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Leaked documents, audio: Conservative Turning Point USA quietly funding student government campaigns across US

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Screen grab of texts sent from Kennedy Copeland, leadership director for Turning Point USA.

Turning Point USA, a conservative nonprofit group with university chapters across the country, is set on putting money into Ohio State’s Undergraduate Student Government campaign.

Exactly which OSU campaign TPUSA is funding is being disputed by various parties involved, but leaked text-message exchanges and audio point to a nationwide effort to put conservative students into student governments at colleges across the U.S.

In leaked exchanges, made in late January, a representative from TPUSA said the organization has about $6,000 set aside to directly give to the campaign for Mary Honaker and Carla Gracia and the senators running on their slate. Another representative offered up to $3,000 on behalf of TPUSA to pay students to campaign for them.

After initially claiming not to know about the alleged financing, Michael Frank, the campaign manager for the Honaker and Gracia campaign, said TPUSA reached out to the campaign, but was rebuffed.

A similar statement from Kennedy Copeland, a student at Xavier University and a TPUSA leadership director, confirmed that TPUSA attempted to support Honaker and Gracia, and goes on to say TPUSA was rebuffed. Copeland initially denied knowledge of TPUSA funding student government campaigns, specifically the Honaker and Gracia campaign.

“Liberals consistently dominate campus student government and our goal is to secretly take them out without them knowing what’s coming.” — text message from Kennedy Copeland, Turning Point USA leadership director

Frank and Copeland’s statements say that TPUSA is in fact supporting another USG ticket, that of brothers Reagan and Reese Brooks, both third years in marketing. The Brooks brothers have denied that charge.

“That is utterly false and baseless,” said Devin Bilski, a fourth-year in marketing and political science and the campaign manager for the Brooks brothers. “I think the evidence speaks for itself where the money is coming.”

Regardless of whom TPUSA is supporting at OSU, TPUSA’s interest in OSU’s USG race is clear. Additionally, the leaked texts and audio point toward a larger, national goal by TPUSA.

“A huge part of what Turning Point does — that’s really important to donors — is student government races,” Alana Mastrangelo, TPUSA’s Heartland Regional Director, said in a phone call recorded by an OSU student who was recruited by TPUSA to run for OSU’s USG Senate as part of the Honaker and Gracia campaign. “It’s totally legal and everything, because it’s a student government campaign, it’s not like Congress or the president or anything.”

She goes on to ask the student to “keep it on the DL,” because of TPUSA’s reputation “for being really conservative. They’re starting to call us the alt-right.”

Mastrangelo declined to comment for this article. The national office of TPUSA did not immediately reply to a request for comment placed to its headquarters.

Ohio State

TPUSA is a 501(c)3 nonprofit which, according to its website, promotes limited government and fiscal restraint. It sells shirts with slogans such as “Socialism sucks,” or “Free Markets, Free People.” Though some members have backed Trump, there isn’t a consensus or total alignment within the group behind the president, who has split some Republican voters.

TPUSA also runs a website called “Professor Watchlist,” which, according to the site’s “About” section, seeks to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.”

A Moritz College of Law professor is listed on the watchlist for having called presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s controversial “New York values” remark — made by Cruz during the 2016 presidential campaign — anti-Semitic.

Screen grab of texts sent from Kennedy Copeland, leadership director for Turning Point USA.

Details of TPUSA’s fundraising strategy are laid out in a text-message exchange between Copeland and the OSU student who was recruited by TPUSA to run for a USG senate seat on Honaker and Gracia’s campaign.

“TP is funding the campaign but that’s hush hush,” Copeland said according to the text messages. “Liberals consistently dominate campus student government and our goal is to secretly take them out without them knowing what’s coming.”

Copeland also said she “will have people on the ground” during the OSU election, one text read.

Honaker’s and Gracia’s slate “gets $3,500 + all senators $75,” Copeland said in the text exchange. In a text message, she estimates that makes nearly $6,000 that TPUSA has set aside for the Honaker and Gracia campaign. The spending limit on OSU’s USG campaigns, when combining senators and the presidential campaign in one slate, is $4,000.

Honaker and Gracia, a third-year in international studies and a second-year in political science, respectively, have $3,985 listed in the campaign ledger on their website.

Kadin Llewellyn, the president of OSU’s TPUSA chapter and deputy campaign manager for the Brooks brothers, said he was introduced to Honaker and Gracia by Copeland over winter break at TPUSA’s conference in West Palm Beach, Florida. He said he was told by Honaker and Gracia that TPUSA would be supporting them financially, although he said he didn’t know an exact number. He said Honaker and Gracia told him there were ways to get around USG’s campaign-finance rules. Bilski, who is also the former president of OSU’s TPUSA chapter, said he was also at the meeting.

