Turning Point USA

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Turning Point USA is a right-wing youth and student group, with a mission to "identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government."[1] The group funnels money to right-wing candidates for student government at universities across the country and has faced numerous allegations of racial discrimination. Turning Point USA is funded by a variety of right-wing mega-donors with a history of flooding the political process with money, including the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation, Foster Friess, Mike Leven and various Koch brothers-affiliated groups, such as the Foundation for Economic Education, DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund.

The group was founded by right-wing activist Charlie Kirk in 2012. It claims to be the "largest and fastest growing youth organization in America" with "a presence on over 1,300 college campuses and high schools across the country."[1]

Activities include a National Field Program, which launches and supports university and high school chapters and maintains a database of student members in order to "Effectively push back against intolerance and bias against conservatives in higher education. Turning Point USA also conducts extensive marketing and branding activities, such as creating "sound bites like, “Big Government Sucks” and the incorporation of pop culture...to reach new demographics and continuously expand the base." The group also writes original brochures and studies with titles such as "5 Reasons Censorship Should Offend You" and "If The Founders Had Twitter," and hosts conferences and events to promote free-market ideology.[1]

News and Controversies

TPUSA's Former "High-School Outreach Director" Use of "Racial Slurs and Hate Speech"

Kyle Kashuv was named TPUSA's high-school outreach director by the organization's founder, Charlie Kirk. Kashuv is a survivor of the Parkland massacre and student activist, but unlike many of his classmate who gained national attention after the early 2018 shooting, "Kashuv is a fierce right-winger and an opponent of gun control." Kirk introduced Kashuv at an event stating "this young man is truly extraordinary."[2]

A New Yorker article states that Kashuv's classmate says Kashuv is "a bigot." The evidence presented for that claim is that Kashuv "used the N-word frequently," ranked women's attractiveness by race, and referenced his "Jewish slaves.”[2]

After a classmate posted on Twitter about Kashuv's conduct, he resigned from Turning Point but did not apologize. According to The New Yorker a Turning Point spokesperson called Kashuv’s comments “unacceptable” and “un-American" while Kashuv declined to comment.[2]

Inviting a White Nationalist to Iowa State University

According to the Des Moines Register, Turning Point USA "claims partial responsibility" for inviting Nick Fuentes to speak at Iowa State University. Fuentes is described as a "conservative activist and white nationalist speaker," who attended the infamous Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally where Nazi and white supremacist violence towards counter-protesters ultimately resulted in the death of a woman and 19 injuries.[3] Fuentes is known for his YouTube videos, "America First with Nick Fuentes," where he opines on "the failure of multiculturalism", immigration and "his anger about what he said has been the marginalization of white people."[3] At Iowa State University, Fuentes spoke about similar topics to that on his Youtube channel, "immigration and reportedly spoke of preserving the "European texture" of the United States while taking jabs at the intelligence, civilization and self-control of various marginalized groups."[4]

The student listed as the leader of Turning Point USA's Iowa State University chapter told the Des Moines Register she was "planning on stepping down as president and disaffiliating myself with the organization as a whole," after Fuentes speech.[4]

University of Nevada Las Vegas chapter President Ousted for Racist Remarks

A viral video surfaced of a man identified as TPUSA's former University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) chapter president using racial epithets and exclaiming "white power" while hugging another individual who shouts “we’re going to rule the country” and alongside other racist remarks.[5] TPUSA issued a statement: “As soon as the video in question came to the attention of Turning Point USA staff, we swiftly and permanently removed the student from any current or future involvement with our organization. His comments were abhorrent, un-American, and disqualifying.” The Daily Beast characterized the video as "members of [TPUSA's] Las Vegas chapter shouting 'White power! Fuck the n-----s!'" however, TPUSA only mentions one person being dissociated from the organization. [6] According to It's Going Down an anarchist news website which first widely publicised the video on Twitter, documentation shows the former TPUSA UNLV president "making the Alt-Right hand sign, a sign which Turning Point USA leader Charlie Kirk has also been photographed making, along with a variety of neo-Nazi, Alt-right, and white nationalist leaders" at a previous UNLV TPUSA event.[7]

