Weeks before the Nov. 8 elections, a gaggle of far-right pundits are helping raise money for the 1776 Project PAC, one of the right-wing groups that is investing millions to take over school boards across the country.
The group, founded in May 2021 by activist Ryan Girdusky, has endorsed 300 candidates in November’s elections. While not all far-right school board candidates have been successful, the 1776 Project PAC claims to have won 75 percent of the races it has been involved in so far.
Ben Shapiro, Laura Ingraham, Glenn Beck, and Donald Trump Jr. are all cited in recent fundraising emails from the 1776 Project PAC. Fox News personality Tucker Carlson has also helped the group raise money. Even discredited “Stop the Steal” lawyer Sidney Powell promoted the project in her “Defending the Republic” newsletter.
Like the many right-wing groups using dishonest and harmful attacks on teachers and school board members as a means to undermine public education and build political power, the 1776 Project PAC runs fearmongering campaigns against schools teaching about racism in American history and society. During a Girdusky appearance on Tucker Carlson’s show, the chyron text said the PAC “supports school board candidates who oppose anti-White curriculums.”
The 1776 Project PAC says it campaigns on behalf of school board candidates “that vow to overturn any teaching of the 1619 Project or critical race theory in their school districts.” Visitors to the project’s website are greeted with a pop-up urging them to “Report a School Promoting Critical Race Theory.” The anti-critical race theory tactic has been embraced widely by right-wing groups and candidates after it was seen as helping Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin win his 2021 election.
The 1776 Project PAC pushes a propaganda claim that has long been central to right-wing anti-public education campaigns: that public schools are infiltrated by anti-American Marxists who are indoctrinating students in left-wing ideology. “All over the country, teachers are brainwashing children to hate themselves and their country,” Girdusky claimed in a fundraising email earlier this year. The letter went on to warn that a generation taught to hate the United States will “surrender our country to Marxism” and destroy it.
“We will also support any type of education reform that promotes a patriotic vision of America and its history,” the group’s website declares.
Not surprisingly, the PAC also traffics in the anti-trans rhetoric that so many far-right candidates have put at the center of their campaigns this year. One fundraising email from March claimed that “what’s worse is that these radical school boards allow, hire, and encourage teachers who have been caught ACTIVELY recruiting children to become transgender.” Among the claims promoted by the group on social media is the ludicrous false claim, popular on the far right, that schools are allowing students who identify as animals to use litter boxes to go to the bathroom.
In May, the group had success in Texas, where it bragged that “every single one” of the 15 school board candidates it endorsed had won. In August, the PAC bragged that it was “largely responsible for the massive sweeping wins in Florida,” in which 35 out of 49 candidates endorsed by the PAC won their races and created conservative majorities in some major school districts, including Miami-Dade County.
“This is how you win back the country,” gushed Laura Ingraham during an interview with Girdusky, who gave a shout out to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the right-wing Moms for Liberty for their involvement in school board takeovers.
Among the right-wing groups backing the PAC is the American Principles Project, a project of anti-LGBTQ religious-right megafunder Sean Fieler, whose contributions have supported an array of anti-equality groups.