership network, need to be there to remind them.

On “The Ingraham Angle” on the Fox News Channel, Horace and host Laura Ingraham debated the issue of race, diversity and federal hiring with attorney Leo Terrell.

Zinke was accused of saying that diversity in hiring “isn’t important” and/or not “important anymore.” At the same time, however, he was credited with adding:

  • “what’s important is having the right person for the right job.”
  • “I care about excellence, and I’m going to get the best people.”

Yet, for critics such as Terrell, it’s all about numbers. He said: “[T]his is an administration that does not have people of color. If you’re gonna have some diversity, show me some people of color.”

When Terrell said the Trump Administration lacked someone such as Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice, Ingraham curtly replied: “Ben Carson, I guess, doesn’t count because he’s white.”

With Terrell continuing to demand numbers, Ingraham called Terrell out on bean-counting, adding: “[L]et’s not pretend conservative African-Americans count under diversity. They’re ridiculed as Uncle Toms and everything else.”

Putting the whole diversity dust-up in perspective, Horace pointed out there is no proof that Zinke ever made any of the alleged statements. Furthermore, there is plenty of diversity in the federal workforce already.

Horace said:

One of the things we should know if that black Americans are overrepresented in the federal government – including the present federal government… But we also know that the federal government employees get paid almost 20 percent more…

So here’s the question that Ryan Zinke was looking at: Why can’t we get the most talented people if the taxpayers are paying for these salaries?

In the course of the discussion, several high-ranking minority hires were noted. The fact that many members of the federal Senior Executive Service are minorities was pointed out. Yet Terrell remained unhappy. It begs the question as to what Terrell would accept as constituting diversity – particularly since the last study of the federal workforce showed overrepresentation by about five percentage points.

As the segment wrapped up, Horace proved he has his finger on the pulse of the left-wing diversity assault:

“This quota vision is dividing America.”

In Losing David Rothbard, the Liberty Movement Has Lost One of its Finest

The conservative movement has lost one of its giants: David Rothbard, co-founder of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT).

All of us at the National Center for Public Policy Research join David’s family and CFACT in mourning his loss.

David wasn’t a giant because he employed hundreds of people. He wasn’t a giant because he oversaw a budget running in the tens of millions. He wasn’t a giant because he received honors from the conservative movement.

He was a giant because he REALLY made a difference in the fight for liberty.

Coming of age during the Reagan Revolution, David understood – unlike many other think tank executives then and now – that the conservative movement will never prevail over the left by simply writing white papers, hosting seminars and sponsoring conferences.

You don’t win by taking a knife to a gun fight.

He and his colleagues observed the left, learned what made their organizations tick, and then developed effective countermeasures. Consequently, CFACT developed effective defund-the-left campaigns, sponsored grassroots training and rallies, built an army of student activists and – more recently – hosted news-aggregator sites (such as Climate Depot) and produced documentaries.

Thanks to David’s leadership (and that of Executive Director Craig Rucker), CFACT is no ordinary think tank.

David was quick-witted, kind and fun to be around.

There are few people with whom I enjoyed working within the conservative movement more than David. Like my wife Amy, who passed away almost exactly a year before he did, David personified one of President Reagan’s favorite quotes: “There’s no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

The world is a better place because of David Rothbard. It will be worse without him.

Our prayers are with David’s wife, Kelly, and three daughters, Emily, Ashley and Lydia. A family of strong faith, they know they will see David again.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14: 1-3)

For more on this incredible leader, visit CFACT’s website at http://www.cfact.org/2018/04/02/let-us-tell-you-about-david-rothbard/

Monkey Business at the Mouse House Shareholder Meeting

Shareholder meetings are supposed to be the one time each year when rank-and-file investors can address corporate leaders. Best practices dictate that time be set aside after regular business meeting for a question-and-answer session with the CEO and other high-ranking staff.

While the most recent meeting of the Walt Disney Company investors contained such a component, it certainly did not adhere to the spirit in which meetings are normally conducted.

National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. called the Disney meeting as a “brazen scheme to silence shareholders.” He recounted it in a commentary published in the national edition of Investor’s Business Daily.

Justin, in fact, was the only rank-and-file shareholder who got to ask a question of Disney CEO Bob Iger – reportedly the most powerful man in Hollywood. And Justin’s tenacity paid off.

What the Free Enterprise Project did also showed the value of conservative shareholder activism.

As Justin explained in his commentary:

As the director of the nation’s pre-eminent conservative investor activist organization, I have attended more than 100 shareholder meetings over the last five years. I have never witnessed such a brazen scheme to silence shareholders. It was such an audacious abuse of the system that Disney almost deserves credit for so openly offending its investors…

Standard protocol for shareholder meetings allows investors to address CEOs in an open question-and-answer session following formal business votes and corporate presentations. At Disney’s March 8 shareholder meeting, standard protocol exited stage left.

First, Disney would only let individuals sitting in a few designated rows ask questions. Then, in an obvious effort to ensure they would be complimentary, members of a Disney fan club were allowed early access to the auditorium. When the remaining shareholders entered, the fans occupied nearly all of the designated seats for questions.

Despite the glut of Disney true believers, one fan gave up his spot at the microphone for Justin to ask his question.

Criticizing the biased reporting in Disney’s news and sports media, Justin brought up Joy Behar of “The View” belittling the faith of Vice President Mike Pence in particular and Christians in general on the air. Iger’s revelation that he was offended by it and that Behar apologized privately to the Vice President got the ball rolling for her to publicly apologize five days later.

Impact. It’s something that would not have happened had a conservative not been in that room to ask that question. And, because this was not the first FEP appearance at the Disney meeting, it’s a potential reason for the way the company structured the meeting.

Explaining the return on investment for his efforts, Justin wrote:

Shareholders have a public forum to question CEOs only once a year – and that’s at the annual investor meeting. My exchange with Iger showed the power a simple question can have.

Behar’s apology to the tens of millions of Christians she offended would likely never have occurred if I hadn’t openly questioned Iger. That Disney tried to block genuine questions like mine shows tremendous corporate cowardice.

Shareholder meetings are usually well-orchestrated affairs. They shouldn’t be shams that deny interested shareholders the anticipated ability to engage with the head office. With so much to answer for these days, however, companies such as Disney seem to be less hospitable to those who invest in them.

To read Justin’s commentary – “Disney’s Mickey Mouse Attempt to Silence Critics at Its Shareholder Meeting Backfires” – in its entirety, click here.

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The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 60,000 active recent contributors.