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Is CPAC Going to Be Hurt by the Recent Calls for Boycott?

A growing number of conservative organizations have been pulling out of the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference, reportedly in protest of conservative gay-rights group GOProud’s involvement in the annual event.

The Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America announced they would be boycotting the conference in December, and now two major conservative groups — the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center — have joined the boycott as well:

Two of the heavyweight groups of the broader right, the Heritage Foundation and the Media Research Center, have dropped out of CPAC and are expected, planners said, to add to the Value Voter Summit’s heft.

And with CPAC scheduled for Feb. 10, the presidential hopefuls scheduled to speak there – including Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Tim Pawlenty, and Mitt Romney – will take the stage against the backdrop of a puzzlingly heated intramural conflict.

But while there’s no denying that these groups are heavily influential in the movement, how much impact will the boycott have on the actual conference?

At least at the moment, movement activists don’t seem to be too concerned that it will do much damage. “I don’t think it will have an impact at all,” a long-time D.C.-based conservative activist who is not affiliated with CPAC told me. “This thing is marketed so well, I don’t think they’re going to hurt for money. They may lose a little corporate underwriting, but they’ll make it up from other revenue sources, like single-admission fees, table sales at dinners, that sort of thing.”

According to Dave Weigel, who has been at the forefront of covering this story, it sounds like the boycott might actually benefit both the boycotters and GOProud. “This is one of those fights that produces wins for both sides — GOProud and the social conservatives — without any lasting consequences for either of them,” he wrote at Slate.

This certainly seems to be the case — by pulling out of the event, social conservatives can appear to take a principled stance on the gay-rights issue. Meanwhile, the attacks on GOProud will help the group gain sympathy from other conservatives, as well as a ton of positive media coverage.

But this might also be a sign of growing problems for CPAC. Multiple reports have noted problems with the conference that go far beyond the GOProud controversy. David Keene — the director of the American Conservative Union, which organizes the event — has been known for micromanaging it in a way that has apparently turned off some conservative groups. Keene has also been at the center of several recent financial scandals.

As of now, it doesn’t sound like the boycott will cause any long-term damage to the conference. Unless major speakers or large financial backers start to pull out, the event this year should still be a major draw, as it tends to be at the beginning of a presidential election cycle.



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