Teneo Network

The Teneo Network serves as “a pipeline” that seeks to place conservatives in “positions of influence in key industries in America,” including entertainment, politics, and finance.

About Teneo Network

The Teneo Network is a right-wing organization founded in 2008 by venture capitalist Evan Baehr, US Senator Josh Hawley, and other key conservatives. In 2021, conservative activist Leonard Leo — who played an unparalleled role in helping to construct the Supreme Court’s conservative majority  — became Chairman of the Teneo Network. According to the group’s current CEO, Teneo serves as “a pipeline” that seeks to place conservatives in “positions of influence in key industries in America,” including entertainment, politics, and finance. 

The Teneo Network has not disclosed the names of its members. However, known Teneans include:

  • J.D. Vance, Republican Senator from Ohio
  • Josh Hawley, Republican Senator from Missouri
  • Elise Stefanik, Republican Congresswoman from New York’s 21st District
  • Mike Gallagher, Republican Congressman from Wisconsin’s 8th District
  • Mike Hilgers, Nebraska Attorney General
  • Kathryn Mizelle, U.S. District Judge for the Middle District of Florida
  • Charlie Kirk, president of Turning Point USA
  • Ben Shapiro, columnist and right-wing political commentator
  • Peter Bisbee, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association
  • Francisco Gonzalez, member of the advisory council for Turning Point USA and former chairman of Project Veritas
  • Lila Ontiveros, US commercial leader at Palantir Technologies
  • Joseph Malchow, founding partner at Hanover Technology Investment Management
  • John Coleman, managing partner at Sovereign’s Capital
  • Paul Vronsky, partner at BOND Capital
  • Salen Churi, general partner at Trust Ventures

Leonard Leo

The current Chair of the Teneo Network is Leonard Leo, an American lawyer and conservative activist who has been called “arguably the most powerful figure in the federal justice system.” Leo has been active in American politics since the early 1990s when he joined the Federalist Society, the most prominent law association for conservatives. Since then, Leo has operated a “network of interlocking nonprofits” that aggressively support conservative judges, champion right-wing causes, and push a radical, unpopular agenda.

The Teneo Network is the newest known addition to Leonard Leo’s web of nonprofits. In a video for the Teneo Network, Leo claimed the organization is building “networks of conservatives that can roll back” so-called liberal influence in American culture and society. He specifically called out “woke-ism” in the corporate world and education, “one-sided journalism,” and the entertainment industry as Teneo’s targets.

In addition to his web of nonprofits, Leo has worked directly with Republican administrations to shape the makeup of the federal judiciary. Since Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to the Supreme Court in 1991, Leo has helped build a right-wing majority on the high court with significant consequences for American life. In the early 2000s, he advised President George W. Bush on his two appointments to the Supreme Court. He was also “widely known as a confidant” to President Trump and served as Trump’s Supreme Court Advisor during the nominations of Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett. Through these efforts, Leo aided the conservative movement in securing an ideological majority on the Supreme Court, leading to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, expansion of gun rights, and restriction of environmental protections.

Since early 2020, Leo has also operated a for-profit firm called CRC Advisors. He currently serves as the company’s chairman. CRC Advisors is staffed by several former Federalist Society leaders and has raked in at least $43 million from groups connected to Leonard Leo since 2012. 

 

Jonathan Bunch

Jonathan Bunch is a former senior vice president at the Federalist Society and currently serves as president of Leonard Leo’s CRC Advisors. He has been described as Leo’s “right-hand man.” Since 2019, Bunch has been a director on the Teneo Network’s 11-member board.

In recent years, Jonathan Bunch has occupied seats on the board of numerous Leo-linked nonprofits, including the now-defunct BH Fund, America Engaged, and the Freedom and Opportunity Fund. In August 2022, ProPublica reported that Bunch was also listed as the “successor trustee” for the Marble Freedom Trust, another Leo-led nonprofit which received an historic $1.6 billion contribution in 2021 from conservative megadonor Barre Seid.

