Earlier this month RhRealityCheck published a chilling exposé of a little-known organization which is quietly supporting, training, and placing law students in key internships in order to promote them into the judiciary. The group promoting these students -- Alliance Defense Fund via the Blackstone Legal Fellowship -- is a key connector between the fundamentalist Christian right and the libertarian right.
From RhRealityCheck's article:
Imagine that a little-known but increasingly powerful group of ideologues had hatched a plan to transform the United States into a Christian theocracy harkening back to the Dark Ages of Europe, a time when society was governed by the laws and officials of the Catholic Church.
Suppose further that this plan had a scary simple strategy: Recruit bright, young law students; put them through an intensive indoctrination program; place them in plum internships across the country; and watch as they swim upstream until they reach the top of the legal system, where they can create, enforce, and interpret laws according to a legal philosophy infused with fundamentalist Christian theology.
Blackstone Legal Fellowship
There really is a vast right-wing conspiracy with no separation between the so-called libertarian wing and the theocratic wing. Not only do they coordinate at the top levels, but they are also actively working to inculcate young people with their view that there is no barrier between church and state by actively pursuing law students and offering them a paid fellowship to learn how to bend American law and the constitution to suit a fundamentalist Christian world view.
The Blackstone Legal Fellowship, as described in RHRealityCheck's article, is no ordinary scholarship. It is an indoctrination ticket, a way to groom young people early in the ways of conservative thought and the religion driving their dogma.
Throughout the Blackstone Legal Fellowship website, in tax forms, on YouTube videos, and in radio interviews, the Alliance Defending Freedom has described the mission of the fellowship program to indoctrinate law students with a specific worldview.
“One of the greatest blessings of my life as leader in the Alliance Defense Fund ministry is the Blackstone Legal Fellowship,” said Alan Sears, the Alliance’s president, CEO, and general counsel, in a video published to YouTube on January 14, 2010. “This is the time when we see the brightest and best law students in America, who love Jesus, come together for nine weeks to learn how to serve Him effectively, how to integrate their faith and the law.”↓ Story continues below ↓
Indeed, part of the nine-week program includes a rigorous reading guide that lists tomes by scholars widely considered to hold radical religious views—a reality openly acknowledged by the Alliance, which warns that:
Some materials may even contain assertions that may be construed (or misconstrued) to be unnecessarily sectarian, or even offensive to one’s particular theological or ecclesiastical tradition. No offense and certainly, no proselytizing, is intended. Rather, Alliance Defending Freedom seeks to recover the robust Christendomic theology of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th centuries.
Meet Evan Baehr, Blackstone Fellow
Baehr's bio on his personal website is quite impressive. In addition to working for Peter Thiel on a 'political data company' (likely Palantir Technology, though it's not mentioned), he's worked for Facebook and been featured on conservative news outlets. But it's his non-profit connections that are most interesting.
He has worked for the American Enterprise Institute’s Charles Murray, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, and the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, served as a legislative aide on the House Appropriations Committee under Rep. Frank Wolf, was Chief of Staff on the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, under which he wrote the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act, and was the failed candidate for Princeton’s City Council, despite receiving more votes than George W. Bush.
He has served on the board of the Manhattan Institute’s Adam Smith Society, the New Canaan Society, the Rivendell Institute, and Harvard Business School's FIELD Program, and is a mentor with First Round Capital's Dorm Room Fund. He cofounded the Hoover Institute’s Rising Fellows Program, Harvard Business School’s Ideas@Work, Princetonians in the Nation’s Service, and the Yale Forum on Faith and Politics. He is the recipient of the Lilly Endowment Thesis Prize, the Blackstone Legal Fellowship, and Princeton’s James Madison Fellowship. He lives in Austin, TX, with his wife, Kristina Scurry Baehr, a patent litigator, and children Cooper and Madeleine.
Of the organizations listed, the American Enterprise Institute, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the Manhattan Institute and the Hoover Institution are heavily funded by right-wing interests. In particular, AEI and the Becket Fund enjoy large contributions from the Kochs, the Bradley Foundation, and the DeVos family, among others. Evan Baehr moved fluidly among the elites of the conservative movement from one project to the next.
