|Frequency Annual||Most recent February 22 – 25, 2017|
|Dates February/March (dates vary)|
Location(s) National Harbor, Maryland, U.S.
Inaugurated 1973; 44 years ago (1973)
Organized by American Conservative Union
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC; /ˈsiːpæk/ 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.
Speakers have included Donald Trump, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Pat Buchanan, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Tony Snow, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Allen West, Michele Bachmann, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Gary Johnson, Mike Pence, Jeanine Pirro, Betsy DeVos, Lou Dobbs, and other conservative public figures.
The conference was founded in 1973 by the American Conservative Union and Young Americans for Freedom as a small gathering of dedicated conservatives. The 2010 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from the John Birch Society and GOProud. 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. The 2011 CPAC was Donald Trump's first speaking appearance at CPAC. His appearance at CPAC was organized by GOProud, in conjunction with GOPround supporter Roger Stone, who was close with Trump. GOPround pushed for a write-in campaign for Donald Trump at CPAC's presidential straw poll. 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 2011 CPAC speech Trump gave is credited for helping kick-start his political career within the Republican Party. 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.
In 2014, CPAC extended an invitation to the American Atheists, which was immediately withdrawn on the same day due to controversial statements.
In 2017, CPAC extended an invitation to conservative blogger Milo Yiannopoulos to speak at the event, despite his history of inflammatory and controversial views on feminism, racial minorities, and transgender people. The invitation was cancelled when a video surfaced in which Yiannopoulos is heard making comments interpreted as defending sexual relationships between adult men and younger boys, though he later claimed to be joking. Milo admits that he was sexually abused at the age of 13 and apologized stating that he was vehemently opposed to sexual predation and that his style of flippant provocateur was not meant to marginalize the extreme subject matter.
White nationalist Richard Spencer arrived at CPAC on 23 February 2017 as a symbol of the alt-right efforts to conform with conservatives, and was subsequently ejected. Numerous news organizations described the incident as well as a conversation between Steve Bannon (Who was accused of being alt-right) and Matt Schlapp as a possible sign of cementing the alternative right's rapid rise to becoming a part of mainstream conservatism in the United States, and raised questions on whether the alternative right would possibly become the dominant viewpoint in the Republican Party.
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.
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).
Every year there are several awards given to notable conservatives. Although the exact lineup of awards varies, five awards are usually presented: