Project 2025 April 24th Update

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Project 2025 is a 920-page plan, spearheaded by the powerful and extreme far-right Heritage Foundation. This blueprint for autocracy is supported by more than 100 organizations. Their stated goal is to create an “ideal” America that would see women, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, people of color, and others deprived of their hard-won constitutional rights and the erosion of environmental and education protections. It also advocates for a frightening centralization of power in the executive branch. Rooted in hate and Christian Nationalism, the plan promises to “rescue the country.” Read GPAHE’s full analysis of Project 2025 and the groups behind it.

GPAHE tracks the activities of those behind Project 2025, and their plans for an authoritarian and Christian Nationalist America, no matter who is president, and the groups in this extremist movement are relentlessly implementing initiatives at local, state, and federal levels. 

This week we look at Project 2025 supporter Turning Point USA’s (TPUSA) troubles in Arizona, where its senior fellow, State Rep. Austin Smith resigned amid forgery accusations, and two TPUSA employees admitted to guilt in a 2023 attack on a university professor. We’ll also hear reactions from Project 2025 supporters to President Biden’s Title IX update, and former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss as she pushes Project 2025’s agenda to a Heritage Foundation audience.

Turning Point USA’s Senior Director Austin Smith Accused of Forging Signatures in Reelection Bid

Longtime “election integrity warrior” Austin Smith, an Arizona State Representative out of Surprise, resigned as senior director with Project 2025 supporter Turning Point USA (TPUSA) and gave up his bid for reelection on April 18, 2024. 

Smith stands accused of forging signatures on his nominating petition for his reelection bid. Citing financial concerns, Smith chose to quit the race and resign from his position at TPUSA, a staunch supporter of Project 2025, rather than fight the charges.

It’s bound to have been a difficult farewell for the former chair of the Arizona Young Republicans Federation, leaving behind both the political career that gave him clout and the organizations that he had spent years bolstering. Smith embraced TPUSA’s ultra-conservative vision wholeheartedly and considered TPUSA founder and president Charlie Kirk a personal friend. 

According to his website, Smith’s history with Kirk goes back to at least 2016, when Smith was instrumental in convincing Kirk to move the organization’s headquarters from Chicago to Arizona. Kirk and Smith shared far-right political beliefs, including hardline, anti-immigrant and anti-abortion stances. 

Smith’s devotion to TPUSA and its political arm Turning Point Action ran deep, and he was one of Kirk’s most powerful lieutenants, dedicated to spreading TPUSA’s Christian Nationalist agenda far and wide. “After four years working directly under Charlie Kirk—one of America’s foremost conservative fighters—Austin helped him to run Students For Trump, a 501(c)4 project of Turning Point Action. In his capacity there as National Field Director, Austin organized a state-of-the-art effort, creating college chapters on over 300 campuses, amassing over 750,000 doors knocked—effectively reaching millions of voters with President Trump’s America First message,” Smith wrote on his campaign website.

Kirk has featured Smith as a guest on his podcast, and they supported each other on social media. Most recently, when Smith posted in celebration of Arizona’s anti-abortion ruling, “I am pro-life from conception to natural death. Thankful for my @AZFreedomCaucus colleagues who feel the same,” Smith wrote, in addition to the official statement. “We will continue to lead the way and be unabashedly in favor of supporting both the mother and the unborn child.” Turning Point Action reposted his thoughts. 

Although TPUSA’s chief operating officer Tyler Bowyer is one of 11 Arizona conservatives who posed as fake electors in the 2020 election and was indicted on April 24, 2024, on nine felony counts for conspiracy, fraudulent schemes and artifices and forgery, that hasn’t stood in the way of TPUSA’s elections “integrity” work and advancing Project 2025’s authoritarian agenda.

TPUSA announced a “Chase the Vote” campaign earlier this year in which they hope to raise more than $100 million and “deploy an army” of 1,000 field workers to encourage voters with mail-in ballots to vote for political candidates aligned with their agenda. Smith was heavily involved.

Election integrity was an integral element to Smith’s work with TPUSA, and his political campaign.

“America cannot expect to survive without public trust in such a basic democratic institution,” Smith proclaimed. “As a member of the Arizona Freedom Caucus and Municipal Oversight and Elections Committee in the House, Austin will continue to fight to protect our state’s 10th Amendment Right to facilitate and administer our own elections and work to hold those accountable that break Arizona election law,” he promised constituents.