Although it wasn't mentioned in his bio, Baehr also established and currently serves as chairman of a non-profit organization by the name of Teneo, Inc.
Baehr established Teneo in 2008 to gather up the best and the brightest Christian conservatives into an online and offline social network. According to their form 990, their exempt purpose is continuing education, and they list the following program services:
- Regional events to discuss pressing public issues, develop potential solutions and identify ways to contribute to realizing these solutions through their existing vocations.
- Annual retreat where members convene to discuss and develop action items for a number of timely geopolitical issues.
- Virtual communications, which is described as an online social network and listserv where members communicate, share ideas and articles, and discuss issues.
Teneo is Latin for "to keep on, persist, endure." And so Teneo's members strive to hold fast to and perpetuate religious conservative traditions, particularly conservative legal traditions.
According to their website, "Teneo is a network of the nation's most outstanding and entrepreneurial conservatives under 40 that seeks to establish conservatism as the most relevant, most responsive and most effective political ideology. Launched in 2008 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Teneo builds strategic, vertically integrated relationships among our 250 members - translating ideas into action."
How do they decide who the most outstanding and entrepreneurial conservatives are? Are they Blackstone fellows? There is no way to know for sure, but according to their website, membership is by nomination or application only. Presumably no one is accepted who doesn't come highly recommended by conservative elites.
From 2009 to 2012, Teneo received just over $735,000 in grants and donations, with larger donation levels in 2010 and 2012 than off-election years, according to their annual reports. For the first time in 2012, Teneo received $140,000 from the Koch donor-advised fund, Donors Trust.
Before it was deleted, the public Google Group for one satellite -- TeneoDC -- served as a network for the A-list of DC millennial conservatives. For this group, the Federalist Society served as the hub, and they were the spokes.
Teneo DC Membership - Elites Galore!
Zachary Terwilliger is an assistant US Attorney in the major crimes unit for the Alexandria division. His duties include participation in the federal law enforcement efforts against the MS-13 street gang.
Adam White is a litigator at Boyden Gray & Associates. Boyden Gray is one of the Elder Conservative elites, serving as a board member at organizations like FreedomWorks, among others.
Her husband Noah Riner is managing director of Ironclad Capital. Noah Riner is also the homeschooled son of Kentucky Assemblyman and Baptist preacher Tom Riner. Tom Riner is known for his Christian far right battles, such as fighting for the Ten Commandments to be posted in the Kentucky homeland security office, Riner, a true Southern Democrat, also authored a law requiring citizens to acknowledge God as the guardian of the state's security or serve 12 months in jail for refusing.
David Azerrad is the director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at the Heritage Foundation. The Simon Center sponsors the Heritage Congressional Fellows program for junior level staffers, and the James Madison Fellows program for senior-level staffers.
Apache Corporation corporate counsel Stephen Cox is a contributor to Teneo DC, as is Justin Shubow, director of Social Media and Alumni Relations at the Federalist Society. Elizabeth Fitton of the National Review Institute and Sarah Isgur Flores, Deputy Communications Director at the RNC round out some of the top participants in the domestic policy arenas.
In foreign affairs areas, David Trulio is the director of federal and civil programs at Raytheon, and pundit/writer Alexander Benard is an active participant in the foreign affairs arena. Benard is also owner of Whistlestop.com, a social media aggregator site measuring political candidates' reach and influence. The site is currently not functional but promises a return in 2014.
Simone Ledeen is the daughter of Iran war agitator Michael Ledeen. If you don't remember Ledeen for his Iran-Contra participation, perhaps his role in the yellowcake forgery allegations will strike a chord. Simone was an early member of the Iraq Provisional Authority Team in the finance arena. Simone's brother Daniel is most known for his stupid question to Michael Moore trying to link Fahrenheit 9/11's distribution to Hezbollah while interning with the New York Sun in 2004. Simone and Daniel's mother Barbara Ledeen worked for Rick Santorum during his tenure in the Senate and still serves as a staffer in the US Senate.