Candance Owen's departure

The Daily Beast reported in early May 2019 that Candance Owens was leaving her role as communications director at TPUSA.[8] The departure followed Owen's comments at an event in December of 2018 in London where Owens said that "Hitler was an “OK” leader until he tried to take his message global." Turning Point USA declined to comment on Owens’s remarks and referred reporters to Owens herself who equated Hitler with the publication the reporter worked for "“My final comment is that Hitler was the scum of the earth [...] As is the publication you write for."”[9] Several TPUSA campus chapters signed a letter calling on Owens to resign following remarks.[8]

Owen's departure also follows the mention of her as "the person that has influenced me above all" in the alleged manifesto of the person who claimed to be the shooter who killed around 50 people in a massacre at two mosques in New Zealand. Owens responded to the mentioning of her name being reported stating "any insinuation that black conservatism in the United States has somehow inspired radical Islamophobic white supremacy terror overseas is pointedly absurd."[10]

Professor Watchlist

Turning Point USA maintains Professor Watchlist, a directory of university professors across America who have been flagged by the right-wing group for supposedly promoting liberal biased viewpoints. Students are invited to "submit a tip" about professors they feel should be included in the list. Professor Watchlist currently contains several hundred professor entries with descriptions of their "liberal" statements and views.[11]

The site has drawn intense criticism, even from fellow right-wing advocates and donors in the Koch network. Sarah Ruger, the director of Free Speech Initiatives for the Charles Koch Institute said, “It’s truly McCarthyism 2.0. It’s a platform that exists to put the names and the profiles of self-identified progressive professors out there and encourages conservative students to intimidate them. … If there’s anything political tribes can agree on today, it’s that they all want to censor someone. They just disagree on who should be silenced. That’s entirely antithetical to who we are."[12]

Allegation of Racial Bias

Jane Mayer reported obtaining screenshots of messages sent by Crystal Clanton, who served until the summer of 2016 as Turning Point USA's National Field Director. One message sent to another Turning Point employee stated, “i hate black people. Like f*** them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.”[13] Clanton denied any knowledge of the text message. Founder Charlie Kirk had previously praised Clanton, proclaiming her as “the best hire we ever could have made” and called her “integral to the success of Turning Point while effectively serving as its chief operating officer.”[13]

Gabrielle Fequiere, a former field director claimed she was the only African-America employee of Turning Point USA at the time. She recalls of her experience working with the group, “in looking back, I think it was racist.” She also mentioned a tendency for minority staff to be excluded from workplace events and official functions.[13]

Attacks on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Appearing on "Fox & Friends," Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk railed against the newly elected New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Kirk criticized the ideology of democratic socialism which Ocasio-Cortez promotes. He stated, "This is what is so scary is that Ocasio-Cortez pretends to be the fighter for the people. Yet she represents an ideology that has destroyed cultures and destroyed civilizations and destroyed countries over the last 100 years. Of course, we're talking about democratic socialism, or just socialism in general, and Pelosi is bought and paid for by a lot of special interests. But Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fights for ideology that's even more harmful than those special interests."[14]

Comparison of Hillary Clinton to Herpes

On November 22, 2018, Turning Point USA's Director of Spanish Engagement, Anna Paulina, appeared on Fox News and made inappropriate comments about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. During a conversation with Fox News host Rick Leventhal and Democratic strategist Doug Schoen, Leventhal stated, “I am amazed that with everything going on in the world, we still have Hillary Clinton in the headlines.” At that point, Paulina interjected, "She won’t go away. She’s like herpes." At that point, Leventhal cut off the conversation, stating "Okay, that’s news that we are breaking here” and called Paulina's language “not appropriate."[15]

Paulina later apologized on Twitter but continued her attack on Clinton, stating "Yesterday on Fox I was placed on the wrong segment & in the confusion made a brash and unprofessional joke. To Fox and those watching, I am deeply sorry. My feeling simply is that Big Government creates dynasties like the Clintons that won’t go away & Americans are over it."[15]

Dark Money for Right-Wing Student Government Candidates

A report by the Chronicle of Higher Education detailed what it called Turning Point USA's “stealth plan for political influence.”[13] The report alleges that the organization funneled money to certain candidates for student government in violation of the administrative rules of various schools across the country.

