In August, a mysterious new organization called Firebrand PAC launched with a pledge “to reshape the future of the Republican Party.”
“Americans deserve a champion. The country we love is slipping away,” reads the current text on the super PAC’s website. “The current political establishment runs on weakness. They get paid whether they win or lose. They’ll take up any cause—except the American people. Not us. We’re playing for keeps. And we’re fighting to win.”
The website, AmericanFirebrand.com, is light on details, and it pointedly doesn’t mention who’s behind the effort. But public filings show that the new group is being helmed by three men with close ties to the Claremont Institute—a hard-right think-tank whose leaders have helped mainstream a number of extreme viewpoints into the GOP and which worked closely with former President Donald Trump to dispute the results of the 2020 election.
The super PAC is registered to Adam Korzeniewski, a former mid-level official in the Trump administration and a 2021 Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute. Matthew Peterson, the Claremont Institute’s vice president of education and founding editor of its bombastic American Mind publication, is listed as a director. So is Nathaniel Fischer, a 2020 Claremont Institute Lincoln Fellow, venture capitalist, and real estate investor.
The super PAC was incorporated in July and registered with the Federal Election Commission in late August. It’s unclear what the organization will be used for—or how much power and money it will have. Peterson, Fischer, and Korzeniewski didn’t respond to requests for comment. Super PACs don’t have to disclose their donors, and the organization has yet to file any financial disclosure reports with the FEC.
But its creation appears to be part of a much larger project from Fischer, Peterson, and Korzeniewski to form a conservative ecosystem that allows them to completely bypass any contact with liberals in work, business, and life, while painting those who disagree with them as un-American, totalitarian threats to their way of life.
That project includes a forum called the New Founding where conservatives look to connect with like-minded people for business and networking opportunities, as well as a newsletter that spotlights companies that align with their views and argues without any seeming sense of irony for a group that also has a super PAC that can receive unlimited corporate donations for political campaigns that “Corporations that attempt to extort compliance with their political preferences are about as un-American as it gets.”
Peterson is a senior figure at the Claremont Institute and has played a key role in its metamorphosis from a staid think tank that largely focused on the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln into one of Trump’s loudest academic cheerleaders on the right. His American Mind has published a number of highly controversial articles, including pieces from former Trump National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton that pushed the false claim that the 2020 election was being stolen from Trump, and a piece from Claremont Institute senior fellow Glenn Ellmers that called for a “counter-revolution” and argued that “more than half” of American citizens “are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term.”
Korzeniewski got into politics working on the unsuccessful House campaign of racist comedy provocateur Joey Saladino, then got brought into the Trump administration as a senior adviser at the U.S. Commerce Department to help run the Census Bureau. He later became a White House liaison to the Treasury Department. Korzeniewski was brought into the administration by Johnny McEntee, a top Trump adviser who often served as his id, pushing him to fire Defense Secretary Mark Esper and authoring one of the memos to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to try to block Congress from certifying President Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Korzeniewski called it a “badge of honor” that he’d been brought into the administration by McEntee, saying it showed he was “America first.”
McEntee and Anton aren’t the trio’s only ties to the broader effort to reject the 2020 election results. John Eastman, the director of the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, also served as Trump’s post-election lawyer and authored the plan to try to force Pence to block Biden’s election certification. Peterson has repeatedly praised and defended Eastman, calling him a “good man” after Eastman got caught on hidden camera defending that plan and pushing the conspiracy theory that Jan. 6 was an FBI-antifa false flag operation in October.
The trio aren’t afraid to stoke controversy.
Peterson called the response to the Jan. 6 Capitol riots an “overreaction,” and while he said that the rioters should face consequences that the left was hypocritical because they didn’t crack down on Black Lives Matter protests in the same way.
“The message of the last year I think is very clear for half of the country. ‘We can go out and protest and commit acts of political violence and it is justified. If you think about doing that, you were all a bunch of Nazis and we should watch you because you're politically violent individuals who should get the full weight of the law thrown at them,’” he argued in a speech a week after the riots.
