When I called Peter Huizenga, who chairs investment firm Huizenga Capital Management, in Oak Brook, Illinois, and gave $50,000 to Turning Point last year, even his assistant, Mary Ellen, knew who Kirk was. "Oh, he's very fond of Charlie," she told me, saying Huizenga would love to talk about his support of Turning Point. When Huizenga called later that day, I could barely punctuate his raving about Kirk, who he called "one in a million."
"He's phenomenal. The most incredible young man I know," Huizenga gushed, steamrolling my attempts to ask questions with a seemingly never-ending font of praise. "At his age, he is one of the most accomplished, one of the most mature, and one of the most organized and intelligent guys that I have ever met. You just don't meet guys like this."
Last month, Turning Point sponsored 100 student activists' trips to the Conservative Political Action Conference and organized a Big Government Sucks rally, where Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas spoke. In an email, Paul spokesman Sergio Gor told National Journal that the group "had a great event" and that the likely presidential contender was "very impressed by their ability to energize the youth in such force."
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Bankrolling 100 trips to CPAC and a total of 26 staffers seems an impressive feat for a 21-year-old. Though Kirk told National Journal that Turning Point had raked in $1 million in the last fiscal year, when asked for the group's tax filings, Montgomery called to clarify that the $1 million figure was actually raised in the 2014 calendar year, but declined to send the tax documents to back up the number, explaining that the 990 wasn't yet complete. Montgomery balked at questions about the implausibility of such a young organization, headed by such a young executive director, raising substantial money, insisting that the group wanted to maintain Kirk's air of "mystique."
Because Turning Point is a 501(c)3, the group is not required to disclose its donors. They aren't allowed to endorse candidates, either—which will make getting involved in 2016, at least for the organization, a challenge. For Kirk, though, who's already making his name in conservative media, the group could be a springboard.
Kirk didn't end up going to college in 2012. He's now enrolled part-time at New York's King's College, taking online classes at night after he has finished his executive director duties. He doesn't seem particularly committed, casually saying he'll get his degree "in due time." As he burnishes his conservative credentials through op-eds and cable-news spots, he's laying the groundwork for bigger plans than a diploma.
"This guy has got all the qualifications that it takes to be president of the United States," Huizenga told National Journal. In a separate interview, Montgomery agreed, saying, "That's kind of the impression he gives people."