The Legacy is a group of mostly 40-and-under Republicans with roots in Texas but membership across the country. The well-heeled group strives to avoid media attention and does not let reporters attend their meetings. But their regular gatherings always draw marquee Republican figures, hungry to network with current and future donors to the party. Legacy has become something of a testing ground for ambitious Republicans, having hosted a series of below-the-radar gatherings in recent years. Both John McCain and Mitt Romney addressed the membership during the 2008 Republican primary.
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Founded in Texas, Legacy is comprised of a new breed of younger evangelicals, who are more interested in issues such as climate change and the AIDS epidemic than in fighting the traditional culture wars.
By dint of their considerable wealth -- and access to the wealth of others -- they've made themselves into a political force in the GOP. But most members don't care to make themselves known to the broader public, so they've gone to lengths to avoid the sort of media attention that comes with a group influential enough to have presidential hopefuls come make their case -- and take questions.
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Membership is uniquely restrictive. Applicants must be recommended by a current member, who must also vouch for their bona fides. Members must profess their belief in God and pledge their fealty to conservative principles guided by Judeo-Christian values. Most are Protestants; a majority is evangelical. Prospective members must agree to champion small government, a strong national defense and the free-market system. And applicants must be identified leaders in their chosen field, able to influence others and willing to devote themselves to the Legacy's mission. That usually means they are rich. Several conservatives familiar with the group say a proximate Legacy goal is to identify and nurture the next generation of conservative philanthropists -- the heirs to the Scaifes, the Bradleys and the Olins. Legacy intends for 80 percent of its membership to be under 50 years old, so it is always recruiting.
That means the mission of the group is necessarily broad: though there is uniform agreement about the wrongness of gay marriage and the tragedy of abortion, Legacy members take a page from the National Association of Evangelicals' call for civic responsibility -- a concern for the well-being of God's creation, from mercy for the poor to care and stewardship of the planet to the sanctity and dignity of the family.more » « less