Profile on the Right: Turning Point USA (TPUSA)

About Gabe Meadow

Charlie Kirk (founder of TPUSA) speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

Established in 2012, Turning Point USA (TPUSA)’s mission is to “identify, educate, train, and organize students to promote the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” Claiming to have a presence on over 1,000 college campuses and high schools, TPUSA targets left-wing students and academics.

TPUSA’s founder, Charlie Kirk, has called college campuses “islands of totalitarianism,” and was quoted discussing how to retake the student governments on far-left campuses. Notoriously, TPUSA built a growing “Professor Watch List”, a website listing and seeking to intimidate liberal professors.

The organization has channeled large amounts of money into student elections, often in violation of school spending caps and transparency requirements. Elected student leaders backed by TPUSA are expected to: defund and block progressive movements and organizations on campus, implement “free speech” policies eliminating barriers to hate speech, and use student resources to promote “American Exceptionalism and Free Market ideals.” From 2014 to 2015, the organization’s revenue quadrupled. As a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, TPUSA is not required to disclose its donors.

The organization may not be limiting itself to student politics. Former TPUSA employees have alleged that the group has aided Republican political campaigns, including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaigns, which would be in violation of campaign finance laws that exclude501(c)3 organizations from engaging in electioneering. TPUSA has found a receptive audience within the Trump family. Donald Trump Jr. gave the opening remarks at TPUSA’s 2017 Student Action Summit, and Lara Trump has hosted promotions for TPUSA’s Young Women’s Leadership Summit.

TPUSA has also had various incidents of bigotry associated with it. Gabrielle Fequiere, a former TPUSA employee, said that she was the only African-American hired as a field director when she worked with the group and recalled that the young black recruits that she brought into the organization suddenly found themselves disinvited from the group’s annual student summit. 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.” She was later fired on Martin Luther King Day. In a resignation letter, the former head of the Kent State University chapter of TPUSA decried other links leading members of the organization had with White nationalists.

Kirk has advocated for the elimination of safe spaces on campuses and derided the concept of White privilege as racist. The Traditionalist Workers Party appeared at a February 2018 event run by TPUSA at Colorado State University. A speaker at that same event, conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, said he hated “faggots,” lesbians, and feminists, who, he said, “fucking hate men.” Numerous members have made antisemitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic and racist comments.

A member of TPUSA’s advisory council, multimillionaire Foster Friess, has funded anti-Muslim organizations (including Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and David Horowitz’s Terrorism Awareness Project) and urged students to “be more intolerant” in a commencement speech.

Gabe Meadow is a Spring 2018 intern at PRA.