Turning Point USA (TPUSA) is a right-wing nonprofit founded in 2012 “to identify, educate, train, and organize” high school and college students to uphold “the principles of freedom, free markets, and limited government.” In 2019, it expanded its 501(c)(4) political action organization, Turning Point Action (TPA), with the acquisition of Students for Trump, a chapter-based group on college campuses.
TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk hosts The Charlie Kirk Show, a daily talk radio program that airs on the Christian-right Salem Radio Network. In 2021, TPUSA launched Turning Point Faith “to promote a culture war agenda and gain more supporters in conservative religious circles,” according to The Guardian.
In the 2019–20 fiscal year, tax records show that TPUSA raised more than $39.2 million from undisclosed donors (though the organization is known to be funded by a variety of right-wing megadonors, including the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation, Foster Friess, and various Koch-affiliated groups such as the Foundation for Economic Education, DonorsTrust, and Donors Capital Fund). In the past, the group has made misleading claims about its finances and helped enrich its leaders, including Kirk, whose salary grew from $27,231 in 2016 to more than $329,000 in 2020.
Kirk is also a member of the Council for National Policy (CNP), a secretive, right-wing, Christian fundamentalist organization involved in organizing Stop the Steal rallies across the country. Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is a former advisory board member of TPUSA.
January 6, 2021
- TPUSA is one of the organizations Trump fundraiser Caroline Wren used to obscure donations made for the March to Save American rally, according to ProPublica. Wren allegedly raised $3 million to pay for the rally and “parked” chunks of that funding with Turning Point and other nonprofits in order to add “a layer of confidentiality for the donor,” according to Dustin Stockton, a Republican operative.
- Turning Point Action was one of the organizations listed as a co-sponsor of the Trump rally held at the Ellipse, with 350 TPA members attending the rally and transported on 80 buses it hired.
- TPA paid Kimberly Guilfoyle’s $60,000 speaking fee at the March to Save America rally held at the Ellipse, where she spoke for less than five minutes by way of introducing her financé, Donald Trump, Jr. In the wake of the 2020 election, the Trump campaign raised approximately $250 million from donors for “election defense” purposes, but the House Select Committee highlighted fees like those paid to Guilfoyle as evidence of “grift.”
- In an interview a few days after the insurrection, Kirk defended the mob, saying, “Just because you do something that is regrettable does not mean that you are planning an armed insurrection against the United States government.”
The Big Lie
- Researcher Kate Starbird referred to Kirk’s Twitter account as a “superspreader” of election disinformation, which ultimately fueled the attack on the Capitol.
- In 2020, TPA retained the marketing firm Rally Forge to use trolls to disseminate deceptive, pro-Trump political content on its behalf, hiring people who used fake names and profile pictures while commenting on content. Facebook shut down the operation by removing 200 fake accounts, 55 pages, and 76 Instagram accounts tied to the scheme.
- Based in Phoenix, Kirk is listed as an organizer of the Arizona Stop the Steal protests.
- On Nov. 5, 2021, he tweeted: “It has been very instructive to see which ‘conservatives’ have stepped up to fight during this critical moment and who decided to run to the hills.”
- A number of people associated with TPUSA supported election conspiracy theorist Kari Lake’s unsuccessful campaign for governor of Arizona, according to The Verge, potentially violating the rules associated with the organization’s nonprofit tax status.