Michael James Barton rounds out the foreign policy team. Barton served on the Homeland Security Council staff and as Deputy Director of Middle East Policy at the Pentagon during the Bush years.
Other members include William Blaise Warren and his wife Sarah Hawkins Warren, lawyers at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Warton & Garrison LLP and Kirkland & Ellis LLP, respectively.
The common link? They're in DC, they're mostly lawyers, and they're connected to heavy hitting conservative public policy organizations like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society.
But how does this translate from pedigree to heir? And where do the right-wing billionaires fit in?
Lawyers, Tech, and Religion
Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel has long been a champion of the Ron Paul libertarian strain of the right wing. He was one of James O'Keefe's original benefactors, has created a foundation that pays young people to leave college and become entrepreneurs, and funds far-right wing causes. Because his focus is on technology and specifically the Internet, Thiel's ventures often intersect with the millennial libertarian set.
Thiel also has close ties to at least two Teneo directors. Chairman Evan Baehr worked with Thiel to "build a civic engagement social media company." Duncan Sahner's bio says he served as a "special assistant to investor Peter Thiel." Noah Riner worked in business development for big data analytics company Palantir Technologies. Thiel owns Palantir.
Treasurer Dave Trulio is connected to the Bush-Cheney administration, the national security industry, and is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations. Trulio's membership in the secretive policy group Council for National Policy is unmentioned, but according to an email he sent to members of the public TeneoDC group, he is a member there as well, and co-chaired a workshop in May, 2013 on Defense and Foreign Policy.
The common links running through this organization are the deep ties to far-right wing organizations such as the Council for National Policy and the Heritage Foundation, members' ties to conservatives in the legal, tech, and policy arenas, and their advancement from fairly responsible positions to leadership positions in new organizations.
Passing the Baton
It's notable to observe the career trajectories of these conservative rising stars. These are not the people paraded on Fox News to pretend Fox has appeal to young people. This group is a group of doers, and they're being groomed to take over the reins of conservative activism in the years to come. But being from a new generation, they aren't content to stand on the outside. These are the young people expected to take the helm in areas of business, religion, and policymaking under future conservative presidencies.
Evan Baehr may not have succeeded with his tech startup Outbox, but he's building a formidable network of next-generation far right wing religious conservatives to be sent out into business, the courts, and even foreign countries in order to preach the Gospel of the Almighty American wherever there are ears to hear. Evan and his wife Kristina also have a business tutoring young law students for the LSAT. What better way is there to identify those who might have potential to join the group?
Teneo is organized as a network, but it is also intended to connect bright entrants into the policy arena with appropriate mentors and groom them for future responsibilities.
Blackstone Legal Foundation is an organized and focused effort to place bright law students in areas of public policy in order to further deteriorate any barriers between church and state. Many of these young people cut their political teeth during the Bush/Cheney administration and used that as a stepping-stone to more influential positions. From technology to policy shops to think tanks to a convergence of all three, they are positioned to ensure conservative enforcement of conservative ideas, bought and paid for with Billionaire Bucks, whether Koch, Thiel, or some other donor.
One of the final Teneo DC emails sent to their group was quite interesting, particularly with the barrage of faux scandals marching across news feeds lately.
It is an invitation to a dinner with Reginald "Reg" Brown, a lawyer in private practice who previously served the George W. Bush administration in several capacities, including a stint in the White House Counsel's office as liason to bankers and housing agencies during the time leading up to the crash in 2007-2008.
Stephen Cox describes Brown as a "DC lawyer who focuses on congressional investigations and crisis management. Cox goes on to describe Brown as a "brilliant political operator in the conservative movement" before inviting the group to join them to "discuss the future of the party, the best opportunities for young conservatives [sic] operatives in DC, or good ol' fashioned war stories from his experiences as a top lawyer to Governor Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush."
There's a connection not to be missed. It makes one wonder which of the Teneo group attended, and what advice they might have received about using scandals and congressional investigations as crisis-makers and election winners.
Theocrats, lawyers, pundits and techies, all rolled up and waiting in line to assume their rightful place in the conservative hierarchy. How long before some of them become household names?