Every now and then you get a glimpse of where the true power is over at Powerlineblog. Today Scott Johnson has a post up titled "Coming attractions," that publicizes two upcoming conservative movement events.
The first is the "Winston Churchill Dinner" being held by the Claremont Institute in California next month. Johnson and his partner in publishing John Hinderaker, are both "fellows" there. The Institute itself is partially funded by conservative philanthropy, receiving at least $9 million since 1985. The keynote speaker, and recipient of the Institute's "2007 Statesmanship Award," will be Donald Rumsfeld, who has numerous ties to conservative philanthropy, including a new appointment as a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution, one of the top policy shops receiving conservative philanthropy. Doing the presenting will be none other than the Bookie of Virtue Bill Bennett, who is also a Claremont Institute Fellow, and is as central to conservative philanthropy as you can get. Johnson calls Bennett a "Powerline friend" in his post.
The second event is the "fall briefing" for a local Twin Cities "think tank" the Center of the American Experiment (CAE). When last we heard from CAE its future seemed to be in doubt due to internal divisions that resulted in the departure of senior staff and the return of the institution's founder Mitch Pearlstein. The Center has gotten a fair amount from conservative philanthropy, and if you look at its roster and events you can tell it is deeply intertwined in both the national conservative movement and Republican politics. Unsurprisingly Johnson is also a board member there, and Hinderaker was in the past.
The speaker at the CAE event will be none other than Bill Kristol, who's going to talk about "The New World," which I guess is code for the predicament Republicans now find themselves in. Kristol, son of one of the movement's founders, sits at the nexus of conservative philanthropy, media and politics. His organization, the Project for The New American Century, laid the groundwork for the invasion of Iraq, the most foolish war in 2,000 years (according to Martin Van Creveld).
A look at the CAE's quarterly publication reveals authors from across the conservative movement, including Johnson and Hinderaker, Chester Finn, Vin Weber, Sally Pipes, Abigail Thernstrom, Jean Bethke Elshtain, David Frum, David Blankenhorn, Wade Horn, Maggie Gallagher, and many more. Two writers for the CAE quarterly are now in positions of power at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. One is Doug Tice, who was a conservative editorial writer at the St. Paul Pioneer Press who is now the political editor at the Star Tribune (not kidding). The second is Katherine Kersten, who was in on the founding of the CAE, has held numerous positions there (including paid ones), and was an op-ed writer at the Trib. After Kersten was removed from the op-ed page at the paper she got a job there as a news columnist, a job she holds to this very day. Kersten is so political, in fact, that she was on a small, select committee that picked people for top jobs in Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's administration.
As I have argued in numerous venues, the CAE is a "think tank" in name only; it is really an extension of the Republican party, and a cog in the larger conservative movement. The fact that a good friend of theirs is the political editor at the Trib, and one of its founders is a news columnist are indicators of a strong influence on the definition of news in the Twin Cities. Kersten herself often works in tandem with Powerlineblog; frequently you'll see a particular topic covered by Johnson or Hinderaker, only to have the story appear in Kersten's column shortly thereafter. It works the other way, too. In another post just above the one referenced in this post Johnson links to three recent Kersten columns warning of the anarchy awaiting the country for tolerating Critical Mass bike rides.
When Kersten was appointed as a news columnist I complained to the paper's Reader's Rep (who has since been reassigned) that I knew of no news columnists who hadn't come up through the ranks of reporting. She tried to convince me, unsuccessfully, that Kersten had previous journalistic experience, but the truth is that she hadn't any. In actuality Kersten was and is a career movement conservative, working not just at CAE but also as a board member at the odious Institute on Religion and Democracy.
In their own way the conservatives have setup an institutional supply-side structure for getting their message out. First they create and subsidize hundreds of institutions like Claremont and CAE; next they find reliable Republicans to staff them. These institutions then create content for media dissemination, which is taken care of by blogs like Powerline and columnists like Kersten. Paul Krugman recently wrote that Americans don't like conservative and Republican policies on most major issues, and haven't for some time. Yet, Republicans keeps racking up political success stories. Krugman argues the reason for this dichotomy resides in the power of the conservative movement. He's on to something.