Photo: In this Feb. 29, 2020 file photo, President Donald Trump pauses while speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2020, at National Harbor, in Oxon Hill, Md.
Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin / AP
Published February 26, 2021
The Center for Responsive Politics [By Anna Massoglia] –
Donald Trump is no longer a sitting president but his allies are still playing a major role in this year’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference, widely known as CPAC.
The convening organized by the American Conservative Union culminates Sunday in a speech by the former president himself, Trump’s first public appearance since leaving White House.
Donald Trump Jr. and campaign fundraiser Kimberly Guilfoyle are slated to speak Thursday, while various other campaign aides and administration officials are peppered throughout the convention lineup.
A Friday panel on “unreasonable search and seizures” features former Trump campaign official and National Diversity Coalition for Trump CEO Darrell Scott.
The pastor is reportedly under FBI investigation for his role in allegedly usng a now-defunct “dark money” group called the Urban Revitilization Coalition to solicit money from foreign nationals.
In 2020, the IRS revoked the 501(c)(4) nonprofit’s tax-exempt status after it gained notoriety for reporting on its cash giveaways to Black voters.
The presence of Trump’s allies is evident throughout CPAC’s sponsors as well.
Ace Specialties, Trump’s go-to vendor for campaign paraphernalia, is listed as a supporting sponsor of CPAC. The firm was paid $16.1 million by Trump’s 2020 campaign and $35.3 million by the campaign’s joint fundraising committee with the Republican Party for rally signs, hats and other swag.
A nonprofit created by former Trump for President campaign staffers, Look Ahead America, is another CPAC sponsor.
Created as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the group’s mission included using data and psychometrics to target inactive voters. But the IRS revoked Look Ahead America’s tax exempt status in 2020 after the group failed to disclose financial information for three consecutive years.
Representatives of the group told OpenSecrets that they have reapplied and are waiting to hear back. Look Ahead America appears to have continued soliciting “tax-deductible contributions” through its website.
The group’s president, former Trump campaign staffer Matt Braynard, raised around $675,000 for his Voting Integrity Project set up days after the 2020 election. There is no apparent evidence Braynard pocketed donor funds but he was paid tens of thousands of dollars to serve as a witness in multiple cases contesting election results, according to court records.
Three groups at the helm of efforts pushing claims of voter fraud around the 2020 election, the Public Interest Legal Foundation, the Heritage Foundation and Judicial Watch, are all listed as sponsors of this year’s CPAC convening.
According to an investigation by the Guardian using OpenSecrets data, the three nonprofits share a small circle of wealthy conservative donors with a revolving door of staff and consultants.
Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, is also a sponsor of CPAC.
A panel on “protecting elections” titled “They Told Ya So: The Signs Were Always” features J. Christian Adams of the Public Interest Legal Foundation and Hans Von Spakovsky of the Heritage Foundation, two of the most well-known voices in “shaping restrictive voting laws and helping the myth of voter fraud proliferate.”
Another panel in CPAC’s series on “protecting elections” features Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots.
Turning Point USA, a nonprofit conservative student group that flourished under the Trump administration, is listed as a supporting sponsor. Turning Point USA’s 501(c)(4) nonprofit arm, Turning Point Action, is one of the groups that helped organize protests in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.
Conservative media outlets are also among some of CPAC’s biggest sponsors.
Fox Nation is playing a much more sizable role in the convention’s funding than in previous years.
Fox Nation paid at least $250,000 to be listed among CPAC’s top corporate sponsors of 2021, a significant jump from $28,000 the prior year. Unlike 2020 when the only other major media outlet listed among CPAC’s sponsors was the Washington Times, Fox faces competition from a number of burgeoning conservative and right-wing news outlets seemingly following in One America News Network’s playbook in vying to use the convention as a jumping off point to become the “next Fox News.”
Among the contributing sponsors are Real America’s Voice, a recently-rebranded conservative media site and TV network operated through Performance One Media LLC that distributes Steve Bannon’s War Rooms show, and a conservative online media network called Right Side Broadcasting Network known for live-streaming Trump rallies.
The Washington Times, a stalwart of conservative media, is also listed as a partnering sponsor of CPAC.
CPAC’s 2021 sponsors reflect its shift from embracing big tech sponsors such as Facebook to more alternative social media platforms.
Our Freedom Media Group, part of an alternative social media network including Our Freedom Book and Our Freedom Tube as purported alternatives to Facebook and Youtube, is listed as a supporting sponsor of CPAC.
CloutHub, is another alternative social media platform sponsoring CPAC that has attracted media attention in recent weeks. It attracted a stream of new members after Parler was removed from Apple, Google and Amazon due to its alleged use in organizing violent events on Jan. 6.
This segment was adapted from an OpenSecrets.org article published on February 25, 2021.