Conservative investors, political operatives, right-wing writers and Trump administration officials are quietly meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to discuss topics including China, "woke tech" and "the new slave power," according to four people who were invited to attend or speak at the event as well as a copy of the agenda obtained by Protocol.
The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that says its mission is to "restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." A list of speakers for the event includes a combination of past and current government officials as well as a who's who of far-right provocateurs. One speaker, conservative legal scholar John Eastman, rallied the president's supporters at a White House event before the Capitol Hill riot earlier this month. Some others have been associated with racist ideologies.
Government officials listed on the agenda include United States Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who is leading a multi-state antitrust lawsuit against Google and is currently under federal investigation. A source familiar with Kratsios' planned remarks said he intended to speak about artificial intelligence and China. Also on the agenda: Josh Steinman, the White House National Security Council's recently departed senior director for cyber, who now describes himself as the founder of a "stealth startup" on LinkedIn.
Newly confirmed FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington was also listed on the agenda, but he told Protocol he did not end up attending. "Despite initial plans to do so, I did not attend or otherwise participate in the Claremont event this weekend, and I did not prepare or submit remarks," Simington said.
The event is happening as Las Vegas experiences a spike in COVID cases.
Claremont Institute President Ryan Williams refused to answer Protocol's questions about "the new slave power" panel, what COVID-19 safety protocols are in place during the in-person gathering or the range of speaker backgrounds on the agenda.
"The Claremont Institute has been a leading voice against political censorship by the Big Tech oligarchs, and we have no interest in commenting on an obvious hatchet job by a publication so clearly beholden to the pieties of Silicon Valley," Williams said in an email to Protocol. "Your questions are riddled with false premises, but we welcome the fire."
The list of speakers included several people with controversial pedigrees. One speaker, blogger Curtis Yarvin, otherwise known as Mencius Moldbug, has written that there is "no question that biological differences made Africans better slaves than indigenous Americans" because they were less susceptible to tropical diseases. He also once wrote in a blog post, "although I am not a white nationalist, I am not exactly allergic to the stuff." Yarvin was listed to speak on the panel about "the new slave power," along with Michael Anton, former deputy national security adviser under President Trump, who recently wrote an essay in Claremont's The American Mind publication suggesting that Democrats were "openly talking about staging a coup."
Another speaker on the agenda, Adam Candeub, is the current acting head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Previously, as a lawyer, he represented white nationalist Jared Taylor in a lawsuit against Twitter. Eastman recently retired from his position as a law professor at Chapman University amid an uproar over a speech he gave alleging election fraud at the pro-Trump rally preceding the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.
One of the final speakers listed on the agenda, Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart, made waves earlier this summer with a 5,300-word blog post about why he supported hip-hop artist Kanye West for president. "I am so sick of politics. Politics are suddenly everywhere," he wrote, before jumping into a lengthy post about Joe Biden, why the media is "actually evil" and the importance of biofuels.
One attendee said they had not been given any information on who would be speaking as of midday Friday, hours before the event was set to kick off, and Claremont Institute did not appear to be promoting the event on social media Saturday as the first panels began. "Maybe they're trying to keep it under wraps," the attendee said.
The attendee said they understood that the tenor of the weekend would be "very critical of tech, very pro some type of intervention."
"There's going to be some discrepancy and debate around what intervention looks like," the attendee said.
The other topics on the agenda include a panel on "restoring law" and a fireside chat titled, "What happened?" The summit takes place 10 days after a violent mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol Hill complex, resulting in five deaths and forcing a reckoning within the Republican Party over its alignment with Trump and right-wing conspiracy theorists.