Turning Point USA—the political “movement” to take back America’s colleges from the menace of liberalism—is best known for the very small but deeply embarrassing spectacles its student members make on their campuses.
The group is the subject of a Politico magazine story out today, and boy, does it ever lay bare how Turning Point, which is classified as a non-profit, uses its ample funding from conservative ghouls to achieve, well, not so much.
As Politico reports (emphasis added throughout):
As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Turning Point USA is required to be “nonpartisan,” which means it can’t endorse candidates or support political campaigns. But a recent New Yorker investigation found former employees who said Turning Point USA had done work for two different candidates in the 2016 presidential race. Turning Point USA has also stocked its annual conference with a plethora of pro-Trump speakers, including Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump’s wife, Lara Trump. Adding to the murkiness, Turning Point USA also says it is running a campus leadership program that has—through training or direct financial support—helped more than 50 conservatives be elected student-body president, including at left-leaning campuses. It’s proud of the program and uses it to fundraise, but when I started making calls, I found that success rate to be considerably overstated. In fact, some of the students that Turning Point USA claimed to have backed flatly condemned the organization and said they’d never spoken to anyone who works for it.
INJECT THIS STRAIGHT INTO MY VEINS!!!!
The story opens on a hilariously strong note, following one of the group’s beleaguered donors as he walks around a college campus and recoils at kids wearing Che shirts:
On a warm January evening in Tempe, Arizona, Jon Willis was walking down a palm tree-lined path on the campus of Arizona State University when he saw something that made him irate: a student wearing a T-shirt silkscreened with the image of Che Guevara.
“I thought, kid, you don’t even know who Che Guevara is,” says Willis, a commercial real estate broker in Mesa, Arizona.
Willis went on to bemoan that none of these ne’er-do-well college socialists have any desire to build things anymore:
A Che shirt on a college campus might not stick out for most people, but for Willis, 36, it touched a nerve. It was just the latest confirmation of his worry that more young people today are embracing socialism, even Marxism, instead of American capitalism. “Some of these kids have no real desire to build something on their own,” says Willis, who works for a firm founded by his father. “As long as these kids get something for free and they get taken care of, they’re happy. What they don’t know is that the world that works that way—the socialist world—leads to extreme poverty and eventually death.”
Just imagine a world where people without the privilege of taking over their father’s business face “extreme poverty and eventually death.” That’s called late capitalism, baby!!
Then we get into the good (pathetic) stuff about the group’s boy wonder founder, Charlie Kirk, who lives with his parents:
Technically speaking, the 24-year-old still lives with his parents, though he spent 338 days on the road last year on Turning Point USA business. On his frequent visits to Washington, D.C., Kirk most often stays at the Trump International Hotel, and I met him there several times over the course of reporting this story.
Kirk readily admits his group is bankrolled by the same people targeted by those scammy INVEST IN SILVER ads that roll all day long during Fox News breaks:
Those who buy into Turning Point USA—literally buy into it; Kirk calls these donors his “investors”—tend mostly to be men middle-aged or older. Many run family businesses. Some are billionaires. Others are sons of billionaires. Most, of course, are Republicans, and almost all inhabit a conservative media universe that pumps them with anxiety about liberal kids. Kirk is not shy about saying he’s selling them a solution to those worries.
But since his very first donor—Foster Friess, the 77-year-old Republican megadonor known for hating Muslims and single-handedly bankrolling Rick Santorum’s failed presidential run—Kirk’s backers have become a who’s-who of deeply evil right-wing gatekeepers:
He has also inked sponsorships from the conservative Heritage Foundation and the libertarian-leaning Reason Foundation as well as from the Heartland Institute and the National Rifle Association, whose logos are attached to Turning Point events. (The NRA is the signature sponsor of Turning Point USA’s annual young women’s leadership summit; Kirk, who owns multiple guns, spoke up for the organization after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.) Support is picking up: Today, Kirk says, the group has 20,000 different donors who gave a total of $9.8 million last year, double the amount raised in 2016.
The story also details the group’s “Campus Victory” initiative, which has at least 12 full-time staffers and $2 million in funding for the express purpose of getting college students elected to leadership positions on campus. While their record so far is mixed, Politico details the impact that getting these diaper-wearing kids elected can have:
One successful candidate Turning Point USA backed was Max Goldfarb, who ran for a student panel at the University of Wisconsin that oversees disbursement of student fees. After Goldfarb won, he pushed in a committee hearing to defund the university’s Muslim Students Association. Another committee member objected, suggesting Goldfarb was bringing his Turning Point USA politics into the issue. In the end, the student panel rejected Goldfarb’s motion to completely defund the MSA, but it did slash the group’s budget.
Because when I think about how much I despise “socialism,” I think “let’s defund the Muslim student group.” The free market is dispassionate and definitely not motivated by racism or religious discrimination!
We should laugh at these poor children conned into wearing diapers to own their lib professors. But because Turning Point is also engaged in far more sinister work—like compiling a McCarthyite database to track college professors that cross them—we shouldn’t write them off fully.