Marc J. Ambinder of ABC News said about the Council: "The group wants to be the conservative version of the Council on Foreign Relations." The CNP was founded in 1981. Among its founding members were: Tim LaHaye, then the head of the Moral Majority, Nelson Baker Hunt, T. Cullen Davis, William Cies, and Paul Weyrich.
Members of the CNP have included: General John Singlaub, shipping magnate J. Peter Grace, Edwin J. Feulner Jr of the Heritage Foundation, Rev. Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network, Jerry Falwell, Senator Trent Lott, Senator Don Nickles, former United States Attornies General Ed Meese and John Ashcroft, gun-rights activist Larry Pratt, Col. Oliver North, and philanthropist Else Prince, mother of Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater the private security firm.
Membership is by invitation only. The membership list, previously made public, is now "strictly confidential." Guests may attend "only with the unanimous approval of the executive committee." Members are instructed not to refer to the organization by name, to protect against leaks. New York Times political writer David D. Kirkpatrick suggested that the secrecy since its founding was intended to insulate the Council from the "liberal bias of the news media".
CNP's meetings are closed to the general public, reportedly to allow for a free-flowing exchange of ideas. The group meets three times per year. This policy is said to be similar to the long-held policy of the Council on Foreign Relations, to which the CNP has at times been compared. CNP's 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status was revoked by the IRS in 1992 on grounds that it was not an organization run for the public benefit. The group successfully challenged this ruling in federal court. A quarterly journal aimed at educating the public, promised in the wake of this incident, has not substantially materialized. The group has launched a website (www.policycounsel.org), which contains selected speeches from past gatherings. A controversial 1997 address by the current Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, is not among them.
While those involved are almost entirely from the United States, their organizations and influence cover the globe, both religiously and politically. Members include corporate executives, legislators former high ranking government officers, leaders of 'think tanks' dedicated to molding society and those whom many view as "Christian leadership".