Friends of Abe, Hollywood Conservatives' Secret Society, Is Calling It Quits (Exclusive)
Friends of Abe, a secret organization made up of some 1,500 right-leaning members of the Hollywood community, is effectively disbanding.
According to David Stein, a former member with active lines into the group, Friends of Abe headquarters sent out an email Thursday informing members that, as Stein put it, “the organization is dissolving, along with its hard-fought-and-won 501(c)(3).”
Below is an excerpt from the email, titled “Important Message from FOA” and signed “Your Friends of Abe” (via David Stein):
In the beginning, we were all so hungry for fellowship, we could put hundreds of people together for almost any event. Our answer was to stage as many events as possible to give our community room to take root and grow. To service that rapid growth, we built an expensive website, sought and attained non-profit status, instituted Sustaining Membership dues, hired staff, took offices, and engaged with expensive lawyers and accountants.
Effective immediately, we are going to begin to wind down the 501 c 3 organization, bring the Sustaining Membership dues to an end, and do away with the costly infrastructure and the abespal.com website.
What does that mean?
It means an end to the standing organization, but not an end to the mission or the fellowship. Our executive director, Jeremy Boreing, will continue to maintain the mailing list and stage events, but without the infrastructure, or staff, or budget requirements.
A little history before getting further into the matter, which Stein speculates is related to the 501(c)(3) factor: The group, launched in 2004 by founding member and longtime leader, actor Gary Sinise, with assistance from screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd, has included the likes of Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, Clint Eastwood, Patricia Heaton and David Mamet. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, comic Dennis Miller, Scott Baio, Jim Caviezel, Victoria Jackson, Adam Baldwin and Kevin Sorbo have also been cited as members.
Sinise started the organization, which takes President Abraham Lincoln as its namesake, to create a space in which Hollywood professionals of a certain conservative bent—from both in front of and behind the camera—could build solidarity, network and enjoy free meetups, as well as more formal, pay-to-play events featuring big names from the right. Because of the potential risks involved in “outing” themselves as conservatives hoping to stay employed within what they consider an overwhelmingly liberal industry, and also because of the glamor involved in being part of a secret society, members put a high premium on privacy.
Those who have found kindred spirits within Friends of Abe’s most rarefied circles have been treated to VIP dinners with guest lists that read like a who’s-who of the GOP elite. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, current Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, former House Speaker John Boehner, conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer, party mastermind Karl Rove and media darlings Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter have all been featured speakers at the group’s special events, typically held at the fortresslike Luxe Hotel on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. Word of Trump’s meeting in July 2015 with Friends of Abe drew protesters to the hotel’s periphery and forced the group to rent all public bars and meeting areas in order to keep the Luxe on lockdown.So what went wrong? According to Stein, the beginning of the end can be traced to 2010, when Sinise began informing members that Friends of Abe had been recognized by the IRS as a nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status. But the IRS actually didn’t officially grant that status to Friends of Abe until March 2014. In fact, some members might not have been aware that Friends of Abe wasn’t actually a 501(c)(3) nonprofit until Sinise himself, with some heavyweight help from Sen. Ted Cruz, took his fight public and claimed the IRS was denying the group nonprofit status as part of a discriminatory campaign against conservative organizations.
Stein, who also used to help run a similar group called the Republican Party Animals and is no stranger to controversy, added that while Sinise and Executive Director Jeremy Boreing “claimed to the IRS that they were a nonpartisan educational organization, they were actively raising money for candidates.”
News of Friends of Abe’s folding comes as rifts started appearing within the group that reflected the larger fissures in the GOP. And those may have something to do with Donald Trump. Friends of Abe paterfamilias Clint Eastwood reportedly favored former candidate Marco Rubio, and after he dropped out of the running, the card-carrying coterie was obliged to pick between Cruz and Trump camps, jacking up the tensions between the Cruz-favoring majority and a loud and proud pro-Trump minority.
Though Stein says he believes the group’s innermost core will keep meeting at private houses, it’s a crucial election year and a curious time for Hollywood’s most powerful GOP club to close up shop. “That’s why something is up,” he said. “They are going to want to go after Hillary. This is not the time to dissolve.”
Requests by phone and email for comment from Friends of Abe headquarters were not returned by press time.