Fischer has gone even further.
“Given the corruption of the FBI and elements of our legal system, the next Republican president should pardon all political prisoners on day one,” he tweeted last week after the New York Times published internal documents from the right-wing group Project Veritas, which is facing an FBI investigation. “Even if some did commit real crimes, the process is so corrupted that fair case-by-case evaluation may be impossible.”
Fischer also recently attacked a library’s child storytime event about underrepresented groups that an advertisement originally said included transgender people.
“Trans storytime/drag queen story hour/etc are child grooming efforts,” he tweeted.
Fischer, Peterson, and Korzeniewski have all been hyper-focused on Kyle Rittenhouse’s trial in recent days.
And the trio already have some close ties to serious GOP candidates. The super PAC pledges to “promote charismatic leaders seeking office or public platforms.” And it’s clear they’re tied in with some real candidates.
Korzeniewski hosted Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters for a twitter spaces chat last week. This week, he interviewed Texas Republican former state Sen. Don Huffines, who’s running in a primary against Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and joined embattled Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz for a chat about Kyle Rittenhouse. Peterson recently posed with Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance at a National Conservatism conference, where both spoke, touting how a piece his publication ran by Vance last year inspired another activist to launch a nationalist conservative organization.
They’re also buddies with Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini, a congressional candidate and former Claremont Institute fellow who recently met with Trump and has been endorsed by Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar.
The super PAC hasn’t done much yet, however. American Firebrand’s only public act so far is to release “A Few Woke Men,” an odd South Park-style parody of A Few Good Men that mocks Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley as a rainbow-haired wacko more interested in defending wokeness than protecting America.
“We live in a woke world. And that wokeness has to be guarded by trans allies with guns,” the Milley parody says at the top of the video, which concludes with footage of the fall of Kabul to Taliban troops.
Peterson and Fischer have repeatedly used the American Mind to lay out their vision for the broader project.
As Fischer wrote in April, the aim is “to forge an alliance where you can work with and buy from people who don't hate you, build a life and career freed from the tightening vice of a hostile ideology, and pursue the ideals and ambitions that America long promised.”
“You must reject woke demands, refuse to make even token gestures, and invest instead in relationships and partnerships with people and organizations who have likewise steeled themselves against the mob’s opprobrium,” he wrote in June.
Peterson makes clear exactly what that means.
“There is no ‘neutrality’ for American business. We either band together or get swept away by the woke tide,” he warned in an August essay. “The substance of political discourse today rarely revolves around particular matters of policy: Instead, public political debate consists of delegitimizing the other side. You and everyone else is called a fascist and a racist if you hold a position contrary to the ruling class.”
Peterson also seems only to value free speech and debate so long as people agree on similar basic assumptions. “The extent to which speech can be free is the extent to which one shares fundamental premises. When those fundamentals break down, one must ‘argue’ as Odysseus did with Thersites,” he tweeted, referencing a moment in the Iliad where Odysseus beat up and publicly humiliated another character for opposing him in order to get his way.
Fischer, a Harvard Law graduate, seems to have been more focused on business than politics until recently. But he’s made clear that he sees an existential threat from the left.
Fischer recently argued on the New Founding that a “national divorce” might be coming, arguing that while it’s not the best-case option, it could be a “survival tactic” for conservatives to escape left-wing elites who he says “are using their power aggressively to impose a cultural revolution and destroy the American way of life.”
Peterson moved from southern California, where the Claremont Institute is based, to Dallas at the beginning of the year to work with Fischer on the project—and because he believes it’s necessary to separate red and blue America.
“My sole interest in Texas politics is to keep Texas Texas and to radicalize your leaders to make sure that that happens,” he told the Texas Public Policy Foundation crowd. “It almost feels like it's to the point where people will say it feels like being in a foreign country when you go in and out of red states and blue states right now.”
The super PAC could be one way to do so.