“I did not agree that Turning Point’s national views aligned with what (Honaker and Gracia) were supporting,” Llewellyn said. “(Honaker and Gracia) said (during the meeting) there are ways to get around the USG bylaws, such as providing things at a super low price.”

Both Llewellyn and Mastrangelo said the OSU TPUSA chapter and the national office had been at odds, with Mastrangelo calling the OSU chapter, who the Brooks brothers and their campaign are aligned with, “a problem child,” according to the recording.

Denial, disputed timeline

In her statement, Copeland said she approached Honaker with the idea of a campaign sponsorship, but Honaker “promptly denied” her. This runs counter to Llewellyn’s story, in which Honaker and Gracia briefed him on the TPUSA funding strategy in West Palm Beach. Frank called attempts to link TPUSA funding to the Honaker and Gracia campaign a smear campaign.

“We believe that this is a smear campaign, designed to point to us as the team funded by Turning Point, and draw attention away from the Brooks Brothers,” Frank said in a statement.

The Florida conference took place in December, according to TPUSA’s website. Copeland’s texts, in which she talks about TPUSA supporting the Honaker and Gracia campaign, are dated at the end of January. Frank did not respond to a request for comment asking when the Honaker and Gracia campaign says they rebuffed TPUSA’s offer.

Across the country

TPUSA isn’t just trying to influence races at OSU, however. As detailed in Copeland and Mastrangelo’s exchanges, the goal is to elect conservative students, and thus influence student governments, at universities across the country.

“Usually, we have a bunch of people — and I don’t think we can do it at your school — but we have like a bunch of people with tablets making people vote and everything. But I heard your guys’ school, it prevents that or something, or we’re not allowed to do that,” Mastrangelo said in the recording, referencing USG bylaws that aim to separate campaigning and voting. “They’ll put money into (campaigns), but their big thing is having people, and having a lot of people doing the campaigning, and they’ll pay those people too.”

Copeland said in the text exchange that she has been aiding Honaker’s and Gracia’s campaign as a “leadership director,” and has won campaigns across the country.

In the phone recording, Mastrangelo made an offer to the OSU student she’s recruiting to have TPUSA pay members of his student organization who agree to campaign for Honaker and Gracia’s campaign. She said she didn’t know an amount, but TPUSA has offered $20 to $50 a day, per person, in the past.

Specifically, she said she was told to get 60 people to campaign for the OSU effort, meaning TPUSA could be spending $1,200 to $3,000 in addition to the money slated for Honaker’s and Gracia’s campaign.

Trojan Horse

In texts, Copeland said that Honaker, who previously interned for Republican Rep. Pat Tiberi, is a “die hard conservative, loves trump (sic),” and Gracia, who other students have told The Lantern is a Democrat, is a “proIsrael, ‘never-trump’ republican (sic) who supports free speech on campus.”

Mastrangelo, in the recording, calls them “closet conservatives,” although she said TPUSA “knows for a fact that they’re hardcore conservatives.”

Honaker is listed as “liking” Copeland’s Facebook page, where there is a picture of Copeland and Donald Trump Jr., one of President Donald Trump’s sons. While Honaker has previously interned for a GOP congressman, Frank, the Honaker and Gracia campaign manager, denied claims that Gracia is a conservative, saying that the ticket has a bipartisan appeal, and Honaker knows Copeland personally.

In the phone call, Mastrangelo outlined TPUSA’s plan to get Gracia and Honaker elected.

“The first goal is to get them in, and then once the (liberal members of the slate) graduate, kind of like, the two conservative people start to get more conservative, and invite their friends on, and it grows from there,” Mastrangelo said in the recording. “The people in the department that run this thing, decided they didn’t want to run an extremely, like, right-wing, entire slate of people. A Trojan Horse is the best way to put it.”

Last week, OSU’s chapter of College Democrats invited three of the four USG presidential campaigns for a town-hall event. The group didn’t invite the fourth campaign, the Brooks brothers, because of their ties to the OSU TPUSA chapter, a representative from College Democrats told The Lantern at the time. In attendance, however, were Honaker and Gracia.

 

44 comments

  1. Mary Honaker is so disgusting, what a liar!

    • I know Mary personally and this does not sound like her or anyone on the campaign. This stuff sounds kinda fake and it just doesn’t flow…. it seems like this is to suppress their campaign.

    • The rise of fascist student groups is due to the hole left by the lack of any progressive student unions in HS or on college campuses. The ‘left’ has not made a sufficient effort to organize student groups on campus, educate them as to the failure of capitalism, how it works and why.

      Once again it is a Weimar moment and the fascist student groups under the canopy of Trump are going right down the middle of two decrepit parties and failed union organizing, both by students and by teachers.

      The danger of TPUSA and other such groups can be seen by the show they put on at the Berkeley campus. Creating havoc, crisis, capitalizing on despair and lost hope is the mission of this crowd. They will then cobble all the ignorance and disillusionment into one ball of fascist wax.