But despite figuring prominently in his political platform and campaign promises, election integrity proved less important to his personal ethos. 

Smith’s political and professional career went sideways when a lawsuit against Smith was filed on April 15, 2024. 

“Several of Smith’s petition sheets bear purported voter signatures that appear to have been written by the same person. Many of those signatures bear a striking resemblance to Smith’s,” the complaint, filed by two of the forged signatories, alleges.

According to Arizona law, “candidates suffer automatic disqualification and a ban of five or more years if they sign another person’s name on their nomination petitions, or if they knowingly cause another person to do the same.” Smith proclaimed his innocence on social media, and blamed the complaint as part of a “coordinated attack” by the Democrats to “get” him due to his political views. Smith told supporters that he’d rather abandon his campaign than fight the “silly” accusations in court. “I might be confident of victory, but all it would take is a judge believing any one person, and all would be lost,” he wrote.

Two Turning Point USA Employees Admit Guilt in Assault on University Professor

In October 2023, two Turning Point USA employees, “reporters” Kalen Christian D’Almeida, 31, and Braden Joel Ellis, 22, assaulted David Boyles, a queer professor at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe.

In a video TPUSA posted to Twitter, D’Almeida and Ellis follow professor David Boyles across campus, one “interviewing” and the other filming a segment for TPUSA’s Frontlines podcast. The professor is asked a barrage of questions, including why he “hates Americans,” why he “became obsessed with sex education,” how he became “attracted to minors,” why he “fantasizes about minors having sex with adults” and advocates for children to be present at drag shows. 

“David, you can’t run. It’s best if you just talk to me about why you want to push sodomy onto young people,” the reporter told Boyles, who did not respond and continued to walk briskly. “You would like to see a different America exist where little boys are sodomized by people like you,” D’Almeida told Boyles before the TPUSA video abruptly ends.

Security camera footage shows Boyles trying to block the person from filming with their phone, then being knocked to the ground. D’Almeida and Ellis initially claimed innocence and countered that Boyles, left bruised and bloodied by the attack,  had been the aggressor.

D’Almeida is no stranger to hostile confrontations. It’s a style of citizen “journalism” he has cultivated for years. He’s long been a part of a cadre of right-wing “journalists” who film and infiltrate leftwing protests to provide fodder for conservative podcasts looking to earn likes and clicks by portraying footage of progressive mayhem. 

D’Almeida often boasts about going undercover with antifa protestors. Footage he produced and edited of a purported violent attack on a Trump supporter from a November 2020 post-election rally achieved coveted viral status, garnering millions of views and being shown at a Trump rally in Georgia.

However, as The Intercept reported in 2021, “D’Almeida had edited his clip to hide the fact that the Trump supporter had started the fight, by first violently shoving one anti-Trump protester to the ground and then pushing and threatening to punch several others.” 

With a proven track record of capturing conservative victimhood on film, D’Almeida announced TPUSA had hired him in September 2022 as a reporter for Frontlines, which TPUSA  describes as “an exclusive, nationwide, on-the-ground coverage network that exposes evil and presses truth.”

D’Almeida quickly went to work advancing the Project 2025 supporter’s anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. 

In April 2023, D’Almeida confronted an Arizona State University professor in Tucson with a barrage of questions about his participation in drag shows, but backed off when campus police were called. The clip has more than one million views.

In September 2023, D’Almeida traveled to Hastings, Nebraska, as part of TPUSA’s “Child Safety Unit” initiative. There he filmed a Walmart confrontation with a transgender man he accused of being a child predator after conducting an investigation using a decoy pretending to be a child, similar to the infamous and highly controversial Dateline “To Catch a Predator” series. 

“Now we are going to place tons of pressure on Hastings P.D., the Detectives and everyone involved to make sure Chris, the transgender, racist pedophile, is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and justice is served,” D’Almeida told viewers in a video that again went viral.

But D’Almeida neglected to inform local law enforcement of his “sting,” and police stated they were unable to take action. “Citizens, reporters, businesses or others outside of law enforcement cannot act as a child for the purpose of furthering a law violation regarding child enticement,” the Hastings Police Department wrote in a statement. “There are also many processes which must be followed when conducting these types of investigations to ensure suspects are not baited or entrapped.”

Still, the confrontation served TPUSA’s purposes and was celebrated on the organization’s website as a victory in defeating transgender predators.

