Conservative Political Action Conference

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC; /ˈspæk/ 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).[1]

Conservative Political Action Conference
CPAC 2019 logo
DatesFebruary/March (dates vary)
Location(s)National Harbor, Maryland, U.S.
Inaugurated1973 (1973)
Most recentFebruary 27–March 2, 2019
Organized byAmerican Conservative Union

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 2019 CPAC took place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center from February 27 to March 2, 2019.[2]


The conference was founded in 1974 by the American Conservative Union and Young Americans for Freedom as a small gathering of dedicated conservatives.[3][4][5] Ronald Reagan gave the inaugural keynote speech at CPAC in 1974.[6] 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.[7]


In 2014, CPAC extended an invitation to the American Atheists, which was immediately withdrawn on the same day due to controversial statements.[8]

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.[9] 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."[10][11] 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.).[12][13][14]

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.[15] The 2011 CPAC speech Trump gave is credited for helping kick-start his political career within the Republican Party.[16][17][18] 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."

The 2015 CPAC featured Jamila Bey who became the first atheist activist to address CPAC's annual meeting.[19] The 2016 CPAC featured co-sponsorship for the first time from the Log Cabin Republicans.[20]

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[21] 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.[22]

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
1976Ronald Reagan[23][24]n/aGeorge Wallacen/a
1980Ronald Reagann/an/an/a
1984Ronald Reagann/an/an/a
1986Jack Kemp[25][26]n/aGeorge H. W. Bushn/a
1987Jack Kemp[27]68Pat Buchanan9
1993Jack Kemp[28]n/an/an/a
1995Phil Gramm[29]40Bob Dole12
1998Steve Forbes[30]23George W. Bush10
1999Gary Bauer[31][32]28George W. Bush24
2000George W. Bush[33]42Alan Keyes23
2005Rudy Giuliani[34]19Condoleezza Rice18
2006George Allen[35]22John McCain20
2007Mitt Romney[35]21Rudy Giuliani17
2008Mitt Romney[35]35John McCain34
2009Mitt Romney[35][36]20Bobby Jindal14
2010Ron Paul[35][37]31Mitt Romney22
2011Ron Paul[38]30Mitt Romney23
2012Mitt Romney[39]38Rick Santorum31
2013Rand Paul[40]25Marco Rubio23
2014Rand Paul[41]31Ted Cruz11
2015Rand Paul26Scott Walker21
2016Ted Cruz40Marco Rubio30

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).[42]


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.[43][44] 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.[45]

Foreign CPACs


Australia's first CPAC was held in August 2019, with guest speakers including former prime minister Tony Abbott, Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage, former Breitbart editor-in-chief Raheem Kassam and NSW One Nation leader Mark Latham. Liberal Senator Amanda Stoker and Craig Kelly MP were at the event. There have been calls for Kassam to be banned from coming into the country before the event.[46][47]

The US backers of the right-wing Australian conference say the CPAC event won't be a one-off.[48]


The first CPAC in Brazil took place between 11-12 October 2019, in the city of São Paulo, attended by leading conservative names from U.S. like ACU chairman Matt Schlapp and his wife Mercedes Schlapp, Utah senator Mike Lee, Fox News especialist Walid Phares, and Brazilian names like Federal deputy and the President Jair Bolsonaro's son Eduardo Bolsonaro, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo, and the Prince Imperial of Brazil Bertrand Maria José de Orléans e Bragança and others.[49][50]

The ACU Foundation has announced that the event will take place annually in Brazil from 2019.[51][52]

See also

  • Conservatism portal


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  2. "CPAC 2020". CPAC 2020. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
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  11. Weigel, David; Wagner, John (February 23, 2017). "Alt-right leader expelled from CPAC after organizer denounces 'fascist group'". Retrieved January 7, 2018 via
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  15. CNN, Chris Moody and Alexander Rosen. "Gays for Trump? Activist plans new effort". CNN.
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  17. "Gay GOProud Founder Chris Barron Launches Loathsome 'LGBT for Trump' Campaign: WATCH - Towleroad". June 15, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  18. Correspondent, Chris Moody, CNN Senior Digital. "How gay conservatives helped launch Donald Trump". CNN. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
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  20. "'Smooth sailing' for gay Republicans at CPAC". March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  21. Ohlheiser, Abby; Ohlheiser, Abby (February 21, 2017). "The 96 hours that brought down Milo Yiannopoulos" via The Washington Post.
  22. Hartmann, Margaret. "CPAC Blasted for Milo Yiannopoulos Invite After Pedophilia Remarks Resurface". New York Magazine. Retrieved February 21, 2017.
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  28. "Republican Right Wing Gathers To Bash Clinton, Look to 1996 Conservatives meet in record numbers to find that there is life – and echoes of past unity – after the presidency". The Christian Science Monitor. February 22, 1993. ISSN 0882-7729.
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  34. "Bracing for the worst". The Washington Times. February 23, 2005. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  35. Danielle Kurtzleben (February 11, 2011). "CPAC Straw Poll Not Predictive of Eventual Nominee". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  36. Sam Stein (March 31, 2009). "Romney Wins CPAC Poll, Palin Tied For Third". Huffington Post. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
  37. Brenda Shepard; Mark Murray (February 21, 2010). "Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll". NBC News. Retrieved March 17, 2013.
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  42. Patrick Svitek (January 9, 2017). "Rogue Texas elector explains decision to back Ron Paul". The Texas Tribune.
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  46. "Labor wants right-wing 'bigot' banned from Australia ahead of conservative conference". SBS News. Retrieved September 10, 2019.
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  49. "Official website". CPAC Brazil (in Portuguese).
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  51. Jair Bolsonaro [@jairbolsonaro] (August 14, 2019). "-É com grande satisfação que após meses de trabalho anunciamos que o maior evento conservador do mundo, CPAC, será realizado pela 1ª vez no Brasil. Em breve divulgaremos grandes nomes da direita mundial que se farão presentes em São Paulo nos dias 11 e 12/OUT. Sigam: @cpacbrasil" (Tweet) via Twitter.
  52. "Eduardo Bolsonaro tenta trazer ao Brasil maior evento conservador do mundo" (in Portuguese). Poder 360. May 18, 2019.
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