Turning Point USA has history trying to influence WSU SGA elections

A 2019 Kansas State Collegian article cites a Turning Point USA handout that lays out plans to “commandeer the top office of student body president” at the most influential American universities. 

In a handout called the “Campus Victory Project,” which is now a few years old, the organization lays out plans to fill the student body president position at the most recognizable American universities with conservative, republican students who could further the organization’s mission. 

WSU’s Turning Point USA President Olivia Gallegos, who is currently running for SGA president, told The Sunflower she had not heard of the project. 

At Wichita State, Turning Point USA has been faced with controversy. The organization was initially denied registered student organization status by the student government association, despite a letter from FIRE telling SGA that denying a group would be against freedom of speech. The supreme court ultimately overturned the senate’s decision and Turning Point USA received RSO status. 

Gallegos faced criticism early on when she chose to highlight Turning Point USA contributor Morgan Zegers in a social media post for women’s history month. A group of students on social media called for her resignation. Gallegos did not resign and was a senator the following year.

The handout lists Wichita State as a prime target in phase 2 of their plan. It also cites former SGA President Paige (Hungate) Reese as a “win” for the organization along with other right-wing SGA presidents.

Reese was president 2017-2018. She said that while the organization did reach out to her about her campaign, she was not aware it was affiliated with Turning Point USA. She also said she was not aware she was listed as a “win.”

“I was never under the impression or never had an understanding that they were even associated with Turning Point USA, otherwise I would not have done anything with them, I wouldn’t have communicated with them because I wasn’t interested in Turning Point USA’s mission,” Reese said. 

Reese said the organization found out about her through one of her friends.

“He sent my information to an individual with that organization and just said, ‘Hey, these people are hoping to just, you know, sponsor student leaders and help good leaders get in positions,’” Reese said. “That was really all that was indicated to me, that it was just this organization that kind of gave scholarships in a sense to students to just help them win.”

However, when Reese found out more about the project, she donated all the money she received to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Wichita. 

“Truly they did nothing as far as our campaign, or my time as student body president,” Reese said. “I cut all ties once I understood who they were and what their true goal was. I feel like it was a facade.”

The handout claims that SGA have been “controlled by the left for decades, institutionalizing campus messaging and earmarking hundreds of millions of dollars of student fees to intentionally push a coordinated [a] radical progressive agenda.” 

The mission of the project is to make the “largest strategic impact for taking back and fighting the intrenched institution that has hijacked billions of public dollars to promote anti-capitalist, anti-American, anti-semitic and pro-globalist themes.”

Chair of Political Science Department Neal Allen said that one political organization should not have the power to control student governments.

“I find it troubling that an organization is talking about commandeering student governments across the country,” Allen said. 

“Student government is not something that you should take back or think has been taken from you. Student government should not be understood as property or anything like property of one given group of people.”

According to its LinkedIn, the project focuses on “activating, recruiting, supporting and training a new generation of common sense, representative, and well-equipped leaders on the biggest college campuses in the United States.”

Vice President for WSU’s Turning Point chapter also said he didn’t know about the project. He said that individual chapters are not required to support everything the national organization is associated with. 

“If that’s something they’re trying to do that is certainly something that I do not know of as a member,” Hoopes said. “As a general member of the chapter I try to just stick to our chapter-level things. I don’t try to get as much involved with the national organization as possible as they are a controversial organization.”

Hoopes is also an SGA senator. He said that he believes the students need to spend less time speaking about national, political issues and more time speaking about campus-specific problems.

“You shouldn’t be focused on these big national issues, we need to focus on what the students want and what the students want us to do,” Hoopes said.