Conservative Republican Chuck DeVore told TPM today that he agrees with Christine O’Donnell that a week-long think tank program qualifies her for the United States Senate. He completed the Claremont Institute’s competitive Lincoln Fellowship program two years after O’Donnell was a fellow, and he said in an interview its rigorous discussion of the Constitution is unrivaled in modern politics.
“It’s helped me tremendously in my political life. What it gave me was the practical understanding of what makes the United States unique,” DeVore, a member of the California State Assembly, told TPM.
DeVore said that being a Lincoln Fellow gave him “a deeper understanding” of whether laws he is voting for on the floor of the assembly are “really appropriate” or constitutional.
TPM has reported quite a bit about the program, which accepted O’Donnell in 2002 without getting an educational transcript beyond her resume. At the time, O’Donnell had not received her bachelor’s degree due to unpaid student loans. She also claimed on her resume that she’d attended a program at University of Oxford after completing a program sponsored by the Phoenix Institute that rented space from Oxford. Phoenix has said such a claim is “misleading.”
Speaking with DeVore about the program, it’s clear that many of the conservative ideals discussed have appeared in the policy positions of O’Donnell and other candidates on the far-right.
DeVore gave TPM a full readout of the program, which he completed in 2004. As we reported, O’Donnell (R-DE) said the program was the “number one” thing that has prepared her for elected office.
It’s an 8-day program that receives hundreds of applications. Just a handful are chosen and they receive a stipend and free coursework. DeVore said fellows were given a packet of material photocopied from books that was 20 inches thick. “It’s not just light summer reading,” he said.
“I used it a lot in my last six years in the California legislature,” DeVore said. “People would often wonder if I was a constitutional attorney because of the intense training.”
Fellows were encouraged to come for breakfast socializing, but the official program kicked off every day with lecture and discussion at 9:30 a.m. It would run through 4 p.m. and there were dinners and mixers each night fellows were encouraged to attend as Claremont put them up in a nearby hotel.
DeVore’s class included Michael Ramierz, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for his editorial cartoons.
The group reportedly spent one-third of the time discussing the philosophical foundations of the republic, including the concept of the separation of powers. Then, in the middle section of the week, they talked about Abraham Lincoln’s philosophy and the promise of liberty. The program closed with talks about where progressives draw their inspiration.
“The 8-day program allowed me to crystalize a number of things I’d come to believe over the course of my adult life,” DeVore told TPM.
“Nobody really teaches this anymore, it’s like a lost history,” DeVore said. His fellowship group discussed judicial history including Marbury v. Madison and Dred Scott.
DeVore said his Claremont citations sometimes got him into trouble with Libertarian fans of Ron Paul.
DeVore appeared on Glenn Beck’s program during his Senate primary campaign against Carly Fiorina and Tom Campbell. He said his discussion of constitutional principles learned from Claremont helped his campaign “catch fire” among tea partiers in California and raise a lot of money.
DeVore said a Claremont official appeared soon after on Beck’s program, and that Claremont offered to give the Fox host the Lincoln Fellowship program one-on-one. Claremont officials were not available to verify this claim this afternoon.
It turns out Andrew Breitbart was one of Claremont’s Lincoln fellows, too.
Watch DeVore talk about Claremont this winter. As you can see, many of the tea party’s favorite issues are aligned with Claremont’s teachings, which Beck seems to really enjoy hearing about.