D’Almeida then returned to harassing educators, a longtime tactic encouraged by TPUSA, which maintains a list of professors they claim “discriminate” against conservative students or promote progressive views. Currently, 44 ASU professors appear on the “Professor Watchlist,” a nationwide searchable database containing photos, contact and personal information of academic staff.

ASU President Michael Crow wrote to TPUSA president Charlie Kirk in April 2023, months before the attack in question, asking for TPUSA to remove ASU faculty from their list after professors had been victims of repeated harassment via email and social media. Examples cited by Crow in his letter, as AZCentral reported, included an email calling a professor a “fat repulsive Marxist pig” as well as misogynistic and profane comments. Others included antisemitic rhetoric and a threat to “cleanse the university of the communist (expletive) like you.” 

“I appreciate what the Professor Watchlist may mean to some portion of Turning Point USA’s audiences from a social media, attention-getting and fundraising perspective,” Crow wrote. “But, Mr. Kirk, it simply can’t be the case that those objectives can be allowed to overshadow the principles of our democracy that are fundamental and more important to you, me and so many others.”

Kirk addressed, and dismissed, Crow’s letter in a September podcast. “I just was like, ‘Forget it; this is so stupid,'” Kirk said weeks before the Tempe assault occurred.

The following month, TPUSA used the ASU Boyles assault as a fundraising tool.

“Can I count on your gift of $25, $50, $75, $100, or more today to help TPUSA continue to stand strong and WIN against the “Woke” Left’s lies and vicious attacks?” TPUSA asked its supporters.

ASU’s Crow again expressed his frustration with TPUSA’s tactics. “The incident we’ve all now witnessed on the video shows Turning Point’s refusal to stop dangerous practices that result in both physical and mental harm to ASU faculty members, which they then apparently exploit for fundraising, social media clicks and financial gain,” he said in an October 14, 2023, statement. “This is the kind of outrageous conduct that you would expect to see from bullies in a high school cafeteria.”

D’Almeida and Ellis initially claimed innocence in the attack, but on April 22, 2024, they agreed to a plea deal admitting guilt. “I do not contest my guilt in this matter because I admit that I committed the offense as charged,” the court order they signed read, as reported by 12 News.

TPUSA spun things differently, claiming political persecution from the judicial system that precluded a fair trial for its employees. 

“To be clear, Kalen and Braden have not been found guilty of anything in court. Diversion is a legal tactic where all charges are dismissed, and the language is boilerplate and standard to all such cases,” TPUSA spokesperson Andrew Kolvet said of the incident. “The fact is our reporters would not be permitted a jury trial for such a low-level misdemeanor, but instead be subject to a bench decision from a judge, Tyler Kissell, who doesn’t even have a law degree, was vice-president of the ASU chapter of Young Democrats, ran for state senate as a Democrat, and whose recent work experience includes teaching preschool. Given these realities, we entirely understand why they decided to pursue this route.”

In a statement, Boyles addressed their admission of guilt. “I hope this incident has made people aware that Turning Point USA does not care about free speech or serious debate but instead trades in hateful and bigoted rhetoric solely to ‘create content’ for their endless tedious podcasts and to stoke fear and violence in the real world. And I hope administrators at Arizona State and other universities will work to protect their LGBTQ+ students, staff, and faculty by no longer indulging and coddling organizations like TPUSA.”

Title IX Inclusivity Update Provokes Far-Right Outrage

Title IX, which has become a battleground for those opposing transgender rights, is civil rights legislation banning sexual discrimination in federally funded educational institutions and the programs and activities they provide.

It was enacted in 1972 as an extension of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

The Biden administration announced new rules for Title IX on April 19, 2024, focused mainly on diminishing the rights of alleged perpetrators of sexual assault  — strengthened under the Trump presidency — and extending protections against discrimination to LGBTQ+ participants in federally-funded programs. The definition of discrimination now includes “discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

“These regulations make it crystal clear that everyone can access schools that are safe, welcoming and that respect their rights,” Education Secretary Miguel A. Cardona said in a press call when the new language was announced.  

Project 2025 supporters have responded with unmitigated outrage, viewing the reaffirmed inclusivity as declaring open season on America’s children, who will now be under siege, as they view it, from predatory transgender invaders. 

Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss, who resigned after just 49 days in office, has been a supporter of Project 2025’s founder the Heritage Foundation and its policies since at least 2015. Truss also has expressed unabashed support for numerous Project 2025 positions, including their discriminatory views on gender ideology. On April 22, 2024, Truss weighed in on President Biden’s Title IX update at a Heritage Foundation event. 

“We now have President Biden introducing regulations around Title IX, which mean that girls could see biological boys in their changing rooms, in their locker rooms, in their school restrooms, and not be able to do anything about it. And if they complain about it, they could be the ones guilty of harassment,” she told her audience, echoing the outrage ricocheting across the Christian Nationalist movement. 

“Title IX—which was enacted to protect women and girls and provide them equal educational opportunities—has been manipulated so that gender activists and woke politicos can feel good about themselves,” Heritage’s Sarah Parshall Perry said in a statement.  “Lawmakers should not allow this radical administration to erase women’s spaces, educational opportunities, and sports.”

May Mailman, of the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), a Project 2025 supporter founded in 1992 as an alternative to feminism, reiterated the hyperbolic language of fellow conservatives. “The unlawful omnibus regulation reimagines Title IX to permit the invasion of women’s spaces and the reduction of women’s rights in the name of elevating protections for ‘gender identity,’ which is contrary to the text and purpose of Title IX,” she said in a statement. On Twitter, Mailman announced IWF is preparing a lawsuit.

Riley Gaines, a rising pundit for two Project 2025 groups, the Independent Women’s Forum and the Leadership Institute, is a former college athlete who has turned spreading transphobia into a career and a lawsuit. 

Gaines is one of 16 women suing the NCAA for allowing a transgender swimmer to compete in a 2022 swim meet. Gaines, who has been making the rounds of Project 2025 organizations’ conferences and podcasts, offered up her own summary of what the new language means. Her interpretation has garnered 64 million views on Twitter/X. 

“The Biden Admin has just officially abolished Title IX as we knew it. Now, sex = gender identity,” she posted. “In a nutshell, the new rewrite means:

– men can take academic AND athletic scholarships from women 

– men will have FULL access to bathrooms, locker rooms, etc

– men could be housed in dorm rooms with women

– students and faculty MUST compel their speech by requiring the use of preferred pronouns.

If the guidelines above are ignored or even questioned, then YOU can be charged with harassment.”

Charlie Kirk of Project 2025-backer Turning Point USA did not shy away from inflammatory language in his own Twitter/X post that has drawn more than 400,000 views. 

“Joe Biden has managed to so mangle and distort even that law so that now its chief purpose is to let men invade their bathrooms, locker rooms, and other private spaces. It’s remarkable how idiotic, callous, and regressive the so-called “progressive” ideology has become. Every “progressive” victory simply cannibalizes its prior achievements.”

“They have completely demolished protections for women and this rule does actually harm students both women especially but also, uh, male students, um it’s, it’s just a disaster,” Meg Kilgannon opined while discussing Title IX on Tony Perkins’ Washington Watch. Perkins heads up Family Research Council, a Project 2025 supporter, where Kilgannon, the former director of the Office of Faith and Opportunity Initiatives in the Trump administration, is a senior fellow. “Now a man who claims he’s a woman can present himself on the women’s team, in the women’s locker room, in the women’s dormitory, and women will not be able to object.”

Project 2025’s Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) used the new inclusive language as a fundraising opportunity. 

“Men and women are made distinct, in the image of God. And yet the Biden administration is trying to change federal law to reflect a lie. Denying biological reality has consequences,” ADF wrote in an email to supporters. “We plan to take action against the Biden administration for its reckless changes to the Title IX rules. We’re determined to make sure that young women’s rights and safety are given the protection they deserve. Will you step up and help fuel these efforts with a gift right now?”

In Their Own Words

“Whether it’s about climate extremism that doesn’t believe in economic growth, whether it’s about challenging the very idea of a man and a woman and biological sex, whether it’s about the human rights culture that’s been bedded into so much of our society that makes us unable to deal with illegal immigration—those new ideas have been promulgated by the global Left and they have been successful in infiltrating quite a large proportion of society and a large part of our institutions. (…) I have learned that we are facing really quite challenging forces of the global Left, not just in terms of their virulent activists making extremist documents, but also the power they hold in our institutions. And that leads me to believe that what conservatives need is what I describe as a bigger bazooka.”

— Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss peddling her new book and the Project 2025 agenda at a Heritage Foundation event on April 22, 2024

2000 1333 Global Project Against Hate and Extremism
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