The report was in line with Turning Point USA's "Campus Victory Project", which sought to “commandeer the top office of Student Body President at each of the most recognizable and influential American Universities.” Once Turning Point USA allies controlled student government, the group would influence the student office holders to fulfill a political agenda. That agenda would include defunding progressive student organizations, removing bans on campus hate speech, and blocking a school from adopting a Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel.[13]

Illegal Support for Political Campaigns

According to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, "the group may have skirted campaign-finance laws that bar charitable organizations from participating in political activity." Former employees of Turning Point USA reported being directed to work with political operatives, such as Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, in support of Republican political candidates.[13] For example, Thomas instructed Turning Point USA staff to distribute placards for Ted Cruz during the Wisconsin primary. E-mails obtained by the New Yorker also demonstrated that a Ted Cruz Super PAC asked Kirk to send “as many kids as possible” to canvass in South Carolina in support of the presidential candidate. Other former employees claim that lists of student supporters were passed to the Marco Rubio presidential campaign.

Commenting on the allegations against Turning Point USA's involvement supporting political candidates, former FEC Commissioner Trevor Potter stated, "If what Turning Point USA was doing was helping Republicans on campus and feeding them to campaigns, that’s a political operation, and it sounds as if it crosses the line."[13]

Ties to the Fossil Fuel Industry

Charlie Kirk has engaged in fundraising at closed-door meetings of the National Mining Association and the Independent Petroleum Association of America. Turning Point USA has also written numerous publications and organized student activities in support of the fossil fuel industry. One such publication was titled, "10 Ways Fossil Fuels Improve Our Daily Lives."[13]

Ties to the Trump Family

Charlie Kirk established ties to the Trump Family while speaking at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Kirk claims that he "hit it off" with Donald Trump Jr. at the convention. He then served as a youth outreach specialist for the Trump campaign. After the election of President Trump in November 2016, both Donald Trump, Jr. and Lara Trump, the wife of Don, Jr.,’s brother Eric have become involved in Turning Point USA activities. They have spoken at rallies and appeared in promotional materials.[13]

In November 18, President Trump retweeted a statement from Charlie Kirk in which he implied that Hillary Clinton stated all black people look alike when making a joke during an interview. The tweet read, "WOW - if a conservative said this they would be boycotted and not allowed back in the public arena — Hillary said “all black people look the same” - incredibly racist thing to say Hillary! RT!"[16]

Involvement with Kanye West

In October 2018, musician Kanye West made headlines when he called African slavery in America a choice, called to abolish the 13th Amendment and publically praised Donald Trump. At the same time, West developed a close relationship with Turning Point USA spokeswoman Candice Owens. Owens was responsible for developing a campaign titled "Blexit" which called for African-Americans to leave the Democratic Party. Kanye West reportedly created a logo for the Blexit campaign. Regarding West's involvement, Owens stated, "Blexit is a renaissance and I am blessed to say that this logo, these colors, were created by my dear friend and fellow superhero Kanye West.”[17]

But after being met with widespread criticism, including derision and mockery on television comedy programs, West distanced himself from politics and Turning Point USA. On October 31, 2018, West tweeted that he did not design the Blexit logo and did not want further involvement with the campaign. Numerous right-wing activists and pundits, such as Lucian Wintrich and Tomi Lahren, blamed Owens and Turning Point USA for driving West away from supporting President Trump, depriving the far right of their most high-profile celebrity backer.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag

Turning Point USA has worked with many organizations as event sponsors. According to Kirk, such sponsors usually contribute $5,000 to $10,000 per event. Event sponsors have included:

Core Financials

2015[19]
Total Revenue: $4,320,698
Total Expenditures: $3,874,250
Net Assets: $1,368,351

