There’s a whole vibrant political economy that spins into life every year around CPAC, which has transformed over time from a circus-like political conference at a dated complex hotel in D.C., where Rand Paul used to win every straw poll, to a huge money-making enterprise with regular events around the world. Naturally, there was a lot of money on the line when CPAC chairman Matt Schlapp, the high-powered conservative lobbyist, was accused of sexual assault. Of course, if there was any doubt about whether attendance would be impacted by the metastasizing scandal, that was put to rest by Donald Trump’s announcement that he’d be a headliner again this year. (Schlapp was accused in a lawsuit of groping a man who worked for Herschel Walker, an accusation he vehemently denies.)
CPAC, now a hallmark of Washington life just like the cherry blossoms, is just around the corner. But its very contours may look different in a Trump-DeSantis world, with Kevin McCarthy’s Taliban Twenty newly empowered, and the MAGA movement spiraling in many different directions. I chatted about this, and more, with my partner Tina Nguyen.
Tara Palmeri: Rep. Matt Gaetz, former leader of the Never Kevins, is a CPAC mainstay. He goes every year, but has criticized Schlapp for accepting donations from corporate sponsors. Is this a real split or just politics?