CPAC gathering in turmoil as speakers cancel and sponsors flee: report
Matt Schlapp appears on CNN (Screen cap).

According to a report from Politico, the annual conservative gathering known as CPAC is having problems this year as sponsors drop out, speakers cancel and worries about the still raging COVID -19 pandemic has the usual attendees thinking about taking a pass.

Normally held in Washington D.C. which allowed the conference to attract an all-star list of Republican lawmaker speakers -- including now-former President Donald Trump -- the conference was moved to Florida to be closer to Trump and because of Florida's lax COVID restrictions.

That has people nervous about the Feb. 25-28 event.

"President Donald Trump's election loss has created hurdles around programming and guest booking. Stringent coronavirus guidelines in Maryland have pushed the conference outside of the Washington, D.C. area for the first time in nearly 50 years," Politico reports. "Previous sponsors aren't yet committed or have decided to forgo sponsorship entirely due to changes to the event's format or disappointment in the return on their investment last year. And the president that attendees adored so much may not show up to the event at all."

The report notes that Trump hasn't committed to attending this year -- which could help boost attendance -- and Vice President Mike Pence is uncertain this year after being the subject of Trump's supporter's ire for certifying the 2020 election for President Joe Biden.

As for CPAC's sponsorship issues, Politico previously reported that sponsors having second thoughts and that the annual conference was having difficulties, which led to American Conservative Union General Counsel David Safavian to accuse Politico of "'tortious interference with business relationships' and attempting 'to cancel both CPAC and the American Conservative Union itself.'"

The Politico report adds that last year "an attendee who'd been in direct contact with Schlapp had tested positive for Covid-19. Organizers were forced to warn nearly 100 conference-goers of potential exposure and the president's chief of staff went into self-quarantine, though only one actual case ended up being traced to the event," which has raised fears of COVID -19 exposure this year.

"As for this year's sponsors, some of whom spent as much as $250,000 in past years for exclusive benefits and branding opportunities, several said they were still evaluating the benefits or had decided not to sponsor at all due to mediocre returns on the investment or changes to the conference structure," the report states. "Gryphon Editions operations manager Michael Hawkins said his company did not plan to sponsor the conference this year after being informed that the CPAC bookstore, which has been set up for attendees in past years, would no longer be available due to Covid-19 precautions."

"Laura Merriott, president of the anti-abortion nonprofit Save Unborn Life, said her group 'didn't get much response [from] donors last time' after paying between $1,000-$3,000 for a sponsorship and creating a pop-up exhibition," Politico reports with Merriott admitting, "It doesn't pay for itself when you go and set up and you don't get" enough new donors to "make it worthwhile."

As for past sponsors, "the Washington Examiner, Republican National Committee, Turning Point USA, Heartland Institute and Save our States — said they had yet to make a decision as of last week about sponsoring again."

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