What happens at CPAC? When and where the conference takes place

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The Conservative Political Action Conference gathers for a rightwing, woke-bashing, conspiracy theory-pushing, and red meat-throwing jamboree three times a year, usually in February, March, and July.

The next instalment is set to take place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Maryland just outside Washington DC between 21 and 24 February.

One of the top speakers to join the conference this time is the eccentric, muttonchop-wearing, and chainsaw-wielding Argentinian President Javier Milei. Patricia Bullrich, the country’s Minister of National Security, is also set to speak.

CPAC Chair Matt Schlapp said in a statement that he met Mr Milei at CPAC Mexico “as he was beginning his historic campaign, and we believe he has captured the spirit of those who see the treachery of globalist elites. American patriots are rooting for him to succeed and we also like the chainsaw”.

Mr Schlapp, who has faced several claims of sexual assault against him, has overseen a massive change at the conference, as it went from what used to be seen as establishment Republican politics to full-on Maga amid former President Donald Trump’s takeover of the party.

Schlapp spokesperson Mark Corallo told CNN in December: “These demonstrably false allegations are a continuation of transparent and desperate tactics by Plaintiff … to bolster his spurious claims and taint potential jurors for which Matt Schlapp will vigorously defend in court.”

President of Argentina Javier Milei of La Libertad Avanza (Getty Images)
President of Argentina Javier Milei of La Libertad Avanza (Getty Images)

Writing about the March gathering last year, The Independent’s Eric Garcia noted: “The gathering has long been a cattle call for potential Republican presidential nominees and other rising stars in the party. And it sets the tone for what conservatives will likely focus on in the next election.

“Nowadays, like much of the rest of the conservative movement, former president Donald Trump has co-opted the event and made himself the centre of it. Many of the other speakers at the event came from the former president’s orbit while other speakers spoke to often half-empty rooms.

“Many of the panels focused on enforcing immigration, the former president’s main focus while he was in the White House. CPAC also focused intensely on targeting transgender rights.”

Last year, a CPAC speaker, who later was found to have played a queer character in a student film, argued that “for the good of society, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely – the whole preposterous ideology”.

In recent years, CPAC has become an international affair with events in Mexico and Hungary, where the country’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban likened liberalism to a “virus” as he bashed rights for LGBT+ people.

Mr Trump has often been the keynote speaker, with the last speech of the conference, during the last several years.

In March last year, he made at least 23 false statements during his CPAC speech. CNN’s Daniel Dale noted at the time that this was “far from the total,” adding that the speech was full of “wildly inaccurate claims”.

“This is the final battle,” Mr Trump said at the time about the 2024 race.

“The Republican Party was ruled by freaks, neocons, open border zealots and fools,” he claimed. “We’re never going back to the party of Paul Ryan, Karl Rove, and Jeb Bush.”

Here are some notable speakers set to appear at the conference this month.

  • Donald Trump - former president

  • Elise Stefanik - Chair of the House Republican Conference

  • Vivek Ramaswamy, former presidential candidate

  • Dr Ben Carson - Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

  • Jim Jordan - Ohio congressman and Judiciary Committee chair

  • Nigel Farage - Former Leader of the Brexit Party

  • Liz Truss - shortlived former UK prime minister

  • JD Vance - Ohio senator

  • Tommy Tuberville - Alabama senator

  • Matt Gaetz - Florida congressman

  • Steve Bannon - Podcaster and former Trump White House strategist

  • Dr Robert Malone - Anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist

  • Kari Lake - Arizona candidate for governor and senate

  • David Friedman - Former ambassador to Israel

  • Rick Santorum - former senator and presidential candidate

  • Ken Paxton - Texas attorney general

  • Lara Trump - Trump’s daughter-in-law, endorsed her for RNC co-chair

The small anti-Trump wing of the Republican Party is holding a conference of their own in Washington DC between 23 and 25 February.

The group Principles First will host the event at the Conrad Hotel and they will focus on “advancing a more principled centre-right politics in the United States” as well as “rebuilding principled leadership that serves our country—not partisanship or personality,” its site states.

Former Rep Adam Kinzinger is set to speak at the event, as is former federal Judge Michael Luttig, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, and conservative lawyer George Conway – all well-known anti-Trump conservatives.

“We look forward to bringing together conservative and independent speakers, thought leaders, and grassroots activists for three days of panels, speeches, networking, and discussion about how we can preserve America’s classical liberal tradition, the meaning of conservatism today, and the future of our movement,” the site states.