Page 3 of 5   <       >

New media help conservatives get their anti-Obama message out

Erick Erickson, Editor-in-chief of talks about how his site acts as "a central hub for communication in the conservative movement."

"I think stuffing it down New York's throat is a timid way to say it," DeMint responds.

Members of the more than 100 Beltway conservative groups use such meetings to coordinate strategy. Recently, that has meant stopping Democratic priorities such as health care and cap-and-trade legislation.

Wednesdays are the primary nexus. At 7:30 a.m., members of the Conservative Action Project gather at the Family Research Council, a social conservative group.

CAP grew out of a series of meetings of conservatives, determined to engineer a political comeback, in the weeks after Obama's election. One took place during a Council for National Policy meeting at a D.C. hotel, conservatives said. The secretive council was formed in the early 1980s to coordinate what was then called the "New Right."

Key players in CAP, members said, include Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway; Greg Mueller, president of CRC Public Relations; and former congressman David M. McIntosh (R-Ind.). Its only paid staff member is Patrick Pizzella, an official in the George W. Bush administration, who works out of the Council for National Policy offices.

Among CAP's projects was supporting the Health Care Freedom Coalition, whose more than 50 economic and social conservative groups quietly built health-care opposition, CAP members said. The coalition is a spinoff of FreedomWorks, the D.C.-based group that works extensively with tea-party activists.

CAP also worked unsuccessfully to defeat David F. Hamilton, Obama's first appellate judicial nominee. A Nov. 9 CAP memo calling Hamilton "an ideologue first and a jurist second" helped trigger blog blasts from Erickson and an anti-Hamilton speech at the conservative Federalist Society by Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Judiciary Committee Republican.

Another prime networking venue is the Wednesday breakfast at Americans for Tax Reform, a D.C. institution led by Norquist. Among the speakers at a recent "Grover meeting," as they are known, were Republican congressional candidates; the president of the Jesse Helms Center; and Christine Hall of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who said her organization was offering former vice president Al Gore $500 to debate global warming.

"We're challenging Gore to a duel," she said to laughter.

About 90 minutes in, people filed out and headed to Ebenezer's Coffeehouse, near Union Station. There they attended the weekly "Weyrich lunch," named for the person who started the meetings, conservative veteran Paul M. Weyrich, who died in 2008.

Conservatives say the invitation-only lunch allows strategic planning with Republican congressional staff members. One example: an amendment in July from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) that would have allowed people to carry concealed firearms across state lines. It divided Democrats but fell just short of passage. "That was really under the radar until it got to the Weyrich meeting, and everyone said, 'Hey, we need to help Thune out on this,' " Erickson said.

There is much crossover among leading D.C. organizations. Tony Perkins, the Family Research Council president who hosts CAP meetings, is a board member of the Council for National Policy, the organization's most recent tax filings show. Becky Norton Dunlop, the council's president, is a key CAP member -- and a Heritage Foundation vice president. Blackwell is a director of CNP Action, a sister organization to the Council for National Policy.

<          3           >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company