On December 17, 2018, the Weekly Standard published its final issue. The brand had been damaged beyond salvation; its anti-Trump gambit had failed, and spectacularly so. According to one report, the Standard’s print circulation dropped 30 percent between 2013 and 2017.
For the first two years of Trump’s presidency, the Weekly Standard was far from an independent voice — it served as an organ for the Resistance. The publication did little to advance ‘conservative’ ideas or offer conservative alternatives to Trump’s policy agenda; in fact, the magazine and its top editors, including editor Steve Hayes and editor-at-large Bill Kristol, repeatedly took cheap shots not only at Trump and his administration but at Republican lawmakers who supported the President.
In print, on its website, and on various cable news shows, writers and editors affiliated with the Standard kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-Trump sentiment. Rather than embrace the rarity of a Republican White House, a Republican House of Representatives, and a Republican Senate — a political jackpot that had eluded the GOP for a decade — the Standard instead worked to undermine that power trove.
Not only did the Standard continue to peddle a phony depiction of a nonconservative president, but the publication hypocritically echoed Democratic talking points about Republicans. The editors backed the resignation of former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, a longtime enemy of the environmental left. Sen. Rand Paul, according to Stephen Hayes, was a ‘Russian stooge’. The Standard mourned the transformation of Sen. Lindsey Graham from a NeverTrumper to a ‘Neo-Trumper’.
A cover article on Rep. Devin Nunes, the Republican under siege from the left for his pursuit to expose a massive scandal that should have outraged every conservative, smeared the California congressman as a conspiracy theorist. The hit piece wasn’t authored by a Republican or a conservative but by a Democratic operative who worked for the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the phony ‘Russian collusion’ scheme.
‘The Standard was in an absolutely perfect position to cover the Trump presidency,’ author Lee Smith told me. Smith contributed to the Standard for seven years before he was fired in October 2017. ‘They had everything at their disposal, real talent, people with decades of political experience. But their post-election strategy was rage and revenge. And they took it out on Trump supporters.’
Smith, a foreign policy expert who supports many of Trump’s national security initiatives, is unsure what caused his dismissal from the publication; he is one of the handful of reporters who reported on the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, a scandal that the Standard largely ignored. ‘If you are a political analyst and you’re not able to read Russiagate clearly then either you’re corrupt or witless,’ Smith said. ‘In any case you are not an analyst or pundit to be trusted.’
But there were more reasons to doubt the integrity of the folks running the show at the Weekly Standard. Kristol and most of his NeverTrump cohorts are on the dole of a left-wing philanthropist generously underwriting any cause or influencer committed to ending the Trump presidency. This billionaire benefactor has tried to stop Trump since 2016; he’s buying off so-called conservatives to create the illusion of broad intra-party disgust with Donald Trump, an illusion that does not exist but that NeverTrump is paid — handsomely — to represent.
Pierre Omidyar is a very rich man.
He started eBay, the online auction site, in 1995; a few years later, Omidyar became a billionaire at age 31 after the company’s initial public offering. With a net worth of more than $12 billion, he ranks number 36 on the Forbes list of the wealthiest people in America. (Born in Paris to Iranian parents, Omidyar is a naturalized US citizen.)
The tech titan runs an extensive operation of nonprofits through the Omidyar Network, based in Silicon Valley. In 2017 alone, his foundation donated roughly $85 million to a variety of causes around the world. As one would expect from a Bay-area billionaire, Omidyar is anything but conservative. He, along with like-minded tycoons such as George Soros and Tom Steyer, promotes a far-left radical agenda. ‘As George Soros retires more and more from the political funding spotlight, liberal bankrollers like [Warren] Buffett, [Michael] Bloomberg, Steyer, Omidyar and the younger Soros were vying to take his place,’ according to a media watchdog group. ‘Together, they have contributed at least $2.7 billion since 2000 to groups pushing abortion, gun control, climate change alarmism and liberal candidates.’
In 2009, Omidyar donated $30 million to the Clinton Global Initiative. One of Omidyar’s pet projects since 2016, however, has been to take out Donald Trump. Omidyar contributed $250,000 to the Never Trump PAC; after Trump won, Omidyar directed his largesse at destroying Trump’s presidency. Like everyone on the left and the NeverTrump right, Omidyar views Donald Trump as an existential threat not just to the country but to the world.
The president of Democracy Fund, Omidyar’s most politically active foundation, detailed in 2018 why his boss planned to commit nine figures to various causes in the Trump era. ‘Over the past two years, I have seen alarming and sometimes unprecedented violations of our country’s democratic norms,’ wrote Joe Goldman, who, like all hysterics who make such a claim, offered no detail about Trump’s norm-destroying assault on the Constitution. ‘For an organization committed to strengthening democracy on behalf of the American people, this isn’t just disturbing — it’s humbling.’
Well, it must be hard to be humble when you have one-tenth of a billion dollars to burn buying off friends on the Trump-hating left and right; that summer, Goldman announced that Democracy Fund was in the process of awarding $100 million in grants to organizations devoted to ‘strengthening US democracy.’. An odd statement for a well-funded and orchestrated attempt to destroy the duly elected president of the United States, but when you hobnob with the some of the world’s richest men, details and facts aren’t really that important.
Some of Omidyar’s grant recipients include well-known havens of Democratic activism, such as the League of Women Voters, the Brookings Institute and Common Cause. Omidyar also owns the Intercept, an online magazine that touts its ‘adversarial journalism.’.
But Omidyar discovered new allies on the Right after Election Day 2016: NeverTrump.
