“How Hillsdale Got Mixed Up in the 2020 Election Plot”

NYT Magazine:

It is unclear precisely how the Hillsdale contingent was brought into this widening conspiracy-seeking swirl. But the college was nothing if not well connected. Northon also did work for the Amistad Project, a self-described “election-integrity watchdog” that emerged as a primary partner in the Trump campaign’s election-fraud litigation. Before Norton came to Hillsdale, he was a vice president of the Bradley Foundation, a Milwaukee-based conservative philanthropy that has funded groups advancing voter-fraud conspiracy theories. And most prominent was Hillsdale’s president, Larry P. Arnn. Over two decades, Arnn had fashioned the college as an avatar of resistance to progressivism, all the while amassing relationships with many of the influencers and financiers who were transforming conservative politics in America. By the time Trump swept into the White House in 2017, Arnn had made Hillsdale an academic darling and supplier of philosophical gravitas to the new right.

So prominent was Arnn that he was mentioned as a possible education secretary before losing out to Betsy DeVos, part of a wealthy Michigan family of major conservative donors and Hillsdale patrons. (Her brother, the private-security contractor Erik Prince, is an alumnus.) Hillsdale graduates became aides in the Trump administration and on Capitol Hill and clerks at the Supreme Court. (“We have hired many staff from Hillsdale,” says Marc Short, who served as chief of staff to Trump’s vice president and Arnn’s longtime friend, Mike Pence.) In the Covid years, the backlash against school closures, mask mandates and diversity programs made education perhaps the most important culture-wars battleground. Hillsdale was at the center, and nowhere more than in Florida, where Gov. Ron DeSantis frequently invoked Hillsdale as he sought to cleanse the state’s schools of liberal influence. “How many places other than Hillsdale are actually standing for truth?” he said at a 2022 Hillsdale-sponsored event in Naples, Fla.

The 2020 election was not particularly close in Michigan — Joseph R. Biden Jr. carried the state by more than 150,000 votes. But the pre-Thanksgiving gathering at Norton’s house presaged broader efforts to thwart the will of Michigan voters, as well as the entanglement of Hillsdale’s administration in the events leading up to Jan. 6. Norton and Northon would become involved in a plan to deploy fake Trump electors in Michigan, as was done in other battleground states. Arnn would counsel Pence, as the vice president faced mounting pressure to block certification of the vote in the House of Representatives.

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