Who’s keynoting CPAC?

By Brian Fitzpatrick

ACU chairman David Keene

WASHINGTON – Rush Limbaugh won’t be there.

Michael Savage won’t be there.

Sean Hannity won’t be there.

The biggest annual gathering of conservatives, the Conservative Political Action Conference, is going to be missing some familiar headliners following a string of questionable decisions by the host organization, the American Conservative Union.

With CPAC scheduled to begin in less than three weeks, ACU Chairman David Keene has yet to announce who will be the main speaker.

ACU did not respond to WND’s query today asking who would deliver the headline address at CPAC, which is scheduled to begin Feb. 10.

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Dogged by a financial scandal and decisions to invite a homosexual activist organization and a group allegedly linked to Muslim jihadists, ACU apparently is struggling to find a conservative luminary who can draw crowds to this year’s conference.

Limbaugh, Savage and Hannity, perhaps the three most prominent conservative talk show hosts in the United States, have all confirmed they do not plan to speak at CPAC this year.

Only one potential headliner contacted by WND, possible presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., plans to speak at CPAC.

“She will attend CPAC,” said Doug Sachtleben, Bachmann’s communications director, who added that Bachmann plans to deliver a speech at the conference. Bachmann joins fellow possible GOP presidential contenders Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney as confirmed speakers at CPAC.

Another potential GOP presidential candidate, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, the former chairman of the House Republican Conference, is still sitting on the fence. “He has been invited to speak but has not confirmed,” spokesman Matt Lloyd told WND.

The one Republican politician guaranteed to attract large crowds and media attention, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has been invited to speak at CPAC but has not confirmed.

Social conservative leader Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., announced last week he will not speak at CPAC this year because numerous major conservative groups have pulled out over “gay” group GOProud’s presence at CPAC.

“With leading conservative organizations not participating this year, Sen. DeMint will not be attending. He hopes to attend a unified CPAC next year,” DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton told Politico.

Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, also decided to join the ACU boycott last month, according to Politico.

As reported previously by WND, leading conservative groups including the Heritage Foundation, Media Research Center, Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America have all decided not to participate in CPAC because ACU decided to allow the “gay” organization GOProud to be a CPAC “participating organization,” a level of participation that entitles GOProud to take part in conference planning.

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The one confirmed speaker mentioned publicly as a potential keynoter, little-known Indiana GOP governor Mitch Daniels, only serves to point up the growing rift within the conservative movement about the role of social conservatives.

Last year Daniels, a fiscal conservative, called for a “truce” on issues like abortion and homosexual rights while the nation addresses its fiscal woes.

“Governor Daniels’ selection is an affront to the millions of conservatives who believe that social issues such as abortion and traditional marriage are non-negotiable,” said Andy Blom, the executive director of the American Principles Project, in a news release. APP launched this year’s boycott of CPAC over GOProud’s participation.

“This debate is not about Mitch Daniels or even GOProud. All of these are proxies for the most important question: what is the place of “social issues” in modern conservatism?” wrote APP President Frank Cannon. “Are life and marriage key and critical parts? Or are they baggage to be jettisoned. Inquiring minds want to know – including what CPAC thinks.”

Meanwhile, GOProud, the group principally responsible for causing the rift at CPAC, is moving ahead with its own agenda.

This morning, GOProud announced its “first Washington, D.C. fund-raising event!” The fundraiser will be held Saturday, Feb. 26 at the home of former Bush adviser Mary Matalin, wife of Clinton apologist James Carville.

Last October, GOProud Chairman Christopher Barron released a statement calling remarks by DeMint “outrageous and bizarre.” DeMint told a South Carolina audience he supported barring open homosexuals and sexually active single women from teaching in schools.

Jimmy LaSalvia, GOProud’s executive director, added remarks attacking social conservatives:

“It is clear that the socially conservative big government wing of the Republican Party is desperate to undermine and co-op [sic] the message and enthusiasm of the tea party movement,” wrote LaSalvia.

After the earthquake 2010 election, in which tea-party activists swept the GOP into power in the House of Representatives, GOProud sent a letter urging GOP leaders to ignore social issues.

GOProud did not respond to WND’s request for comment.