The Conservative Partnership Institute (“CPI”) is a $45 million “America First” institution boosted with a $1 million donation from former President Trump’s PAC. Led by former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and former Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint, CPI is creating the MAGA-oriented political infrastructure that the Trump administration lacked.

CPI is recruiting America First staffers and providing in-depth training for Hill offices, as well as creating legal institutions, opposition research firms, think tanks, and other groups helmed by former Trump officials and allies, including Stephen Miller, Russ Vought, and Cleta Mitchell. Formed in 2017, CPI's fundraising surged to $45 million in 2021.

The group’s ambitions are sprawling, from amplifying conspiracies around stolen elections and “critical race theory,” to tanking Democratic nominees and filing lawsuits against the Biden administration. CPI’s president, Ed Corrigan, helped lead Trump’s 2016 transition team, and the group is positioned to staff and support far-right Congressional offices and the next MAGA administration.

CPI is located blocks from the U.S. Capitol, and serves as a hub for the far-right "America First "movement. The House Freedom Caucus holds weekly meetings at CPI, and texts obtained by the January 6 committee show lawmakers like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Sen. Mike Lee referencing meetings at CPI in the tumultuous period following the 2020 election. Nearly two dozen individuals tied to the January 6 attempted coup are connected to CPI, according to Grid's analysis.

Nerve Center for the MAGA Movement

CPI’s Washington D.C. headquarters serve as a hub for the far-right conservative movement. According to CPI, in 2021 the “House Freedom Caucus, the Senate Steering Committee, Congressional Chiefs of Staff, Congressional Communicators, Congressional Legislative Directors, and numerous conservative organizations and activists coalesced regularly at [CPI’s headquarters] to plan their methods and means of attack against the Left to save this country.”

Former Republican Congressman Denver Riggleman described CPI as playing a "coordinating function" for the House Freedom Caucus, and said that it serves as "sort of like a bizarre Freedom Caucus HQ."

CPI boasted of holding 600 meetings or events in 2021, served as a "strategy center" to oppose President Biden’s vaccine requirements, and hosted multiple “war rooms” during Judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination. CPI is also expanding, and says that it is “in the process of acquiring multiple properties adjacent to our D.C. headquarters in order to create a culture of collaboration and victory for the movement.”

According to CPI, members like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz, Rep. Andy Biggs, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, and Rep. Byron Donalds have made the CPI headquarters “their home away from home.”

At least fifteen members of the House and Senate have disclosed paying membership dues to CPI or its "Conservative Partnership Center" using campaign or leadership PAC funds.

Ties to Trump’s 2020 Coup Attempt

CPI and its affiliate groups “employ or assist at least 20 key operatives reportedly involved in Trump’s failed effort to subvert the 2020 election,” according to Grid, including Cleta Mitchell, the veteran lawyer who supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election and joined the infamous call when the president urged Georgia’s Secretary of State to “find” 11,700 votes; Mark Meadows, Trump's former White House chief of staff who was in communication with alleged Jan. 6 plotters and at least tolerated Trump's attempted coup; and Jeffrey Clark, the former Justice Department lawyer who supported Trump’s desire for DOJ to declare the result fraudulent, and whose home was raided by the FBI in June of 2022.

Texts obtained by the January 6 committee also show Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Sen. Mike Lee referencing meetings at CPI in the tumultuous period after the 2020 election.

Mike Lee to Mark Meadows, Nov. 9 2020:

We had steering executive meeting at CPI tonight, with Sidney Powell as our guest speaker. My purpose in having the meeting was to socialize with Republican senators the fact that POTUS needs to pursue his legal remedies. You have in us a group of ready and loyal advocates who will go to bat for him, but I fear this could prove short-lived unless you hire the right legal team and set them loose immediately.

Marjorie Taylor Greene to Mark Meadows, Dec. 31, 2020:

Good morning Mark, I'm here in DC. We have to get organized for the 6th. I would like to meet with Rudy Giuliani again. We didn't get to speak with him long. Also anyone who can help. We are getting a lot of members on board. And we need to lay out the best case for each state. I'll be over at CPI this afternoon.

CPI hardly shies away from its affiliation with Trump’s failed coup.

Months after the Capitol insurrection, in summer of 2020, CPI hosted a “Hot Gulag Summer” event that served Jan. 6-themed cocktails, including the “Capitol Attaquiri,” “Insurrection on the Beach” and the “Mostly Peaceful Mojito.”

“We’re all going to be sent to the gulag eventually,” the invitation read. “We might as well party and get to know each other before we are all ‘reeducated.’”

"America First" Staffing

CPI boasts of recruiting, recommending, and training Congressional staffers who are committed to advancing an America First agenda. In 2021, CPI claims to have trained 49 members of Congress and 246 Congressional staffers, and to have made 200 Congressional staffing recommendations.

