“Inside a stealth ‘persuasion machine’ promising Republican victories in 2022”

WaPo:

 Facebook page shows a child scampering down a school corridor, alerting Ohio families to a scholarship program.

Chatter fills the same page with news ranging from a state anti-corruption bill to the vibrant local real estate market. “It’s a great time to be selling a home in Columbus,” one post celebrates.

Titled Arise Ohio, the Facebook page is the creation of the American Culture Project — a nonprofit whose website says its mission is to “empower Americans with the tools and information necessary to make their voices heard in their local communities, statehouses and beyond.”

Undisclosed on the Facebook page is the nonprofit’s partisan goal. Arise Ohio and similar sites aimed at other politically pivotal states are part of a novel strategy by a little-known, Republican-aligned group to make today’s GOP more palatable to moderate voters ahead of the 2022 midterms by reshaping the “cultural narrative” on hot-button issues.ADADVERTISING

That goal, laid out in a private fundraising appeal sent last month to a Republican donor and reviewed by The Washington Post, relies on building new online communities that can be tapped at election time, with a focus on winning back Congress in 2022.

“We’ve created a persuasion machine that allows conservatives to reach, engage and move people to action like never before,” the solicitation states. “Now is the time to expand and capitalize on this machine, setting the political playing field in advance of the 2022 election.”…

The solicitation was sent to Warren Stephens, a billionaire banker based in Arkansas who backed President Donald Trump’s reelection effort. It was also inadvertently directed to someone who shared the communications with The Post. The documents provide an unusual glimpse into the inner workings of a group whose activities are ordinarily veiled and illustrate how the Republican Party, still largely defined by Trump, is straining to connect with the country’s political center.

Stephens, through a spokesman, declined to say whether he had made a contribution to the project.

Read the fundraising pitch outlining the American Culture Project’s objectives

The American Culture Project is set up as a social welfare organization exempt from disclosing its donors or paying federal income taxes but, in exchange, barred from making politics its primary focus. The project is led by an Illinois-based conservative activist, John Tillman, who also oversees a libertarian think tank and a news foundation that recently received grant money to highlight opposition to public health restrictions. Tillman, who declined to be interviewed for this story, wrote in an email that the American Culture Project’s objectives are “issue education and advocacy (not electioneering).”

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