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.
|Conservative Political Action Conference|
The official logo for CPAC 2017
|Dates||February/March (dates vary)|
|Location(s)||National Harbor, Maryland, U.S.|
|Most recent||February 22–25, 2017|
|Organized by||American Conservative Union|
The conference was founded in 1973 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.  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.
Richard Spencer arrived at CPAC on February 23, 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 and Matt Schlapp as a possible sign of allying the alt-right to mainstream conservatism in the United States, and raised questions on whether the alt-right would possibly become the dominant viewpoint in the Republican Party.
Dan Schneider, ACU's Executive Director, acknowledged that growing question during Spencer's ejection in a main-stage speech which denounced the Alt-Right as "garden-variety, left-wing fascists", declaring that the Alt-Right "despises everything [conservatives] believe in."
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.
In December 2016, 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 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 "Father Michael", a Catholic priest. In his resignation speech to Breitbart News, Yiannopoulos says that he was sexually abused at the age of 13 and apologized for his comments, stating that he was vehemently opposed to child sexual abuse and that his provocative style was not intended to marginalize the subject matter.
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.
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