“We gave conservatives on Capitol Hill the right skills, the right people, and the right connections—all for the purpose of making America great again,” CPI described in its annual report. For example, in 2021 CPI held “5-week-long legislative boot camps” taught by Ed Corrigan and Rachel Bovard, where “they armed conservative staffers with every tactic the House and Senate rules gave them: how to force amendment votes, how to work outside the Establishment- dominated committee process, and how to leverage nominations to wage policy fights:”

“You may have seen that conservatives defeated Biden’s gun-grabbing pick to lead the ATF and stopped a communist- sympathizing economist from becoming comptroller of the currency. That didn’t happen by accident.”

According to CPI, “our trainings have become so respected that conservative congressional offices and grassroots advocacy organizations now come to us when they have job openings to fill. They know that we maintain a database of current and prospective congressional staffers who have been through our trainings and are up to the task of putting America first.”

In 2021, CPI purchased a $7.25 million collection of waterfront farms on Maryland's Eastern Shore to hold Congressional staff retreats and trainings. CPI has since held several all-expenses-paid retreats at the property for Congressional staff. Staffers who attend retreats at the CPI-owned property only disclose receiving an estimated $99/night gift of lodging, which helps obscure reveal the actual benefit received.

CPI-Launched Projects, Many Led by former Trump Officials

In 2021, CPI launched eight new projects, as well as entities to provide legal compliance and administrative support for those groups:

  • Election Integrity Network: Cleta Mitchell, the veteran lawyer who supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, joined CPI and launched the Election Integrity Network (EIN) in early 2021, after resigning as a partner with the international law firm Foley and Lardner. Documented obtained leaked audio describing how CPI’s EIN is working with groups like Tea Party Patriots to create “permanent election integrity coalitions in eight target states,” and hosted Trump coup plotter John Eastman at an October 2022 event.
  • Center for Renewing America: Trump Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director Russ Vought leads the culture war-oriented Center for Renewing America (CRA). “CRA’s strategy is to initiate planned confrontations on major national cultural issues, win those confrontations, and let the resulting political momentum fuel legislative activity at the federal, state, and local levels,” CPI says. CRA has created anti-CRT model legislation, opposed making women eligible for the draft, and opposed Afghan refugee migration. Jeffrey Clark, who Trump wanted to install as Attorney General after the 2020 election and who supported Trump’s desire for the Justice Department to declare the results fraudulent, joined CRA as Senior Fellow in June 2022, shortly before federal authorities searched Clark's home as part of the criminal inquiry into Trump's attempted coup. CRA senior fellows also include former Trump advisor Kash Patel, who appeared before a grand jury in the Mar al Lago documents case.
  • America First Legal Foundation: Trump’s hardline immigration advisor Stephen Miller co-created the America First Legal Foundation (AFL) with Mark Meadows, which claims to give “the 234 new federal judges appointed by Donald Trump the chance to finally hold Washington accountable to the rule of law.” According to the Washington Post, the group "has weaponized the grievance politics embodied by Trump’s 'Make America Great Again' movement through dozens of federal lawsuits, challenging efforts to remedy racial disparities, support LGBTQ students and expand the pool of early voters." In the final weeks of the 2022 elections, AFL spent $4 million on inflammatory anti-transgender radio ads. Casino magnate Steve Wynn, who resigned as RNC finance chair amid allegations of sexual misconduct in 2018, is among AFL's donors, according to the Post.
  • American Accountability Foundation: Tom Jones, Ted Cruz’s 2016 oppo research director, leads the group described as the “Slime Machine Targeting Dozens of Biden Nominees” by the New Yorker. AAF has taken credit for knocking out President Biden's Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms nominee David Chipman, comptroller nominee Saule Omarova, and Federal Reserve nominee Sarah Bloom Raskin.
  • American Cornerstone Institute: former Trump cabinet member Ben Carson is founder and chair of American Cornerstone Institute (ACI), where Carson hosts a podcast and creates YouTube videos, and which created the anti-woke "Little Patriots" platform "to teach children about our founding principles."
  • American Moment: “American Moment’s mission is to identify, educate, and credential young Americans who will implement public policy that supports strong families, a sovereign nation, and prosperity for all,” according to CPI's annual report. In 2021, American Moment claims to have placed ten fellows at aligned organizations and congressional offices and, according to CPI, paid them “a living wage of $3,000 a month.” CPI plans to quadruple the program to 40 fellows in 2022.
  • State Freedom Caucus Network: In late 2021, CPI launched the "State Freedom Caucus Network" to replicate the far-right Congressional House Freedom Caucus in statehouses. CPI plans to create state freedom caucuses in every state legislature, according to its annual report, with caucuses already assembled in states including Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Illinois, Nevada, South Dakota, and South Carolina. Each state caucus will have an executive director, and CPI boasts that "the State Freedom Caucus Network will identify, place, and pay for legislative staffers year-round," and also create a PAC to "defend current and future state freedom caucus members facing tough reelections." Following the 2022 midterm elections in Arizona, for example, that state's freedom caucus promoted false claims of voter fraud and issued a statement calling Maricopa County election officials "incompetent, alleged criminals" who should "resign in shame."

