On Friday night, future American President Donald Trump is scheduled to headline a private dinner at Los Angeles’s Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel, where he will address Friends of Abe. The invitation to this sold-out event identifies Trump as the “very definition of American success.” Due to Trump’s recent controversy-courting comments regarding undocumented immigrants, interest in the Trump dinner shot through the roof.
But what, exactly, is Friends of Abe?
FOA is a secretive group of Hollywood right-wingers (the “one and only fellowship for entertainment industry conservatives”) that formed in early 2005. It has been described as a “stealth right-wing group,” “influential in conservative circles,” a “GOP support group,” and as operating under “the same PR rules as Fight Club.”
The full list of FOA members is kept under lock-and-key (to avoid potential blacklisting in a decidedly left-wing Tinseltown), and the group only recently achieved nonprofit status from the IRS after a three-year fight to do so.
Founding and high-profile “friends” include Gary Sinise, Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton, Clint Eastwood, Jon Voight, and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Lionel Chetwynd. The hundreds of right-leaning members are invited to attend strictly off-the-record functions where Hollywood players get the chance to meet political celebrities, and also to network with like-minded entertainment-industry types. Past events have included a speech by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, summer fiestas, a pie-baking contest and family picnic.
“It’s a growing movement, and word is getting out that there’s many of us in this business,” singer Pat Boone, an FOA associate, told The Washington Times in 2008. “If certain studio execs—hirers and firers—learn that this is a movement and growing, and that some of these people that they hire are of this inclination, these people could be unemployed.”
Trump is just the latest in a long line of Republican candidates and VIPs to speak before Friends of Abe. The group has recently hosted and toasted fellow 2016 contenders Rand Paul, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Mike Huckabee, and previously welcomed heavyweights such as Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter. FOA gatherings have become opportunities for candidates to explore potential support and future fundraising opportunities, much in the same way President Obama and so many other Democratic politicians fly into Hollywood to meet and charm their famous fans, prospective donors, and potential bundlers and celebrity campaign-season allies.
“Friends of Abe has absolutely no political agenda,” Jeremy Boreing, the organization’s executive director (who also serves as managing editor at right-wing media watchdog TruthRevolt), told The New York Times last year. “It exists to create fellowship among like-minded individuals.” (Boreing did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.)
Due to the hyper-secretive nature of this Hollywood-elite fellowship, the renewed attention to the organization might not be the most comfortable thing for its more discretion-minded members. On Friday evening, Friends of Abe and their guest of honor Donald Trump will be met by a group of protesters. “We're going to be having a piñata to show how much of a caricature Mr. Trump has become,” Jorge-Mario Cabrera, communications director at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said on Wednesday. (Cabrera was obviously not pleased with Trump’s comments regarding Mexican “rapists” and “raping.”)
Friends of Abe maintains that they have zero interest in endorsing a candidate or his or her controversial statements.
“We invited Mr. Trump for the same reason we invite all of our speakers: to give our members a chance to hear from movement conservatives without the filter of the media so they can reach their own conclusions," the group told the Los Angeles ABC station.
Correction: A previous version of this article quoted websites that do not actually belong to Friends of Abe. Those quotes have been removed. We regret the error.