      This is what happened in Germany and this is what happened under Mussolini’s fascist Italy.

      TPUSA is part of an emerging Phoenix Program of fear and intimidation that is rising from the ashes of what is left of ‘The American Century”.

      Follow the money, it will lead to DeVos and friends.

    • The rise of right wing student groups is due to the hole left by the lack of any progressive student unions in HS or on college campuses. The ‘left’ has not made a sufficient effort to organize student groups on campus, educate them as to the failure of capitalism, how it works and why.

      This has happened before with the Liberty League in 1934.

      Once again it is a Weimar moment and the right wing student groups under the canopy of Trump are going right down the middle of two decrepit parties and failed union organizing, both by students and by teachers.

      The danger of TPUSA and other such groups can be seen by the show they put on at the Berkeley campus. Creating havoc, crisis, capitalizing on despair and lost hope is the mission of this crowd. They will then cobble all the ignorance and disillusionment into one ball of authoritarian wax.

      This is what happened in Germany and this is what happened under Mussolini’s fascist Italy.

      TPUSA is part of an emerging Phoenix Program of fear and intimidation that is rising from the ashes of what is left of ‘The American Century”.

  2. Isn’t this fun! All the junior politico wannabes are at it again! Who cares about the cash? I don’t. All you junior politicians who want to live your lives at the trough of government need to wake up, get an education in something real and productive, then get a real job! USG is just a little game, but, the vast amounts of money wasted by governments at all levels is real. We need less, not more government. We don’t need OSU as a training ground for junior politicians.

    • Aren’t you a little old to be reading a college campus’ newspaper, gramps? Do everyone a favor here, and crawl back to your Fox News.

  3. As a part of Mary’s team, I am humiliated. I was lied to and played by the leaders of this team! What a disgrace

  4. As a part of Mary’s campaign, I am humiliated. I was lied to and play by this campaign. What a disgrace!

  5. This article is a joke. “Conservatives trying to run for student government, let’s crucify them before they have a chance!” Why can’t a group support whomever they wish? Why does it have to become a headline?

    • Because they are claiming to be a bipartisan campaign and the article says they are lying about being a bipartisan presidential slate and lying about funding. One campaign wasn’t invited to a round table because if “TPUSA” ties and it turns out the Mary and Carla campaign have even more ties than anyone

    • It’s not crucifixion, it’s making sure voters have all the facts about who is influencing a campaign. Also, if TPUSA has given out as much money as this article suggests, it’s violating USG rules on campaign spending.

  6. I am so happy I chose to study engineering.

  7. If multiple people, who probably know her personally, have told the Lantern that Gracia is a democrat, why are you trying to persuade us otherwise?

  8. *busts out popcorn*

  9. Ad hominem attacks are stupid, but these allegations are concerning if true. While overspending merits disqualification (and I won’t assume that the Mary/Carla campaign overspent; I have doubts about the other campaign under scrutiny, but I’ll give the benefit of the doubt), the bigger concern is the influence of third party organizations in the student government election. Student government is a government for the students by the students (in it’s ideal state), not for the students by alt-right conservative leadership. What’s most ironic about TP USA is they run on a platform of free speech; then they refuse to back down and concede government does good things and simply try to shut up liberals. The influence of TP USA on student government policy is frightening (and if ISO got involved it would work the same the other way).

  10. Wow.. really

  11. Members of OSU Turning point have called me unamerican for being a liberal. They’ve labeled me a socialist for believing in student aid. One of their members told me that I should “be deported” over the wall. I would never, have never, and will never support any campaign that is connected with Turning Point and their extremist views – that’s why I am proud to stand with Mary and Carla as they beat back the false allegations and conspiracy Turning Point has created in order to stop the only female ticket running. We need progressive change – we need Mary and Carla, the only two people who have the guts to look these radicals in the eye and fight back.

  12. A bunch of liberal arts dimwits making a huge mess of things, once again. That’s why I chose to study engineering, so that these Public Affairs, Communication, Political Science majors will be making me my latte on my way to a real job.

    • Your logic on this one is so ridiculously bad. I don’t know how you make any of the connections you posit in this. If thats a greater reflection of how you think, I wouldn’t be banking on that engineering job anytime soon, buddy.

    • @ryan your argument sounds like it could use a little more nuance but ok

  13. Do not fall for it.

    This comment section is being brigaded by conservatives hoping to convince you to not vote for Mary and Carla, the favorites to win, and fracture the votes so the Brooks have a better chance. Look at these comments bashing Mary and Carla and their cookie-cutter phrasing. It’s the same person/group of people.

    It’s the same strategy used against Hillary to dissuade Bernie voters from voting for her, thus lowering voter turnout and allowing Trump to win. This is now being an increasingly used digital tactic by conservatives. Vote for whoever you want, but, seriously, don’t less this influence you.

