Inside the Council for National Policy

Porteous' group, The Institute for First Amendment Studies, posted the CNP's roster on its Web site and managed to slip past security at several CNP meetings throughout the 1990s and soon published details notes of the proceedings.

If their summaries are reliable — and the IFAS swears they are — the from-the-fly-on-the-wall thrill and the occasional agitated quotation for Democratic opposition research files do little to sustain the belief that the CNP is ruling America behind those French doors of the Fairfax hotel conference rooms.

"There's nothing wrong with what they are doing," Porteous said. "It's just that they're ultraconservative and a lot of people don't agree with that."

"I don't think they are out there pounding their chests," said Joel Kaplan, a Syracuse University journalism professor who has studied CNP's ties to conservative projects. "But I don't think that they're hiding either."

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