2014[20]
Total Revenue: $2,052,349
Total Expenditures: $1,358,254
Net Assets: $921,903

2013[21]
Total Revenue: $443,859
Total Expenditures: $242,999
Net Assets: $227,808

2012[22]
Total Revenue: $78,809
Total Expenditures: $51,942
Net Assets: $26,948

Personnel

As of December 2018:

Staff

Board of Directors

Advisory Council

As of November 2018:[25]

Contact Information

Turning Point USA NFP
217 1/2 East Illinois Street
Lemont, Illinois 60439
Phone: (630)-803-7076
Website: https://www.tpusa.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/turningpointusa
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TPUSA

Articles and Resources

External Resources

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Turning Point USA, About Turning Point USA, accessed November 27, 2018.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Andrew Marantz Junior Offender The New Yorker May 27, 2019
  3. 3.0 3.1 Annmarie Mannion Area teen rallied in Charlottesville, got death threats, now planning move to 'solidly red' Alabama Chicago Tribune August 18, 2018
  4. 4.0 4.1 Aaron Calvin White nationalist speaker provokes controversy with Iowa State University visit March 8, 2019
  5. Jack Crosby Turning Point USA Boots Member After Viral 'White Power' Video Splinter May 10, 2019
  6. ChelsiaRose Marcius Turning Point USA Boots Student After ‘Abhorrent’ Video of ‘White Power’ Chants Goes Viral The Daily Beast May 10, 2019
  7. "The Grouch" “We’re Gonna Run the Country! White Power! F**k N*****s!”: Turning Point USA Leader Gives Alt-Right Hand Sign While Caught on Racist Rant It's Going Down May 9, 2019
  8. 8.0 8.1 Audrey McNamara Candace Owens Steps Down as Turning Point USA Communications Director The Daily Beast, May 1, 2019
  9. Will Sommer Candace Owens: Hitler Was ‘OK’ Until He Tried to Go Global The Daily Beast Feb. 8, 2019
  10. John Haltiwanger Candace Owens rejects any connection to 'radical Islamophobic white supremacy terror overseas' after being mentioned in New Zealand terrorist’s manifesto Business Insider] March 15, 2019
  11. Professor Watchlist, Home, accessed December 9, 2018.
  12. ”James Hohmann, The Daily 202: Koch network warns of ‘McCarthyism 2.0’ in conservative efforts to harass professors, Washington Post, August 1, 2018.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 Jane Mayer, A Conservative Non-Profit that Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity, New Yorker, December 21, 2017.
  14. Joe Concha, Turning Point's Kirk: Ocasio-Cortez represents ideology that's 'destroyed civilizations', The Hill, September 22, 2018.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Scott Morefield, Turning Point USA Guest Booted Off Fox News Segment Apologizes for Comparing Hillary to Herpes, The Daily Caller, November 23, 2018.
  16. Trump Retweets Image of His Political Opponents Behind Bars, Including His Own Deputy Attorney General, Haaretz, November 29, 2018.
  17. Elahe Izadi and Travis M. Andrews, Kanye West says he’s distancing himself from politics: 'I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in’, Washington Post, October 30, 2018.
  18. 18.00 18.01 18.02 18.03 18.04 18.05 18.06 18.07 18.08 18.09 18.10 18.11 18.12 18.13 18.14 18.15 18.16 18.17 18.18 18.19 18.20 18.21 18.22 18.23 18.24 18.25 18.26 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ibt
  19. Turning Point USA 2015 990 Form, accessed December 3, 2018.
  20. Turning Point USA 2014 990 Form, accessed December 3, 2018.
  21. Turning Point USA 2013 990 Form, accessed December 3, 2018.
  22. Turning Point USA 2012 990 Form, accessed December 3, 2018.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 Turning Point USA 2016 IRS 990 Form, accessed November 30, 2018.
  24. 24.0 24.1 Turning Point USA, Staff Directory: TPUSA Headquarters, accessed November 30, 2018.
  25. Turning Point USA, Advisory Council, accessed November 30, 2018.