In late 2018, I researched Omidyar’s financial ties to several organizations either operated or populated by NeverTrumpers. Nearly every outspoken Trump foe on the right is somehow connected to Omidyar’s largesse through the Democracy Fund and its ‘sister organization’ Democracy Fund Voice. This outfit is headed by the losing presidential ticket of Evan McMullin and Mindy Finn; board members include former Florida congressman David Jolly, another NeverTrumper, and Charles Sykes. (Sykes also served on of the national advisory committee for the Democracy Fund. In February 2020, Sykes said his term had expired.)
Stand Up Republic
Like a lot of NeverTrump claques, Stand Up Republic attempts to disguise its contempt for Trump and his supporters behind a lot of patriotic gobbledygook: ‘America has always thrived under the promise of liberty for all. But that promise is threatened when we ourselves are not committed to the principle of equality, or when ethno-nationalists stoke division and hatred.’
The nonprofit received more than a million dollars from Democracy Fund in 2017 and 2018. After the Senate acquitted Trump, Stand Up Republican vowed to take action against the senators who ‘put their seal of approval on a lawless presidency and a coordinated cover-up’. The group claims to be nonpartisan but of course condemns only Trump and the Republican party.
‘While Donald Trump poses an immediate, acute and extreme threat to our democracy that must be blunted, he is not the sole cause of the problem and is a symptom of political forces that are eroding support for democracy at home and abroad,’ Protect Democracy’s website blares. Protect Democracy maintains a ‘threat index’ that calculates the alleged threat to American democracy based on input from ‘democracy experts’. In February 2020, the threat was a 47, defined as a ‘substantial erosion’ to our democracy. Science!
McMullin and Finn are advisors to this group, along with several NeverTrumpers: National Review author Mona Charen, ABC News contributor Matthew Dowd and writer Linda Chavez.
Democracy Fund committed $2 million to Protect Democracy between 2017 and 2019. The group organized a letter signed by roughly 2,000 former Justice Department officials demanding the resignation of Attorney General Bill Barr in February 2020.
Alliance for Securing Democracy
This group features a star-studded list of NeverTrumpers on the left and right, including Kristol, John McCain associate David Kramer, former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff and former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. ASD rings a nonstop alarm about prospective election interference; it also operates Hamilton 68, a dashboard that claims to track Twitter accounts tied to the Russians, but the site has been criticized for its methodology. Democracy Fund invested $1.2 million in ASD between 2017 and 2019.
A think tank named after a Reagan economic adviser, the Niskanen Center received $500,000 from Democracy Fund in 2017 and 2018. (Another contributor is George Soros; his Open Society Foundation donated $300,000 to Niskanen in 2018.) It’s billed as a ‘libertarian’ group, but Niskanen promotes left-wing causes such as climate change, refugee resettlement and universal health care.
Niskanen houses a who’s who of NeverTrumpers. Gabe Schoenfeld, author of a hit piece on Victor Davis Hanson, and writer Linda Chavez are senior fellows. Its advisory board includes McMullin, Finn, David Frum and Tom Nichols. In December 2018, Niskanen hosted a daylong seminar entitled ‘Starting Over: The Center-Right After Trump’. Panelists included conservatives-turned-lefties Jennifer Rubin, David Frum and Bill Kristol.
Defending Democracy Together
Kristol, in fact, is the biggest recipient of Omidyar’s political grudge money. In 2018, Kristol formed Defending Democracy Together, an advocacy group that targets the president, his policies, and his Republican backers in Congress. ‘Defending Democracy Together is…created by lifelong conservatives and Republicans — many of whom have served in Republican administrations and write for conservative publications. We are dedicated to defending America’s democratic norms, values, and institutions and fighting for consistent conservative principles like rule of law, free trade, and expanding legal immigration.’ (The Trump era has been a boon not only for groups seeking nonprofit status, but also for unimaginative public relations flacks who just recycle ‘norms’ and ‘values’ over and over.)
Kristol and Mona Charen are listed as directors for Defending Democracy Together; other NeverTrumpers include Linda Chavez and former Republican governor Christine Todd Whitman.
One of Defending Democracy Together’s pet projects was the Mueller investigation. The group produced several ads demanding that Republicans protect the special counsel from interference by the president DDT bought airtime on Fox News and during Sunday morning network shows. After the Mueller report was released, devastating NeverTrump collusion truthers with its failure to find any evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians to sway the election, Defending Democracy Together produced more ads accusing the president of obstructing justice and imploring Republicans to hold him accountable.
But producing television commercials and buying airtime to attack the president and his allies don’t come cheap: That’s where Omidyar has been very helpful.
In 2017 and 2018, Omidyar’s Democracy Fund Voice contributed $1.6 million to Kristol’s nonprofit. In less than two years, the ‘conservative’ who vows to uphold conservative principles and values against the Bad Orange Man was on the take from a progressive Silicon Valley tycoon opposed to every policy the conservative movement has promoted for the past three decades.
As I wrote in November 2018 when I exposed Kristol’s extensive financial ties to Omidyar, ‘It’s one thing for a political pundit like Kristol to brand himself as a Trump-hating “conservative” to earn hits on cable news shows and get fawning coverage in elite media publications. It’s quite another to partner up with the sworn enemies of the very principles one has claimed not only to champion, but of which he has insisted he is the last, best defender.’
This is an edited excerpt from Julie Kelly’s Disloyal Opposition: How the #NeverTrump Right Tried — and Failed — to Take Down the President (Encounter Books).