Sparsely Attended CPAC Ridiculed As 'Shell' What It Once Was

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Sparsely Attended CPAC Ridiculed As 'Shell' What It Once Was

Scene from Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland

Photo by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Reuters

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) — an annual summit of far-right activists, pundits and elected officials — used to be regarded as the beating heart of the conservative movement. However, one columnist recently said CPAC has now become a "joke" given its meager attendance.

According to Daily Beast senior columnist Matt Lewis, CPAC, which is hosted by the American Conservative Union in Washington, DC, has lost its luster as newer, hotter competitor conferences have emerged in recent years. Far-right group Turning Point USA, for example, attracted roughly 20,000 attendees for its "AmericaFest" event late last year. To further illustrate his point, Lewis linked to a tweet by 2024 CPAC attendee Steven Senski, who posted a photo of a sparsely attended CPAC forum featuring rows of mostly empty chairs.

"I've seen bigger Tupperware parties," Senski wrote.

2024 marked the 50th annual gathering for the American Conservative Union — which is led by far-right activist Matt Schlapp — yet the slim attendance numbers suggest that the summit no longer packs the punch it used to. This may be partially attributed to the sexual harassment allegations against Schlapp. In 2023, Carlton Huffman, an ex-staffer for former Georgia US Senate candidate Herschel Walker, accused Schlapp of grabbing his crotch and inviting him to his hotel room while he was visiting Atlanta. Huffman is seeking $9.4 million in damages for both alleged sexual battery and defamation.

"[J]ust as the Republican Party has become smaller (and weirder) in the Trump era, so too has the conservative movement," Lewis wrote. "Add all these things up, and CPAC is a shell of its former self. As Jimmy Kimmel put it, this year’s CPAC looks to be 'a who's who of who won’t accept the results of the election.' (Sadly, he was right.)"

Still, CPAC still played host this year to numerous high-profile Republicans who are seeking to become former President Donald Trump's running mate, assuming he wins the GOP's presidential nomination this summer. Reps. Byron Donalds (R-FL) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) spoke at this year's conference, along with Sen. JD Vance (R-OH) and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R).

CPAC 2024 was also host to numerous election deniers. One booth featured a January 6-themed pinball machine that glorified disproven conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election. CNN reported that the game "has seven different modes: 'Stop the Steal,' 'Fake News,' 'Peaceful Protest,' 'It's a Setup,' 'Babbitt Murder,' 'Have Faith' and 'Political Prisoners.' The conference ends today.

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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