The Leadership Institute

The Leadership Institute (LI)


The Leadership Institute (LI) was founded in 1979 by Morton C. Blackwell who serves as its current president. The Institute specializes in training potential conservative political leaders in campaigns, fundraising, grassroots organization, youth politics, and communications. [1]

According to their website, “The Institute teaches conservatives of all ages how to succeed in politics, government, and the media” and has trained more than 168,000 conservative activists, leaders, and students. [1The website also states that the Leadership Institute “doesn’t analyze policy; it teaches conservative Americans how to influence policy through direct participation, activism, and leadership.”

In their own words, the Leadership Institute hosts sessions across their country where they train “freedom fighters” to “learn how to defeat the radical left.” [2]

Morton Blackwell has also served as Executive Director of the secretive Council for National Policy, a foundation Right Wing Watch describes as composed of leaders of right wing public policy organizations, major donors, and noted conservative leaders. Blackwell is also the Chairman and founder of the Conservative Leadership PAC. [3], [4]

The Leadership Institute runs the Campus Reform project (, which has encouraged students to set up programs on their campuses to help “expose the leftist abuses on your campus.” [5]

The Leadership Institute proclaims that it “actively supports the entire conservative movement.” [1]

Stance on Climate Change

The Leadership Institute offers an “activism idea” to create a “Global Warming Beach Party” and further offers activism grants to help cover the cost of materials. [6]

The video (see below) quotes climate change skeptic Richard Lindzen and suggests to “distribute literature that highlights misinformation spread by environmental extremists and shows the damage that liberal environmental policies cause the economy.” The Leadership Institute promises to promote some of these user-submitted videos on their Campus Reform website as well as other media.

Here is a quote taken from the Leadership Institute's Campus Reform project blog in 2009:

“For the leftist activists, COP 15 and the protest was about changing the system (aka ending capitalism). Climate change is merely an excuse to collapse capitalism and switch to socialists economic systems.” [7]


The following is based on data the Conservative Transparency project compiled from publicly available 990 tax forms. Note that not all values have been verified by DeSmogBlog for accuracy. [8]

As Recipient

Ed Uihlein Family Foundation $965,000
F.M. Kirby Foundation $960,000
The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation $875,000
DonorsTrust $652,498
Castle Rock Foundation $630,000
Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Foundation $500,625
Donors Capital Fund $425,500
The Shelby Cullom Davis Foundation $425,000
Armstrong Foundation $375,000
Stuart Family Foundation $277,000
Bill and Berniece Grewcock Foundation $220,000
The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation $205,000
The Rodney Fund $189,000
Bochnowski Family Foundation $170,000
Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation $109,500
Orville D. and Ruth A. Merillat Foundation $102,000
Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation $75,000
The Whitcomb Charitable Foundation $52,000
John William Pope Foundation $50,000
Joe R Lee Family Foundation $45,000
Diana Davis Spencer Foundation $28,000
JM Foundation $28,000
The Roe Foundation $26,000
The Vernon K. Krieble Foundation $25,500
The Challenge Foundation $22,500
Dunn's Foundation for the Advancement of Right Thinking $19,900
Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation $19,199
National Christian Foundation $14,250
True Foundation $10,000
John Templeton Foundation $8,000
Lowndes Foundation $6,000
The Gordon and Mary Cain Foundation $5,000
Robert and Marie Hansen Foundation $3,000
Cato Institute $2,000
Concerned Women for America $1,000
Joyce and Donald Rumsfeld Foundation $500
Grand Total $7,521,972

Information from the 1995 “Foundation Directory” (PDF) archived by Greenpeace shows that the Leadership Institute Received $65,000 from the Carthage Foundation in 1992. [9]

The LI has in turn funded the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR)PR watch reports. [10]

As Donor

Data from Conservative Transparency shows that the Leadership Institute gave to the following groups between 2007 and 2012.