 

Evan Baehr

Evan Baehr founded the Teneo Network in 2008 with a crew of fellow conservatives including Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), who at the time was a lawyer in private practice. Baehr currently serves as the group’s chief executive officer and treasurer. According to Teneo Network’s most recent, publicly available annual return, Baehr collected nearly $300,000 from the group in 2020.

In 2011, Baehr co-founded Outbox Inc., a short-lived startup specializing in digitizing postal mail. Early Outbox investors included Peter Thiel as well as his business partner, Joe Lonsdale, both of whom became significant boosters for the Republican Party. Thiel was an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential election and has bankrolled a number of GOP campaigns, including J.D. Vance’s 2022 Senate run. Lonsdale has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to right-wing candidates and PACs.

Outbox never launched, but many of the company’s investors, including Thiel, reinvested their money into Baehr’s next venture, Able Lending, in 2013. The company extended low-interest loans to small businesses by tapping into the company’s own network of institutional investors. Four years later, Baehr and his partners sold a portion  of the business to the online lender Fundation for an undisclosed amount.

Since early 2022, Baehr has served as a managing partner at the Austin-based Learn Capital, a venture capital firm that invests in companies at the intersection of technology and education.

In addition to his work with the Teneo Network, Evan Baehr was a longstanding board member of the Adam Smith Society, which has been described as a “Federalist Society for business schools.” The organization is an initiative of the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank focused on domestic policy. Baehr has also served on advisory boards for the Hoover Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, two right-wing think tanks.

 

Amanda Covo

Amanda Covo became chief executive officer of the Teneo Network in 2021, replacing Evan Baehr. Prior to taking on this role, she was the group’s director of communications.

Founding & Core Principles

Evan Baehr founded the Teneo Network in 2008 alongside now-Senator Josh Hawley and other prominent conservatives. Hawley penned the group’s founding principles, according to early members who spoke to the CT Mirror. Today, seven principles, drawn largely from the Federalist Society, drive the network: 

  1. Participation Over Content
  2. Incarnate Over Virtual
  3. Vulnerability Over Strength
  4. The Strength of Weak Ties
  5. Culture is Upstream of Politics
  6. Confident Pluralism
  7. Pastoral Care for the Whole Person

These driving principles have created  a broad but exclusive network of individuals, usually under the age of 40, whose unifying attribute is their self-identification as conservatives. Amanda Covo, the current chief executive officer of Teneo, has described the network as “a pipeline” that seeks to place conservatives in “positions of influence in key industries in America,” including entertainment, politics, and finance. 

The Teneo Network hosts an annual retreat as well as regional meetups for its members. The group will host its next retreat in Marana, Arizona, in Fall 2023.

 

Leonard Leo Takes Over

Leonard Leo became chairman of the Teneo Network in 2021. In a video address to potential Teneo donors, Leo described his mission to “crush liberal dominance” in American life. Teneo CEO Amanda Covo elaborated, saying that Teneo’s work “is to replicate…what the Federalist Society accomplished. What Leonard and others were able to do within law, we’ll now do in finance and business and media and technology and beyond.”

The addition of Leo to the Teneo Network’s board has ushered in a significant increase in contributions to the organization.

 

ESG Opposition

According to reporting by ProPublica, Leo associate Jonathan Bunch penned a fundraising email to Teneo members outlining the group’s opposition to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policies. ProPublica reported: “To ‘confront’ what he dubbed ‘woke capitalism,’ Jonathan Bunch, a longtime Leo deputy and now Teneo board member, wrote that the group had brought together a coalition of Teneans “working with (or serving as) state attorneys general, state financial officers, state legislators, journalists, media executives and best-in-class public affairs professionals” to launch investigations, hold hearings, pull state investment funds and publish op-eds and news stories in response to so-called environmental, social and governance, or ESG, policies at the corporate level.”

By its own account, the Teneo Network has “over 800 fellows and hundreds more friends and allies.” Although the group has never publicly identified its members, news reports and internal documents have revealed some identities. Its membership spans the worlds of business, entertainment, and politics, from local government to Washington.