CPI also helped launch two organizations to support these projects. Compass Professional Services, which is housed within CPI, provides payroll and administrative services to these entities. Compass Legal Services, also located at CPI headquarters, provides legal, campaign finance, and tax compliance services; according to campaign finance records, CPI members like Marjorie Taylor Greene also pay Compass Legal for legal compliance services, as does Trump's Save America PAC.

CPI Pushing Boundaries of Tax-Exempt Charitable Status

As a 501(c)(3) charity, CPI is exempt from taxation, and its donors get a lucrative tax deduction. But in exchange for those tax benefits, CPI is prohibited from supporting candidates or engaging in partisan political activity.

However, as NPR has reported, CPI is putting its tax-exempt status at risk by closely coordinating its activities with Republican political organizations and selectively offering its facilities and services to Republican candidates. In November 2022, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse sent a letter to CPI inquiring into whether CPI has violated its tax-exempt charitable status.

The NPR report and Sen. Whitehouse's letter detailed several CPI activities that may violate tax law. For example, in the 2022 election cycle, CPI's Election Integrity Network worked closely with the Republican National Committee (RNC) as it worked to recruit and train poll workers and watchers in key swing states, as reported by POLITICO based on audio obtained by Documented. RNC officials have been speakers at several CPI summits, and RNC state election integrity directors are taking part in state-wide election integrity efforts spearheaded by CPI. A 501(c)(3) organization may provide an impermissible private benefit to a political party if it provides programs to recruit and train poll watchers and workers in a partisan manner.

In addition to working closely with the RNC on training and recruiting election observers and poll workers, CPI has hosted political candidates at its events. For example, Governor Ron DeSantis gave the keynote address at CPI’s Florida summit in March of 2022, which amounted to a campaign speech where DeSantis urged people to vote in the election, and stressed that “We need everybody to come out and really, really have a huge, huge November in the state of Florida.”

A 501(c)(3) organization engages in prohibited political campaign intervention by inviting just one candidate to speak at its event, and where that candidate urged support on election day.

Documented · DeSantis At FL CPI "Huge Huge November"

Moreover, since late 2020, dozens of GOP candidates have used campaign funds to rent CPI’s facility and services, including for “campaign events” and "fundraising event fees," according to FEC records. Seventeen Congressional candidates and four senators reported $4,000 payments to CPI or CPC from their campaign committees or leadership PACs, with the majority of those disbursements described as “membership” payments or dues.

A 501(c)(3) charity engages in prohibited political campaign intervention by selectively offering its facilities to political candidates or committees. There is no record of Democratic candidates renting CPI facilities, and CPI's facilities do not appear available to the general public.

CPI's Fundraising

Since forming in 2017, CPI's fundraising has increased dramatically—most recently, jumping from $7.3 million in 2020 to $45 million in 2021, according to CPI's 2021 tax filing. (CPI's 2021 Annual Report, released in early 2022, reported $19.7 million in revenue plus $25 million in "Capital Fund Revenue").

Trump's Save America PAC gave $1 million to CPI in July 2021. CPI also held a fundraiser at Mar al Lago in April 2021, with former President Trump as the keynote speaker.

As a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit, CPI does not publicly disclose its donors.

However, an analysis by Grid identified more than 40 foundations, charities and other organizations that have funded CPI, including $1.25 million from GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein’s foundation in 2020, $500,000 from the late gaming machine mogul Stanley E. Fulton’s private foundation, and $200,000 from the Chicago Community Trust.

Donors Trust, the “dark money” funding hub, donated a total of $1.3 million to CPI in 2021, with $200,000 earmarked for American Moment and $10,000 in support of Cleta Mitchell's Election Integrity Network.

CPI has also identified some financial supporters in its 2021 annual report.

David and Brenda Frecka: CPI thanked the pair for their financial support in its 2021 annual report, and named a "David and Brenda Frecka Boardroom" at CPC. In 2021, David Frecka gave $1M to Jim Jordan's House Freedom Action, and Brenda Frecka gave $1.15M to Debbi Meadows's Right on Women PAC

Mike Rydin: According to CPI’s annual report, Ryden “made a generous gift” so that CPI could purchase a townhouse next door to its headquarters “for additional meeting and event space as well as space to host out-of-town guests.” The property sold for $1.5M in 2020.

Dr. William Amos Jr.: The son of the AFLAC founder “has generously supported the Conservative Partnership Institute. For his incredible contributions to CPI’s growth and mission, in 2021, CPI honored Dr. Amos with CPI’s Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Foster Friess "supported many groups in the movement, including CPI. Foster will always be an important part of the CPI story. With love and purpose, Lynn carries on her late husband’s legacy of helping those in need."

Doug and Charlotte Waikart "made the ultimate commitment to sending American values into the future by supporting CPI in their estate plans."