I’ve never been shy about saying that I despise Turning Point USA. It’s a horrible organization that makes rancid pro-capitalism arguments from a Libertarian perspective, and that tangles it all up in an anti-diversity reactionary package that Republicans all love. There’s somebody at my university who slaps up their stupid declarative posters everywhere, which means that just walking down a hallway give my superior rectus and oblique ocular muscles a painful workout.
Welp, now TPUSA has been investigated. They’re worse than I thought, which means they’re probably on par for a sleazy right wing organization.
Perhaps most troubling for an organization that holds up conservatives as the real victims of discrimination in America, Turning Point USA is also alleged to have fostered an atmosphere that is hostile to minorities. Screenshots provided to me by a source show that Crystal Clanton, who served until last summer as the group’s national field director, sent a text message to another Turning Point employee saying, “i hate black people. Like fuck them all . . . I hate blacks. End of story.”
The good news: she got fired. The bad news: it was probably for making their opinions public, not for having those opinions.
Former Turning Point employees say that the organization was a difficult workplace and rife with tension, some of it racial. Gabrielle Fequiere, a former Turning Point employee, told me that she was the only African-American hired as a field director when she worked with the group, three years ago. “In looking back, I think it was racist,” she said. “At the time, I was blaming myself, and I thought I did something wrong.” Fequiere, who now works as a model, recalled that the young black recruits that she brought into the organization suddenly found themselves disinvited from the group’s annual student summit, and that when she herself attended, she watched speakers there who “spoke badly about black women having all these babies out of wedlock. It was really offensive.”
Also, they sponsored Milo Yiannopoulos.
Speakers at Turning Point events on various college campuses have been accused of going out of their way to thumb their noses at ethnic and cultural sensitivities. The conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, for instance, whose appearance Turning Point co-hosted with the College Republicans at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, said that despite being gay, he hated “faggots,” lesbians, and feminists, who, he said, “fucking hate men.”
Also, they’re a 501(c)3 charity, forbidden from engaging in partisan political activities. Yeah, sure.
Susan Walker, who worked for Turning Point USA in Florida, in 2016, told me that the group did aid Republican political campaigns. Walker said that a list she created while working for Turning Point, with the names of hundreds of student supporters, was given without her knowledge to someone working for Marco Rubio’s Presidential campaign. “That list had, like, seven hundred kids, and I worked my ass off to get it,” she said. “I had added notes on every student I talked to, and they were all on it still.” The Rubio operative, she added, “shouldn’t have had that list. We were a charity, and he was on a political campaign.”
Also, they’re propping up conservative take-overs of student government.
ast May, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an investigative report on what it called Turning Point’s “stealth plan for political influence.” The story recounted accusations on multiple campuses that the group had funnelled money into student elections in violation of the spending caps and transparency requirements set by those schools. It detailed how student candidates backed by Turning Point had been forced to drop out of campus elections at the University of Maryland and Ohio State “after they were caught violating spending rules and attempting to hide the help they received from Turning Point.” It also quoted Kirk saying in an appearance before a conservative political group in 2015 that his group was “investing a lot of time and money and energy” in student-government elections. (In the story, Kirk denied any wrongdoing and said it was “completely ludicrous and ridiculous that there’s some sort of secret plan.”)
Student government? What can they do with student government?
Once in control of student governments, the brochure says, Turning Point expects its allied campus leaders to follow a set political agenda. Among its planks are the defunding of progressive organizations on campus, the implementation of “free speech” policies eliminating barriers to hate speech, and the blocking of all campus “boycott, divestment and sanctions” movements. Turning Point’s agenda also calls for the student leaders it empowers to use student resources to host speakers and forums promoting “American Exceptionalism and Free Market ideals on campus.”
Also, if you, like me, have been wondering where they get their money, it’s from the oil and coal industries.
In a phone interview, Kirk declined to identify the donors who have supplied his group’s eight-million-dollar-plus annual budget, noting that many prefer to remain anonymous. But Kirk has spoken and fund-raised at various closed-door energy-industry gatherings, including those of the 2017 board meeting of the National Mining Association and the 2016 annual meeting of the Independent Petroleum Association of America. In our interview, Kirk acknowledged that some of his donors “are in the fossil-fuel space.”
I’m glad someone is turning over this rock and snapping pictures of all the vermin wriggling beneath it.