  14. https://www.facebook.com/turningpointusa/photos/a.1167102136671834.1073741838.376776419037747/1167104280004953/?type=3&theater

    I don’t see the Brooks Brothers at this conference. Yet Mary and Carla are trying to throw them under the bus… Hmmmmmmmmmm

  15. Is anyone else running besides Mary/Carla and the Brooks Brothers???

    They both don’t deserve to be voted for. #realtalk

    • I’ve seen two other campaigns with tents on the oval, “Stephen and Lauren” and “Andrew and Sophie.” Somebody else please comment if I missed one.

  16. There are TWO tickets then that are aligned w TPUSA, one (M&C) which may/may not be receiving direct funding from the national arm and one (Brooks’) that are from the local TPUSA chapter?

    Where is the leadership from Student Life on this?
    They have allowed the greek system to OWN USG for years, mostly because it supports their fundraising from alumni sources.
    Now that things have gotten even more partisan they still have nothing to say about this outside influence on shared governance at OSU?!

    Someone needs to step in and take a look at this for the good of the student body.
    We don’t need an ultra conservative lobbying group controlling how the student activity fee is distributed.

  17. Just in TPUSA President is also in the same sorority as Carla and members of the judicial panel and is second cousin the president Drake!!! USG is a swamp of corruption!! Read their campaign platform (which is bi-partisan, even left leaning) before fabricating an enticing, but fake, non-story.

    Just another Fake News article from the failing Lantern! Sad!

  18. Andrew Pottschmidt

    https://www.facebook.com/NickDavisForUSG/?hc_ref=NEWSFEED&fref=nf

    Nick Davis for USG Senate, he is running with the promise of transparency and working for no body else but the students. Check him out!

    • Nick Davis was president of Students for Trump so even if he’s not associated with Turning Point, his values are.

      • I saw him run into a mother visinting OSU on purpose. He spilled the entire contents of his soda on her and laughed. He then walked away. Not exactly a shining example of a human being. He supports Brooks’ so just keep in mind the kind of people who support him.

  19. Spencer, is this a joke?

    Spencer Dirrig, are you serious? Are you pulling a prank? You are trying your very best to dance around the issue. You say Mary is fighting TurningPoint? She is clapping and smiling along. This isn’t just listening to another’s viewpoint. This is what is so frustrating. You and your campaign are making USG like the national election. Why can’t we have honest people running our student government.

    I am so disappointed in this.

  20. Spencer Dirrig's Mangina

    Spencer Dirrig has a mangina

  21. Charlie Kirk is trash

  22. Turning Point USA’s mission is bordering on fascism. They are inciting conflict while blindly supporting military and police authority. They pose as free speech advocates but want to dominate campuses with their right wing ideology.

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/charlie-kirk-turning-point-usa-instigate-racial-conflict-dahn-shaulis

  23. The rise of fascist student groups is due to the hole left by the lack of any progressive student unions in HS or on college campuses. The ‘left’ has not made a sufficient effort to organize student groups on campus, educate them as to the failure of capitalism, how it works and why.

    Once again it is a Weimar moment and the fascist student groups under the canopy of Trump are going right down the middle of two decrepit parties and failed union organizing, both by students and by teachers.

    The danger of TPUSA and other such groups can be seen by the show they put on at the Berkeley campus. Creating havoc, crisis, capitalizing on despair and lost hope is the mission of this crowd. They will then cobble all the ignorance and disillusionment into one ball of fascist wax.

    This is what happened in Germany and this is what happened under Mussolini’s fascist Italy.

    TPUSA is part of an emerging Phoenix Program of fear and intimidation that is rising from the ashes of what is left of ‘The American Century”.
    Don’t miss more articles by Dahn Shaulis

  24. The rise of fascist student groups is due to the hole left by the lack of any progressive student unions in HS or on college campuses. The ‘left’ has not made a sufficient effort to organize student groups on campus, educate them as to the failure of capitalism, how it works and why.

    Once again it is a Weimar moment and the fascist student groups under the canopy of Trump are going right down the middle of two decrepit parties and failed union organizing, both by students and by teachers.

    The danger of TPUSA and other such groups can be seen by the show they put on at the Berkeley campus. Creating havoc, crisis, capitalizing on despair and lost hope is the mission of this crowd. They will then cobble all the ignorance and disillusionment into one ball of fascist wax.

    This is what happened in Germany and this is what happened under Mussolini’s fascist Italy.

    TPUSA is part of an emerging Phoenix Program of fear and intimidation that is rising from the ashes of what is left of ‘The American Century”.

  25. Jerry Wonderly

    Attention non-conservative college students: Please keep as many city, county and state Democratic Party chapter officials well informed about what shady conservatives are up to in your area.

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