Several prominent anti-LGBT and anti-Islam conservatives are leaders in a a secretive conservative group that favored Donald Trump among GOP presidential candidates as early as last October.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Mat Staver — who represented Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis in her bid to avoid having to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples is listed as a member of the Center for National Policy’s (CNP) board of governors, which has been described as “a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country.”
Staver’s involvement was revealed through a copy of the group’s membership directory for 2014, which identifies 413 members for that year, as well as 14 past presidents and 118 deceased members.
Also listed as a member was Frank Gaffney, the “birther” anti-Islam conspiracy theorist who worked as an advisor for Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) campaign before Cruz left the race.
Though members are not allowed to identify themselves as such or even to discuss the group, the CNP wields enough influence within conservative circles that it could host Trump and several Republican candidates last year. However, none of the 17 people who ran for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination are listed in the directory.
Trump boasted during his meeting with the CNP that Tony Perkins, head of the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, was a friend of his. The SPLC reported that Perkins was actually the group’s vice-president that year. Salem Communications chairman and co-founder Stuart Epperson is listed as the president.
The National Review reported at the time that the real estate mogul “supplied answers that drew several standing ovations,” including a vow to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood if he became president, as well as his statement saying that Clarence Thomas was his “ideal” Supreme Court justice.
“According to conversations with a half-dozen attendees, who described the proceedings on condition of anonymity due to CNP’s off-the-record rules, Trump was the star attraction,” the Review stated. “While attendees shuffled in and out during other presentations, the room was packed and buzzing for the entirety of Trump’s time on stage.”
The Review’s story on the meeting was published less than six months before the conservative magazine released a special issue essentially rejecting the CNP’s opinion and calling Trump “a menace to American conservatism.”