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Wed Oct 28, 2020, 02:23 PM

Shadow Network: Media, Money & The Secret Hub of The Radical Right

Book Review: 'Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right' by Anne Nelson. San Francisco Review of Books, Aug. 24, 2019. - Excerpts:

If you like being scared, read Anne Nelson’s Shadow Network. It’s the alarming story of how Christian fundamentalists coalesced into a political force and have essentially taken over the Trump administration. They promulgate their hate and intolerance from there, from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s references to The Rapture to Betsy DeVos’ dismantling of Education, to a flood of young ultraconservative life appointees to the bench. It is so dramatic and complex, Nelson feels she has to provide a Dramatis Personae – a list of the major players, organizations, religious influencers and media manipulators. The book itself is a chronological climb to the top. The conservatives were jealous of the Democrats, and came up with organizations inspired by them, copying even their names except for a word or two.

Their goal was to outperform the Democrats’ efforts, and they have. Some hard work and huge dollops of money paved the way.

At the center is the Council for National Policy, the CNP, as close to a Deep State as there is. It was a blatant copy of the Council for Foreign Relations, with some stunning differences. Where the CFR is open, fair and credible, the CNP is totally closed — a secret society of evangelicals. It is only through the occasional leak of a list that we know who is a member or who is leading some aspect of it. Public events are purely and totally onesided. Members are the top players in other fields, like grassroots movements, the right-wing media, fundraising, and of course, religion. Lots of evangelical pastors with radio and TV shows. The whole foundation is based on fundamentalist religion, and imposing it on the entire country. At times I thought I was reading The Handmaid’s Tale only for real.

The basic attitude is that “God doesn’t need a majority.” Whereas the Democrats like to think they are inclusive with labor, immigrants, women and the left, conservatives take under their wing haters, right wing extremists, racists and anti-everything except guns. As Nelson profiles them, many of the key players had to be fired, or went to prison or were sued into premature retirement. The three biggest planks of their mission are abortion, homosexuality and the Christian bible. Their job is to make those three the most important issues to voters.

In addition to the millions donated annually by the rich (Templeton, DeVos, Prince, Brooks, Koch, Mercer et al.), the organizations collect vast sums from tens of thousands of churches. They pressure pastors to help raise money. They specify sermons, handouts and tithing to the cause of turning America into a Christian bible-run country. The large donations are freely given, because it is all deductible, greatly benefitting the donor. These recipient organizations are almost all non-profit and charitable, which is a farce in itself, as those kinds of outfits are not allowed to participate in political activity by law (the Johnson Amendment). It is a continual criminal act that goes completely unpunished as funding is cut back at the IRS.

One of the conservatives’ top goals is to repeal the Johnson Amendment and specifically allow churches to participate in politics and promoting sponsored candidates...


- NPR, 'Shadow Network' Offers A Lesson On The American Right's Mastery Of Politics, Oct. 29, 2019, review. - Excerpts:

But unless you breathe politics like it's oxygen, you're unlikely to have heard of a conservative organization called the Council for National Policy. The group isn't a political action committee; rather, it's a 501(c)(3) educational foundation that dates back to the first Reagan administration. And as Anne Nelson writes in her fascinating new book, Shadow Network, it's had an outsize effect on the modern American political landscape.

Nelson seeks to document the connections between "the manpower and media of the Christian right with the finances of Western plutocrats and the strategy of right-wing Republican political operatives." Many of these connections, she writes, were made possible through the CNP, whose members have included such familiar names as Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, former White House strategist Steve Bannon, the Christian Coallition's first executive director Ralph Reed and NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre.

Nelson traces the group from its founding in 1981 "by a small group of archconservatives who realized that the tides of history had turned against them"- specifically, activist Morton Blackwell, commentator Paul Weyrich and direct-mail pioneer Richard Viguerie. (Other founding members included Phyllis Schlafly and Left Behind author Tim LaHaye.) The CNP's structure, Nelson writes, was similar to a group called the Council on Foreign Relations- like that group, the CNP organized as a tax-exempt educational institution, although it was "designed to serve as the engine for a radical political agenda."

But you can't convert anxiety into votes without cash, and Nelson does an excellent job following the money. She profiles some of the group's funders, both past and present, including businessman Foster Friess and controversial Texas oil heir T. Cullen Davis. Perhaps most prominent among the donors, though, are two families: the DeVos clan ('CNP royalty') and the Koch brothers, who donated widely to groups headed by CNP members...


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