The real Republican Party...from the NY Times (Again, sorry.)
Three times a year for 23 years, a little-known club of a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country have met behind closed doors at undisclosed locations for a confidential conference, the Council for National Policy, to strategize about how to turn the country to the right.
Details are closely guarded.
"The media should not know when or where we meet or who takes part in our programs, before of after a meeting," a list of rules obtained by The New York Times advises the attendees.
The membership list is "strictly confidential." Guests may attend "only with the unanimous approval of the executive committee." In e-mail messages to one another, members are instructed not to refer to the organization by name, to protect against leaks.
This week, before the Republican convention, the members quietly convened in New York, holding their latest meeting almost in plain sight, at the Plaza Hotel, for what a participant called "a pep rally" to re-elect President Bush.
This week, as the Bush campaign seeks to rally Christian conservative leaders to send Republican voters to the polls, several Bush administration and campaign officials were on hand, according to an agenda obtained by The New York Times.
"The destiny of our nation is on the shoulders of the conservative movement," the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, told the gathering as he accepted its Thomas Jefferson award on Thursday, according to an attendee's notes.
The secrecy that surrounds the meeting and attendees like the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Phyllis Schlafly and the head of the National Rifle Association, among others, makes it a subject of suspicion, at least in the minds of the few liberals aware of it.
"The real crux of this is that these are the genuine leaders of the Republican Party, but they certainly aren't going to be visible on television next week," Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said.
"The C.N.P. members are not going to be visible next week," he said. "But they are very much on the minds of George W. Bush and Karl Rove every week of the year, because these are the real powers in the party."
Over the years, the council has become a staging ground for conservative efforts to make the Republican Party more socially conservative. Ms. Schlafly, who helped build a grass-roots network to fight for socially conservative positions in the party, is a longstanding member.
The membership list this year was a who's who of evangelical Protestant conservatives and their allies, including Dr. Dobson, Mr. Weyrich, Holland H. Coors of the beer dynasty; Wayne LaPierre of the National Riffle Association, Richard A. Viguerie of American Target Advertising, Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Committee and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform.
[Who is this guy, Rasputin? He's everywhere.]
On Wednesday, members had a dinner in the Rainbow Room, where William F. Buckley Jr. of the National Review was a special guest. At 10 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, members had "prayer sessions" in the Rose Room at the hotel.