The incoming chief of the American Conservative Union, whose Conservative Political Action Conference is the year’s biggest event for conservatives, says he’ll be reaching out to social conservatives to make sure participants at the 2012 event support the movement’s core values as much as possible.
“This year, I intend to meet with concerned social conservative groups to develop a vetting process that is acceptable to all,” Al Cardenas told WND in an e-mail.
“As we have in the past, we will do our best to be inclusive of interested organizations while at the same time supporting our traditional conservative ideals.”
The comments were in response to WND questions about future participation by GOProud, which calls itself conservative and advocates for fiscal responsibility but also has promoted the advance of homosexuality in opposition to other conservative organizations in a number of key fights in the U.S., including same-sex “marriage” and the military’s “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” practice.
The inclusion of GOProud as a key part of CPAC in 2010 created a controversy, and when the same situation developed in 2011, some of the nation’s biggest conservative organizations withdrew from participation.
Those groups include the Heritage Foundation, Media Research Center, Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America. Others who made similar decisions included the American Principles Project, American Values, the Center for Military Readiness, Liberty Counsel, and the National Organization for Marriage.
“We will no longer be involved with CPAC because of the organization’s financial mismanagement and movement away from conservative principles,” Tom McClusky, senior vice president for FRC Action, said earlier.
CWA President Penny Nancy said her organization withdrew “in part because of GOProud.”
Earlier, Cardenas said one of his goals as the incoming chief is to get the movement’s key supporting organizations back into the fold.
He said then, “having friends of ours leaving … presents difficulties to me.”
WND reported earlier this week when a source confirmed a board vote was taken that will realign plans for those who participate next year to exclude homosexual advocacy, although details had not been released.
One of the members of the board previously told WND that the ACU simply “needs to return to Ronald Reagan’s ‘bold banner’ conservatism without the politically correct double speak.”
“It is Reagan’s brand of conservatism I will be working toward in the weeks and months ahead,” the board member said.
While a statement from the ACU office to WND said “nothing” has been decided regarding individual organizations or events for 2012, the new “vetting” process is being put into place.
In the statement, Cardenas said, “CPAC is intended to be an inclusive event; bringing together conservative activists from across the country regardless of ethic origin, gender, the color of an individual’s skin, or orientation. Conservatives will always be welcome as individuals to share their ideas at the annual CPAC.”
He said because the conservative cause “is a big-tent movement; there is no litmus test to be a member.”
“Instead we adhere to the general standard President Ronald Reagan espoused years ago – that if you agree with us 80 percent of the time you are our friend. Over the years, we have found that our many conservative friends have competing views on some issues, but agree on others. We want to ensure that all these conservatives feel welcome at CPAC.”
He said, however, picking those groups that participate has been a challenge.
“Each year we have more organizations that want to participate in CPAC than we have room for, and we must make a determination about which ones best represent the CPAC attendees and the conservative movement at that time,” he said.
“In selecting the organizations we wish to have attend, we seek to ensure that invited organizations support the traditional conservative values of limited government, individual liberty, free markets, and the founding documents of our nation,” he said.
“Just as we do every year, we will soon begin the participating organization vetting process for CPAC 2012. This year, I intend to meet with concerned social conservative groups to develop a vetting process that is acceptable to all,” he said.
He said if an organization isn’t invited to be represented formally, their individual members remain welcome at meetings and events.
The event’s move in 2010 and 2011 to include homosexual advocacy had raised the ire of those whose support is directed to conservative financial management of the nation, conservative security policy, conservative social goals and the like.
Barber had objected, “Among other things, GOProud advocates in favor of both ‘gay marriage’ and ‘civil unions,’ against pro-marriage constitutional amendments; is pushing for the repeal of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and advocates in favor of federal ‘partnership benefits’ for homosexuals.”
“This group is pushing a radical leftist agenda that is an affront to the GOP platform, conservatism and, most importantly, the Word of God,” he said.
GOProud’s own website said, “GOProud, the only national organization for gay conservatives and their allies, announced they are a cosponsor of CPAC 2010. Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud’s executive director, said, ‘GOProud is thrilled to be a cosponsor of the single most important conservative gathering in the country.'”
Founded in 1964, ACU explains it “represents the views of Americans who are concerned with economic growth through lower taxes and reduced government spending and the issues of liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values and national security.”
Its CPAC is “the nation’s largest gathering of conservatives annually.”
According to a blogger at the FrumForum, Cardenas earlier had warned it was “going to be difficult” to work with GOProud going forward.
He had cited the “behavior and attitude” of the homosexuality advocates, in light of the description by their leader, Chris Barron, of ACU Foundation chairman Cleta Mitchell as “a nasty bigot.”
Barron later apologized, saying he reached his breaking point because of “unfair and untrue attacks” on him, his friends, his organization and others.
“I shouldn’t have used the language that I did to describe Cleta Mitchell,” he said.
WND also reported when CPAC came under criticism for allowing Suhail Khan, a Washington attorney and political activist, to serve on its board.
After serving as a Republican congressional aide in the late 1990s, Khan joined the White House staff of the George W. Bush administration as a liaison to conservative and veterans groups. He was transferred to the Department of Transportation after the Sept. 11 al-Qaida terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, when it was reported that Khan’s father, Mahboob Khan, leader of a large mosque in Santa Clara, Calif., had allowed Osama bin Laden’s No. 2 man, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, to raise money there.
Khan, whose late father helped found the secret Muslim Brotherhood movement inside the U.S., also came under attack from former national security officials after videos surfaced showing him praising Islamic suicide attacks and accepting an award from a top Muslim Brotherhood leader now behind bars for plotting terrorism and raising money for al-Qaida.
“The early Muslims loved death, dying for the sake of almighty Allah, more than the oppressors of Muslims loved life. This must be the case when we are fighting,” Khan said in a
1999 speech to fellow Muslims. “What are our oppressors going to do with people like us? We’re prepared to give our lives for the cause of Islam.”
WND subsequently reported when Kahn, in an interview with radio talk-show host Sean Hannity, denied any formal association with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which prosecutors have linked to Hamas and its parent the Muslim Brotherhood. Asked if his mother works for CAIR, Khan acknowledged she sits on the board of its San Francisco Bay Area chapter.
“I have encouraged her to get off the board,” Khan said.
His mother, Malika Khan, serves on the executive committee of CAIR-SFBA, which came under fire last month when it posted a flyer on its website urging Muslims not to cooperate with the FBI in terrorism investigations.
The poster, which CAIR’s national office asked Malika Khan’s chapter to remove following national outcry, advised Muslims “Don’t talk to the FBI” and “Build a wall of resistance” against terror probes in the Muslim community.
The FBI severed ties with CAIR National and all 30 of its chapters in 2008 after the U.S. Justice Department named the Washington-based group as an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal scheme led by the Holy Land Foundation to funnel millions of dollars to Hamas suicide bombers and their families.
WND also broke the story when the ACU reported to the Internal Revenue Service a “material diversion of the organization’s assets” totaling over $400,000. The group has an annual operating budget of about $1.5 million.
On its 2009 tax return, signed Nov. 8, 2010, by Executive Vice President Dennis E. Whitfield, the American Conservative Union disclosed the apparent embezzlement.
“The organization became aware in May 2010 of a diversion of assets for the year [ending] December 31, 2009,” the ACU disclosed on its 990 reports filed with the IRS. “The authorities were notified and the issue is now in the hands of the assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.”
Authorities in that office responded to WND inquiries with confirmation that there have been no charges or indictments that have resulted to date.