Recipient Funding
Longwood University $50,000
St. Andrews Episcopal School $50,000
The Heritage Foundation $45,935
National Right To Work Legal Defense Fund $44,435
Alliance Defense Fund $42,435
Campus Crusade $42,435
Gideons International $42,435
International Mission Board $42,435
Pacific Legal Foundation $42,435
Citizens Against Government Waste $30,518
Langdon School $25,000
Cato Institute $21,218
Concerned Women for America $21,217
Free Congress Foundation $10,000
Mercatus Center $3,500
Bill of Rights Institute $2,500
Mass Eye and Ear Institute $2,500
Milton Rose D Friedman Foundation $1,500
Princeton University $1,500
Tax Foundation $1,500
American Red Cross $1,000
David Horowitz Freedom Center $1,000
Hillsdale College $1,000
Intercollegiate Studies Institute $1,000
Media Research Center $1,000
Parents TV Council $1,000
Salvation Army $1,000
The Claremont Institute $1,000
The Fund for American Studies $1,000
The James Madison Institute $1,000
The National Center for Public Policy $1,000
The Objectivist Center $1,000
US English Foundation $1,000
Young America's Foundation $1,000
American Council on Science Health $500
Americans for Prosperity $500
Competitive Enterprise Institute $500
Freedom Works $500
Hospice Education Institute $500
Institute for Justice $500
ProEnglish $500
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library $500
US Naval Academy Foundation $500
Grand Total $541,998

Key People

Board of Directors

The followering Directors were listed on the Leadership Institute's website as of October, 2015: [11]

  • Morton Blackwell — President
  • M Dennis Daugherty — 1st Vice President
  • Craig Murphy — Treasurer
  • Ed Corrigan — Secretary
  • Chuck Cunningham — Director
  • Rev. Fred Fowler III — Director
  • John Maxwell — Director
  • Darío Paya — Honorary Director
  • Alexandre Pesey — Honorary Director
  • Ryan Rhodes — Director
  • Michael Rothfeld — Director
  • Fred Sacher — Director Emeritus
  • Charles Thornhill — Director
  • Jade West — Director


As of October, 2015: [12]

President's Office

  • Morton Blackwell — President
  • Cathy Graham — Executive Assistant to the President


  • Joanne Bogan — Receptionist
  • David Fenner — Vice President of Programs
  • Zachary Mingo — Programs Coordinator

Political and Career Programs

  • Patricia Simpson — Director of Career Programs
  • Aynsley Harrison — Career Services Coordinator
  • Lacey White — Programs Assistant
  • Paul Alfonse — Intern Coordinator

Communications Training

  • Angel Chitnatham — Political Training Manager
  • Jared Reni — Communications Training Manager


  • Kyle Baccei — Communications Manager


  • Robert Arnakis — Senior Director of Domestic and International Programs
  • JC Hernandez — Director of Grassroots Coalitions

International Training


  • Deirdre Hackleman — Director of Events
  • Rachel Hannabass — Events Coordinator

External Affairs

  • Carol Wehe — Director of External Affairs
  • Carmela Martinez — Marketing Coordinator

Campus Leadership Program

  • Bryan Bernys — Vice President for the Campus Leadership Program
  • Ryan Young — Director of Special Projects

Campus Reform

  • Sterling Beard — Editor In Chief
  • Laura Falcon — Campus Reform Program Coordinator
  • Peter Fricke — Investigative Reporter
  • Summer Ratcliff — Managing Editor

National Field Program

  • Michael Armstrong — National Field Director
  • Gabriella Hoffman — Regional Field Coordinator
  • Craig Dixon — Regional Field Coordinator
  • Kristin Dobson — Deputy National Field Director
  • Christopher Bradford — Regional Field Coordinator
  • Emily Larsen — Regional Field Coordinator
  • Nicholas Glad — Regional Field Coordinator
  • Abe Alassaf — Regional Field Coordinator
  • David Blair — Regional Field Coordinator
  • Crissy Brown — Regional Field Coordinator
  • Fernando Reyes — Regional Field Coordinator

Youth Leadership

  • Daryl Ann Dunigan — Youth Leadership School Director
  • James Northrop YLS Coordinator


  • Steven Sutton — Vice President of Development
  • John Davis — Director of Donor Communications
  • Brian Eaton — Senior Regional Development Officer
  • Karla Bruno — Director of Foundation and Corporate Relations
  • Elizabeth McCullough — Donor Communications Coordinator
  • Mitchell Nozka — Deputy Director, Donor Communications
  • Bethany Jones - Regional Development Officer
  • John McGovern — Regional Development Officer
  • Oressa Boelk — Donor Relations Officer
  • Yana Myaskovskaya — Regional Development Officer
  • Katherine Bolyard — Donor Relations Officer
  • Aaron Rainwater — Donor Relations Officer
  • Martin Rojas — Donor Communications Coordinator
  • Frank Manning — Volunteer
  • Clark Vandeventer — Regional Development Officer
  • Brandon Blum — Regional Development Officer
  • Michael LaCroix — Donor Relations Officer
  • Waverly Woods — Donor Relations Officer

According to SourceWatch, past students at the LI have included: [20]


July 7 - 9, 2015

The Leadership Institute (LI) was a Co-Sponsor of the Heartland Institute's Tenth International Conference on Climate Change in Washington, DC. [13]

July 7 - 9, 2014

The Leadership Institute (LI) was an official Co-Sponsor of the Heartland Institute's Ninth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC9). [14]

May 21 - 23, 2012

The Leadership Institute was a “Gold Sponsor” (PDF) of the Heartland Institute's Seventh International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC7). [15]

May 27, 2010

The Leadership Institute's Campus Reform project encourages students to “fight back” by setting up groups on their campus to challenge or implicate climate change researchers supposedly involved in “Climategate.” [5]
Campus Reform tells students to ask questions like “what professors are researching and what foundations or entities are funding his or her research. Are they implicated in the Climategate scandal? Email the professors and ask their opinions on the situation. Try to see if they are willing to be transparent with their data.” Campus Reform says that their goal is to “help you expose the leftist abuses on your campus”

May 16 - 18, 2010

The LI was a Co-Sponsor (PDF) of the Heartland Institute's Fourth International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC4). [16

December, 2009

The LI's Campus Reform Project promoted the formation of groups to “highlight the absurdity of climate change claims” with the specific purpose of getting media attention and starting a movement on campus to “share information about Climategate and climate change with other students.” [17]

June 7, 2002

LI President Morton Blackwell was a signatory to a letter to President Bush urging him to withdraw the Climate Action Report 2002 and to “direct that it be re-written on the basis of sound science and without relying on discredited products of the previous administration.”

Signatories also urged Bush “to dismiss or re-assign all administration employees who are not pursuing your agenda, just as you have done in several similar instances.” [18]

Related Organizations


  1. About the Leadership Institute,” Leadership Institute. Archived October 21, 2015. WebCite URL

  2. Leadership Institute-trained freedom fighters gather in Washington, DC,” Leadership Institute, January 22, 2010. Archived October 21, 2015. WebCite URL

  3. Morton C. Blackwell,” American Conservative Union. Archived August 16, 2000.

  4. Leadership Institute,” Right Wing Watch. Archived October 21, 2015.

  5. Climategate Scandal Not Over Yet,” Campus Reform, May 27, 2010. Archived October 21, 2015. WebCite URL

  6. Global Warming Beach Party,” Leadership Institute. Accessed October 20, 2015.

  7. Justin Pulliam. “Hopenhagen Socialism Part 1: 'Change the System',”, December 22, 2009. Archived December 22, 2009.

  8. Leadership Institute,” (search string), Conservative Transparency. Accessed October 21, 2015

  9. The Foundation Directory, 1995 Edition, P. 1349 (PDF). Archived by Greenpeace.

  10. Lisa Graves. “Right-Wing Operatives Take Up ALEC's Voter Suppression Agenda,” PR Watch, April 19, 2012. Archived October 21, 2015.

  11. The Leadership Institute's Board of Directors,” Leadership Institute. Archived October 21, 2015. WebCite URL

  12. LI Staff Directory,” Leadership Institute. Archived October 21, 2015. WebCite URL

  13. Sponsors,” ICCC10. Archived July 15, 2015.

  14. “ICCC9 CoSponsors,” International Conferences on Climate Change (The Heartland Institute). Archived July 27, 2015.

  15. Seventh International Conference on Climate Change: Sponsored by the Heartland Institute” (PDF), the Heartland Institute. Archived August 15, 2015.

  16. Co-Sponsors,” The 2010 International Conference on Climate Change, January 16, 2010. Archived January 24, 2010.

  17. Can't Go to Copenhagen? You Can Still Party for a Good Cause,” Campusreform, December 8, 2009. (*Page no longer available on live web, or on web archive).

  18. Joint Letter To President Bush On The EPA's Climate Action Report,” Competitive Enterprise Institute, June 7, 2002. Archived October 21, 2015. WebCite URL

  19. Casey Breznick. “Cornell professor says hiring Republicans would decrease faculty quality,“ The Cornell Review, October 15, 2015. Republished by Campus Reform. Archived October 21, 2015. WebCite URL

  20. The Leadership Institute,” SourceWatch. Archived October 21, 2015.

Other Resources