|Motto||Strengthening the Conservative Movement|
|Type||Public policy think tank|
The Council for National Policy (CNP) is an umbrella organization and networking group for social conservative activists in the United States. It has been described by The New York Times as "a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country," who meet three times yearly behind closed doors at undisclosed locations for a confidential conference. The Nation has called it a secretive organization that "networks wealthy right-wing donors together with top conservative operatives to plan long-term movement strategy." It was founded in 1981 by Tim LaHaye as a forum for conservative Christians seeking to strengthen the political right in the United States.
Marc J. Ambinder of ABC News said about the Council: "The group wants to be the conservative version of the Council on Foreign Relations." The CNP was founded in 1981. Among its founding members were: Tim LaHaye, then the head of the Moral Majority, Nelson Bunker Hunt, T. Cullen Davis, William Cies, Howard Phillips, and Paul Weyrich.
Members of the CNP have included: General John Singlaub, shipping magnate J. Peter Grace, Edwin J. Feulner Jr of the Heritage Foundation, Rev. Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Jerry Falwell, U.S. Senator Trent Lott, Southern Baptist Convention activists and retired Texas Court of Appeals Judge Paul Pressler, lawyer and paleoconservative activist Michael Peroutka, Reverend Paige Patterson, Senator Don Nickles, former United States Attorneys General Edwin Meese and John Ashcroft, gun-rights activist Larry Pratt, Col. Oliver North, Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, philanthropist Elsa Prince (mother of Blackwater founder and former CEO Erik Prince and Trump Administration Secretary of Education Betsy Devos), and former California State Assemblyman Steve Baldwin.
Membership is by invitation only. The membership list, previously[when?] made public, is now considered "strictly confidential." Guests may attend "only with the unanimous approval of the executive committee." Members are instructed not to refer to the organization by name, to protect against leaks. The New York Times political writer David D. Kirkpatrick suggested that the secrecy since its founding was intended to insulate the Council "from what its members considered the liberal bias of the news media."
CNP's meetings are closed to the general public, reportedly to allow for a free-flowing exchange of ideas. The group meets three times per year. This policy is said to be similar to the long-held policy of the Council on Foreign Relations, to which the CNP has at times been compared. CNP's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status was revoked by the IRS in 1992 on grounds that it was not an organization run for the public benefit. The group successfully challenged this ruling in federal court. A quarterly journal aimed at educating the public, promised in the wake of this incident, has not substantially materialized. The group has launched a website that contains selected speeches from past gatherings.
While those involved are almost entirely from the United States, their organizations and influence cover the globe, both religiously and politically. Members include corporate executives, legislators former high ranking government officers, leaders of 'think tanks' dedicated to molding society and those whom many view as "Christian leadership".
Leading members of the CNP voted in a meeting at the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, on September 29, 2007, to consider launching a third party candidate if the 2008 Republican nominee were a pro-choice candidate. This was an implicit reference to Rudy Giuliani, whose liberal opinions on several social issues, such as abortion, gay rights and gun ownership, had disturbed the Christian right. The CNP's statement read, "If the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate, we will consider running a third-party candidate." Attending the meeting were notable social conservatives, including James Dobson, Richard Viguerie, Tony Perkins and Morton Blackwell.
CNP members have been given billions of dollars by Sun Myung Moon, the founder of the Unification Church and the conservative Washington Times newspaper, and are aligned with various other groups supported by him such as CAUSA International. In 1964 Moon founded the Korean Culture and Freedom Foundation, a public diplomacy agency which promoted the interests of South Korea and sponsored Radio Free Asia. Former U.S. Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Richard Nixon were honorary presidents or directors at various times. The president of Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou spoke at a Unification Church sponsored "Global Peace Festival" which was held in Taipei October 31, 2009.
CNP also has membership links to the Committee for the Free World, whose many other members included, among others, some members of the Unification Church of the United States, some Republican Party leaders, and counter-revolutionaries in Latin America, particularly during the 1980s. Midge Decter served as Executive Director of its Committee. Other members included Jeane Kirkpatrick, Leszek Kołakowski, Irving Kristol, Melvin J. Lasky, Seymour M. Lipset, Donald Rumsfeld, Tom Stoppard and George Will. Eugene V. Rostow, then serving as Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency under President Ronald Reagan, was a speaker at a CFW event on Poland.
In 1999, a speech given to the CNP by Republican candidate George W. Bush is credited with helping him gain the support of conservatives in his successful bid for the United States Presidency in 2000. The content of the speech has never been released by the CNP or by Bush.
As of February 2007, the organization was planning involvement in the 2008 presidential election campaign, and actively looking for a candidate to represent their views. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney spoke at a four-day conference they held in Salt Lake City, Utah during the last week of September 2007. The Council for National Policy scheduled a conference in late October 2007. Most Republican presidential candidates pledged to appear, with the exception of Rudy Giuliani.
On May 18, 2018 House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, gave a speech to the Council for National Policy detailing how the current political climate is, "increasingly belittling Christian conservatives for their beliefs and, as a result, they are 'forced out of the public square.'"
CNP was founded in 1981 by fundamental Baptist pastor Tim LaHaye, author of The Battle for the Mind (1980) and the Left Behind series of books. Other early participants included W. Cleon Skousen, a theologian within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and founder of the Freemen Institute; Paul Weyrich; Phyllis Schlafly; Robert Grant; Howard Phillips, a former Republican affiliated with the Constitution Party; Richard Viguerie, the direct-mail specialist; and Morton Blackwell, a Louisiana and Virginia activist who is considered a specialist on the rules of the Republican Party.
The council employs about eight people. Its first executive director was Woody Jenkins; later, Morton Blackwell served in this role, which is currently held by Bob Reccord. Presidents have included Nelson Bunker Hunt of Dallas, Amway co-founder Richard DeVos of Michigan, Pat Robertson of Virginia Beach, retired Judge Paul Pressler of Houston, and former Reagan Cabinet secretaries Edwin Meese and Donald Hodel, as well as current president Kenneth Cribb.