- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2019

An international coalition of center-right candidates, lawmakers and campaign managers and staffers are gathering in private this week to discuss strategies for conservatives around the globe.

The International Democratic Union, led by former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as chairman, is aiming to teach successful electoral and governing approaches to its more than 80 member parties.

“The IDU is a global networking forum like no other,” reads a pamphlet distributed by the group to those invited to attend the forum in Washington. “We bring together elected legislators, party executives and thought-leaders to forge relationships, exchange best practices for campaigning and governing, and build bridges with parties in emerging democracies.”

The group was founded in 1983 by a coalition of world leaders such as then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, the late-U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

The Republican Party is a member, and some GOP leaders are addressing the group in private this week. IDU scheduled Sen. Todd Young of Indiana to address the group on Wednesday night, and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming is slated to speak Thursday evening. Other politicians attending include U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green, former Slovakia Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and Hungarian politician Katalin Novak.

The forum’s three-day program is invitation-only and started Wednesday with a meeting of campaign managers from around the globe.

Mr. Young’s message Wednesday evening was primarily focused on foreign affairs in China, Hong Kong and Iran, according to Mr. Young’s prepared remarks obtained by The Washington Times.

He told the forum that he believes the U.S. needs to rethink immigration policies involving Hong Kong, and he said that he was circulating a letter calling on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to revisit how many Hong Kong residents America admits into the country.

He also told the forum that his Indiana constituents believe the U.S. has a moral duty to help alleviate suffering, deliver justice and ensure national security around the world.

The forum on Thursday has scheduled meetings on the future of conservatism, campaign strategies, immigration, populism and protectionism, trade, and “private capital tackling public policy challenges,” according to an agenda posted on IDU’s website. Friday will feature briefings on local and topical issues.

The IDU, which has headquarters in Munich, also typically holds an event to coincide with the Republican National Convention in presidential election years.

Foreign interference in the 2016 presidential campaigns has become a hot-button political issue that has dogged President Trump’s administration and continues to dominate discussion surrounding House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump.

If the IDU is concerned about public perception surrounding its efforts to affect elections around the world, it is not saying so.

“Countries can only develop their full potential if they develop recognizing the ideals of liberal democracy, freedom of the individual, and the need for economic growth to be based on individual initiative and free, competitive enterprise economies,” the IDU says on its website. “The IDU has a clear role in a modern world, where today’s idea in one country is tomorrow’s policy in another. Through the IDU, member parties can exchange policy ideas, assist each other to win the political argument, and to win elections.”

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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