Conservative Political Action Conference
|Conservative Political Action Conference|
CPAC 2019 logo
|Dates||February/March (dates vary)|
|Location(s)||National Harbor, Maryland, U.S.|
|Most recent||February 27–March 2, 2019|
|Organized by||American Conservative Union|
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC; // SEE-pak) is an annual political conference attended by conservative activists and elected officials from across the United States. CPAC is hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU).
In 2011, ACU took CPAC on the road with its first Regional CPAC in Orlando, Florida. Since then ACU has hosted regional CPACs in Chicago, Denver, St. Louis, and San Diego. Political front runners take the stage at this convention.
The conference was founded in 1974 by the American Conservative Union and Young Americans for Freedom as a small gathering of dedicated conservatives. Ronald Reagan gave the inaugural keynote speech at CPAC in 1974. Like the conference's speakers today, the presidential hopeful used it to share his vision for the country—"A Shining City Upon A Hill," words borrowed from John Winthrop.
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Richard Spencer, a figurehead of the Alt-Right and a white supremacist, entered the lobby of the Gaylord National Hotel on February 23, 2017 in an attempt to access CPAC. Organizers of the conference ejected him from the hotel as soon as his presence was discovered, citing his "repugnant [views which] ... have absolutely nothing to do with conservatism or what we do here" as cause for rejecting his admission to CPAC. ACU's Executive Director Dan Schneider castigated Spencer and the alt-right in a main-stage speech, calling them "garden-variety, left-wing fascists," and saying that the alt-right "despises everything [conservatives] believe in." Media members across the political spectrum, led by progressive journalists and opinion columnists, salvoed the intrusion as yet another attempt by hateful groups, like the alt-right, to conceal their bigotry within a legitimate philosophy. Opinion columns in The New York Times, and articles in Mother Jones and Rolling Stone voiced concern about the 2017 interview of ex-Trump Adviser Steve Bannon and ex-Trump Chief of Staff Reince Preibus with ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp, advocating for the American Right to reject the tenets of the alt-right (e.g. homophobia, xenophobia, sexism, racism, etc.).
Fringe groups at CPAC
The 2010 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from the John Birch Society and GOProud, a gay conservative group. GoProud is credited in the media for initiating talks with ACU to invite Donald Trump to speak at CPAC 2011. The 2011 CPAC speech Trump gave is credited for helping kick-start his political career within the Republican Party. Christopher R. Barron, co-founder of GOProud who would later not only endorse Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, but also launch LGBT for Trump, said he "would love to see Mr. Trump run for president."
For the 2012 CPAC conference, the ACU board voted to not invite GOProud or the John Birch Society to the 2012 conference.
The 2015 CPAC featured Jamila Bey who became the first atheist activist to address CPAC's annual meeting. The 2016 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from the Log Cabin Republicans.
Milo Yiannopoulos invitation
In December 2016, CPAC extended an invitation to conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the event, despite his history of controversial views on feminism, racial minorities, and transgender issues. The invitation was canceled when the Reagan Battalion re-posted a video of 2016 and 2015 YouTube videos in which Yiannopoulos is heard making comments defending sexual relationships between adult men and 13-year-old boys, citing his own sexual experiences at that age with a Catholic priest.
Annual straw poll
The annual CPAC straw poll vote traditionally serves as a barometer for the feelings of the conservative movement. During the conference, attendees are encouraged to fill out a survey that asks questions on a variety of issues. The questions regarding the most popular possible presidential candidates are the most widely reported. One component of CPAC is evaluating conservative candidates for president, and the straw poll serves generally to quantify conservative opinion.
|Year||Straw poll winner||% of votes||Second place||% of votes|
|1976||Ronald Reagan||n/a||George Wallace||n/a|
|1986||Jack Kemp||n/a||George H. W. Bush||n/a|
|1987||Jack Kemp||68||Pat Buchanan||9|
|1995||Phil Gramm||40||Bob Dole||12|
|1998||Steve Forbes||23||George W. Bush||10|
|1999||Gary Bauer||28||George W. Bush||24|
|2000||George W. Bush||42||Alan Keyes||23|
|2005||Rudy Giuliani||19||Condoleezza Rice||18|
|2006||George Allen||22||John McCain||20|
|2007||Mitt Romney||21||Rudy Giuliani||17|
|2008||Mitt Romney||35||John McCain||34|
|2009||Mitt Romney||20||Bobby Jindal||14|
|2010||Ron Paul||31||Mitt Romney||22|
|2011||Ron Paul||30||Mitt Romney||23|
|2012||Mitt Romney||38||Rick Santorum||31|
|2013||Rand Paul||25||Marco Rubio||23|
|2014||Rand Paul||31||Ted Cruz||11|
|2015||Rand Paul||26||Scott Walker||21|
|2016||Ted Cruz||40||Marco Rubio||30|
Overall, Mitt Romney holds the record of winning more CPAC straw polls than any other individual, with four. Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp and Rand Paul follow with three consecutive wins each, followed by Ron Paul with two wins. Of these five, the Pauls are the only two to win more than one straw poll, yet never appear on a Republican presidential ticket in any election (although Ron Paul did receive one Electoral College vote in 2016).
Since 2007, the Jeane Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award has been presented at CPAC in memory of Jeane Kirkpatrick. The award is sponsored by the Bradley Foundation, and its first recipient was Matt Sanchez. In 2010, the Ronald Reagan Award was given to the Tea Party movement, which marked the first time it was ever given to a group instead of an individual.
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