The Conservative Action Project is a right-wing group that has contributed to the recent government shutdown. (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
At Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse, a small shop next to Union Station and around the corner from the Heritage Foundation, “fair trade” coffee is dispensed and Christian books are available for customers to read.
A group of political operatives and evangelical firebrands behind the strategy to shut down the government over healthcare reform couldn’t have picked a more unassuming meeting place. Though the more famous “Wednesday meeting” is across town at the offices of Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, the shutdown plotters often meet at a weekly lunch held on Wednesday at the event space of Ebenezer’s. (The group also meets regularly on Wednesday mornings at the offices of the Family Research Council.)
This other Wednesday group is a convening of the Conservative Action Project, an ad hoc coalition created in the early years of the Obama administration to reorganize the conservative movement.
The coalition is managed by Heritage and the Council for National Policy. The latter organization, dubbed once as “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of,” is a thirty-year-old nonprofit dedicated to transforming the country into a more right-wing Christian society. Founded by Tim LaHaye, the Rapture-obsessed author of the “Left Behind” series, CNP is now run by Christian-right luminaries such as Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins and Kenneth Blackwell.
Yesterday, The New York Times revealed in great detail how the Conservative Action Project has orchestrated the current showdown. The group initially floated the idea of attaching funding for Obamacare to the continuing resolution, and followed up with grassroots organizing, paid advertisements and a series of events designed to boost the message of senators like Ted Cruz.
Though the Heritage Foundation, through its 501(c)(4) Heritage Action sister organization, has played a lead role in sponsoring advertisements and town-hall meetings, tax disclosures reviewed by TheNation.com show that the Council for National Policy has provided a steady stream of funding for the organizing effort.
In my new book published this year, The Machine: A Field Guide the Resurgent Right, I profiled how the Conservative Action Project came about, and how its existence sparked a schism within the conservative movement. The group has played a background role in several high-profile political debates.
It was this rival Wednesday group that gave rise to the farcical “Ground Zero Mosque” conspiracy in 2010. The Conservative Action Project also played a consequential role in whipping up opposition to a number of key Obama judicial nominees, including judges David Hamilton and Goodwin Liu. Through rapid-fire memos and coalition advocacy, the Conservative Action Project can claim large responsibility for the fact that Obama has been deprived more than any modern American president of appointing judges of his choice for the federal bench.