 

Members in Politics & Nonprofits

  • J.D. Vance, Republican Senator from Ohio
  • Josh Hawley, Republican Senator from Missouri
  • Elise Stefanik, Republican Congresswoman from New York’s 21st District
  • Mike Gallagher, Republican Congressman from Wisconsin’s 8th District
  • Charlie Kirk, president of Turning Point USA
  • Peter Bisbee, executive director of the Republican Attorneys General Association
  • Mike Hilgers, Nebraska attorney general
  • Will Scharf, candidate for Missouri attorney general
  • Andrew Ferguson, Virginia solicitor general
  • Kathryn Mizelle, U.S. district judge for the Middle District of Florida
  • Ryan Holte, judge for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims
  • Claire McCusker Murray, associate White House counsel under President Trump
  • Catherine Bellah Keller, former deputy assistant to President Trump
  • Simone Ledeen, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East under President Trump
  • Edward Crawford, appointee to Texas’s Product Development and Small Business Incubator Board
  • Kevin Robnett, appointee to the Texas Mutual Insurance Company Board of Directors
  • Leslie Robnett, appointee to Texas’s Specialty Courts Advisory Council
  • Kelly Garcia, appointee to Florida’s Virtual School Board of Trustees
  • Glen Gilzean, president and CEO of the Central Florida Urban League
  • Francisco Gonzalez, member of the advisory council for Turning Point USA and former chairman of Project Veritas

 

Members in Business

  • Lila Ontiveros, US commercial leader at Palantir Technologies
  • Joseph Malchow, founding partner at Hanover Technology Investment Management
  • John Coleman, managing partner at Sovereign’s Capital
  • Paul Vronsky, partner at BOND Capital
  • Salen Churi, general partner at Trust Ventures
  • Sam Corcos, co-founder and chief executive officer at Levels
  • Hillary Waldron, president of Convoy Group LLC
  • David Luttrell, chief investment officer at the LCM Group
  • Bennett Gerli, director at FTSE Russell
  • Rachel Gerli, head of commerce at Qurate Retail Group
  • Jonathan Tusk, financial adviser

 

Members in Law

  • Stephen Duvernay, attorney at Benbrook Law Group, PC
  • LeElle B. Slifer, partner at Winston & Strawn LLP

 

Members in Media & Entertainment

 

ProPublica also revealed  that three unnamed senior aides to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are among the Teneo Network’s members.

Like other Leonard Leo-linked nonprofits, the Teneo Network does not disclose the names of its donors. The little information available on the group’s contributors is sourced from annual disclosures filed by donor-advised funds and other public charities.

From 2020 to 2021, the year Leonard Leo took over as the group’s chairman, the Teneo Network’s revenue more than doubled. Contributions during that period jumped from $2.2 million to $4.2 million. Most of this haul came from the donor-advised fund DonorsTrust, which has been dubbed the “dark money ATM of the right.” DonorsTrust has received significant funding from Leo’s own dark money network in recent years.

 

Known Contributors to Teneo Network in Financial Year 2021

Contributor Amount
Donors Trust $3,048,580
Schwab Charitable Fund $45,000
Trammell & Margaret Crow Foundation $25,000

Other funders of the Teneo Network include the Bradley Foundation, hedge fund investor Paul Singer, Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the DeVos family.

Harlan Crow

Harlan Crow is a billionaire real estate developer and the president of the Trammell & Margaret Crow Foundation, which has given at least $75,000 to the Teneo Network since 2020. For decades, Crow has held an influential position in conservative politics as a Republican megadonor and benefactor of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. In a series of bombshell reports, it was revealed that, over two decades, Crow lavished Justice Thomas and his wife Ginni with a series of gifts, including: 

  • A vacation spent island-hopping around Indonesia on Crow’s superyacht, featuring round trip flights on Crow’s private jet 
  • Annual trips to Crow’s exclusive luxury resort in the Adirondacks 
  • Private school tuition for their adopted son
  • A $500,000 donation to Ginni Thomas’s nonprofit
  • The purchase of Clarence Thomas’s mom’s house in Georgia directly from the Justice and his mother, who were co-owners 

Over his lifetime, Crow has contributed $11.8 million to conservative federal candidates, committees, and PACs. Crow contributed an additional $9.1 million to conservative candidates, PACs, and committees in his home state of Texas.

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