Social Conservatives Threaten CPAC Boycott
Several socially conservative organizations have threatened to boycott one of the largest gatherings of conservative activists of the year if a group of gay Republicans is allowed to serve as a participating organization at the event.
Social conservatives, including the National Organization for Marriage among others, staged a walk-out at a meeting of board members of the Conservative Political Action Conference, according to multiple board members, to protest CPAC's decision to allow GOProud to join the event as more than just a vendor organization.
Those groups put enough pressure on the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, that officials put GOProud's fate, along with that of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society, up for a vote. Results made available to board members on Wednesday showed the board voted to allow both groups to continue their affiliation with CPAC.
That could send socially conservative groups packing and cause a rift in the CPAC board. GOProud has its enemies on the board of directors. Board member Cleta Mitchell is stridently opposed to allowing the gay group to participate and has led the charge to kick them out of the event, according to other board members.
GOProud's involvement at CPAC rises to the same level as other prominent conservative organizations, like the American Future Fund, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, the Eagle Forum and Judicial Watch. Participating organizations, akin to sponsors of the event, are allowed into meetings at which speakers are chosen, giving them a higher level of access than vendor-level organizations.
GOProud, which calls itself a group for gay conservatives, brushed the controversy off. "We are excited to be participating in CPAC again this year. CPAC is the most influential and important gathering of grassroots conservatives in the country and an event we are proud to support," said Chris Barron, a GOProud spokesman.
Social conservatives aren't the only groups to threaten to leave CPAC. The Heritage Foundation, a pillar in the Washington conservative community, has not signed on as a participating organization this year, according to officials at both CPAC and Heritage. But, Heritage officials said, the possibility of bypassing CPAC has to do with a re-evaluation of budget priorities.
"With the rise of the Tea Party groups this year, there have been more and more meetings we've been going to, and we're trying to reach out to new conservatives," said James Weidman, a Heritage spokesman. "We have a limited budget for outreach and we've got more and more organizations out there that want our outreach."
"We've been a fixture at CPAC for years. I'm not sure we're going to reach any new people there," Weidman added.