Sun. May 19th, 2024

Secretive conservative donor group meets to draw up 2024 plans — with a call-in from Trump

By 37ci3 Apr24,2024

Former President Donald Trump spent last week in New York for the start of a hushed-up impeachment trial. But on Wednesday, between days in court, Trump found time to call a secret donor meeting at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, according to two people associated with the group who were in the room.

The event was hosted by the Rockbridge Network, an under-the-radar, new-age conservative group that sees itself as the vanguard of a changing Republican Party and has spent tens of millions of dollars building new infrastructure to support it. .

Trump spoke to a room of about 250 people, who lean more toward techno-populists than 20th-century traditionalists, right or left, leaning toward the former president and his undermining of the Republican Party. Trump was originally scheduled to be the guest speaker, but was unable to attend in person due to a lawsuit in New York. According to two people involved, Donald Trump Jr. the star pinched her father as one of the face-to-face talkers. Trump’s co-campaign managers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita were also in attendance.

The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about the incident.

Rockbridge is not yet a brand name in Republican politics, in part because the group has operated in secret since its inception in 2019. The exact number of dollars behind the group is also difficult to verify, but it is “high in the tens of millions,” one source involved told NBC News last week familiar with the group’s operations. While some old GOP donor groups have shunned Trump — such as the Koch network, which dropped out of the presidential race after endorsing Nikki Haley in the Republican primary, now preferring to focus on the ballot — Rockbridge is firmly aligned with Trump.

Rockbridge sees itself as a kind of anti-Koch network that can fill gaps where the party has traditionally not invested. As the GOP has shifted from middle and upper middle class to more middle and working class, Rockbridge founders The same source noted that the GOP has not shifted to supporting and capitalizing on infrastructure. For example, while the Democrats had unions that organized their blue-collar base, the Republicans had no mechanism to do the same.

The organization is the brainchild of Ohio Sen. JD Vance (before he was a senator) and Chris Buskirk, publisher of the pro-Trump website American Greatness. American Conservatism”. Among those attending is billionaire Peter Thiel.

“All these other historic think tanks and more traditional conservative organizations haven’t picked up on the Trump movement at all and haven’t recognized the shift. Many still operate like they did in the 1990s,” said entrepreneur and donor Omeed Malik, who has been involved with Rockbridge since 2022.

In addition to Wednesday night’s Mar-a-Lago event, last week’s three-day gathering at the Palm Beach Four Seasons drew stalwarts of both new and old school GOP donors. Among the crowd were major GOP donor Rebekah Mercer, billionaire and former Trump ambassador to the United Kingdom Woody Johnson and prominent conservative lawyer Leonard Leo, according to two people who attended the meeting. Also on hand were cryptocurrency luminary Eric Voorhees and former Uber boss Emil Michael.

Rockbridge’s membership includes a range of people from the tech world and elsewhere who have not previously made political contributions, as well as more traditional donors looking for new ways to invest their political money.

It’s not Rockbridge’s first time at Mar-a-Lago. The group’s past events include a 2022 gathering at Trump’s club. The New York Times reported on this in a story detailing some of the network’s early plans.

One of Rockbridge’s big projects for 2024 is voter registration. The group registered 125,000 voters in 2023 and hopes to double that number in 2024, according to a source familiar with Rockbridge’s operations. The organization is funding a program to target new registrants based on issues that matter to them, and an “ambassador” outreach structure that will see ten new voters each assigned to an organizer familiar with them.

New voters could be especially important for Trump in 2024 — a recent NBC News poll shows Trump leading by a healthy margin among respondents who won’t vote in 2020 or 2022. The question is whether those people will register and participate. Rockbridge hopes to enter here.

For people like Malik, the network also functions as an exchange and generator of ideas. It was at the Rockbridge event in 2022 that Malick’s idea for the 1789 Capitol fund was born. Now he’s behind Tucker Carlson’s new media venture with the foundation lead financing for the former Fox News host’s latest venture.

Rockbridge’s standing in broader Republican circles remains murky. “Their names come up occasionally, but it’s not very clear what their plans are for this period,” said one Republican operative who works with donors.

What is clear is that the network is paying attention to Trump and his campaign, and plans to play a major role in his re-election.

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By 37ci3

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