Western CPAC – A Review Of The Event

October 22, 2009 @

by Jon Fleischman
Publisher Flash Report

This last Friday evening and Saturday was the third annual Western Conservative Political Action Conference held in Newport Beach, California. The event, which drew as many as 350 people at its peak, represented a third straight year of growth for the event. While the event was relatively short in length, starting with a sunset reception on Friday and concluding with a dinner Saturday evening – Western CPAC was jammed pack with a great program that included a whole slew of great speakers.
For my part, as a Co-Chairman of the event, I wanted to see this event get high-level exposure through-out the conservative blogosphere, with a top-notch bloggers row. I reached out to my friend Elizabeth Crum, Vice President of the Nevada-based Citizen Outreach and Editor of the Nevada News Bureau, who really did all of the heavy lifted to pull together a great group of bloggers – Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, Ed Driscoll of Pajamas Media, Stephen Kruiser of RFCRadio.com, Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit, Rachel Alexander of Intellectual Conservative, Caleb Heimlich of Policy Issues Initiative, John Schulenberg of Infidels are Cool, John Sexton and Morgen Richmond of Verum Serum and Melissa Clouthier of MelissaClouthier.com. I will be linking to some of their coverage of the conference below, which I encourage you to check out. You can see the WCPAC Twitter page here for an aggregation of all tweets mentioning #WCPAC.

The conference opened with a poolside birthday celebration for Tom Fuentes, who is the Chairman Emeritus of the Orange County Republican Party, having served as Chairman for two decades. Master of Ceremonies for the party was WCPAC Chairman Jim Lacy, who has done a lot of work to bring CPAC to the left coast now for three straight years. Speaking at the event where well-respected conservative leader and former television commentator Bruce Herschensohn and Sir Eldon Griffiths, former Conservative Party member of the House of Commons of the British Parliament. A number of other notables also addressed the crowd.

Both gave outstanding speeches. A large cake was wheeled out and everyone sang happy birthday to Fuentes, who turned 61 years old that day.

Immediately following the poolside event, the Lincoln Club of Orange County sponsored a reception where guests heard from Western CPAC Co-Chairman Floyd Brown of ExposeObama.com, Al Frink who serves as an Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the administration of President George W. Bush, Meg Whitman candidate for California Governor and Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty who gave a warm up ahead of his dinner speech to follow.

WCPAC’s Friday dinner banquet was emceed by Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assocition. Governor (and Presidential aspirant) Tim Pawlenty delivered what I thought was an outstanding speech, after being introduced by State Assemblyman Jeff Miller, who later in the evening received the WCPAC Chairman’s Award from Jim Lacy as the 2009 State Legislator of the Year. WCPAC’s keynote address was delivered by Ralph Reed, the former Executive Director of Christian Coalition who is new heading up the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
On Friday morning, over breakfast, conference participants were treated to remarks from one of the enduring icons of the conservative movement – John Gizzi, the political editor of Human Events magazine. Gizzi’s remarks of the state of the conservative movement were prescient and talked about much of the day by conferees.

Immediately following breakfast was a panel on the Anti-American policies of President Barack Obama, moderator by Lew Uhler, President of the National Tax Limitation Committee. The panelists included California Republican Party Vice Chairman Tom Del Becarro, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, Floyd Brown, Larry Eastland of the American Conservative Union and Dr. Richard Vedder.

Next there was a special report on the issue of immigration presented by Congressman Ed Royce, who was introduced by WCPAC Board Member Bill Saracino which was then followed by a panel on the evils of redevelopment. Moderated by Councilman John Paul Ledesma of Mission Viejo, the panelists were Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby and Steve Greenhut, who recently left his position as a long time editorial writer for the Orange County Register to start up a new California State Capitol investigative journalism project for the Pacific Research Institute. The Chairman’s Award for best local elected official was presented to Laguna Niguel’s Paul Glaab.

The luncheon was perhaps the longest meal of the affair where guests were treated to not one, not two, not three, but four addresses. California Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner went first (he was introduced by lunch emcee Lew Uhler and by Tom Fuentes who endorsed his candidacy for Governor before inviting Poizner to the podium). Assemblyman Chuck DeVore spoke next about his bid for the United States Senate. David Keene, the Chairman of the American Conservative Union spoke next. Finally (with an introduction from WCPAC Board Member Allen Brandstater) former Congressman Barry Goldwater, Jr. took to the podium. There was also a video presentation by Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah.

There were two afternoon panels. The first on the state of the modern judiciary was moderate by WCPAC Board Member Gary Kreep of the United States Justice Foundation. Panelists included Don Wagner the founder and past President of the Orange County Federalist Society, John Eastman the Dean of Chapman University School of Law, and Brad Dacus, President of the Pacific Justice Institute.

Yours truly moderated the last panel of the day on online conservatism. The outstanding group of panelists included some of our talent from blog row: Jim Hoft, Stephen Kruiser, Ed Driscoll, Ed Morrissey as well as seasoned online talents Matt Cunningham of RedCounty.com and Erik Telford of Americans for Prosperity. We were also joined by Andrew Breitbart of Big Government, Big Hollywood, and Breitbart.tv. Christopher Carmouche of GrassTopsUSA also spoke on the panel.

Just before the new media panel, Andrew Breitbart spent time with the blog row contingent.

Closing out the official events of the WCPAC conference was an “After Glow” outdoor event at which conference participants heard from John Fund of the Wall Street Journal and Michelle Steel, member of California’s State Board of Equalization.

Last but not least, Young Americans for Freedom once again held its annual alumni gathering over dinner. A great many former YAF activists joined with interested WCPAC attendees for a long evening of reminiscing and speechifying. After watching a video from President Reagan recorded for the 1989 YAF National Convention, and an awesome video put together by WCPAC Board Member Randy Goodwin highlighting YAF exploits for many years at the University of Southern California, speeches were given by Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce, both YAF alumnus. Longtime YAF activist Pete Sheridan was awarded the first ever Ronald Reagan YAF Alumni award (well deserved!), and YAF alumnus Barry Goldwater, Jr. gave a rousing speech. Highlights of the dinner included the tremendous emcee work of Allen Brandstater, and the presence of esteemed YAF alum Pat Nolan, who came out from the East Coast. Of course, on hand was YAF National Chairman and WCPAC Board Member Erik Johnson.

All in all, the conference from my perspective was a great success – with tremendous improvement in both program and attendance from the previous year. The event actually, I believe, lays the groundwork for a bigger and better WCPAC for 2010. Many people played a role in the organization of the event, but no two people worked harder than WCPAC Chairman Jim Lacy, and Conference Executive Director Sarah Pollo of Schubert Flint Public Affairs. We also had a great crew of convention volunteers who each deserve praise but were too numerous to list here.

A comprehensive review of the conference would not be complete without spending a little time on a couple of controversies that occurred at the event (you can’t really have a large gathering of conservatives without some controversy, right?).

The first was a show-down of sorts between former radio talk show host and film producer John Ziegler and David Keene, the President of the American Conservative Union. Keene, for as long as I have been involved in politics, has held his position with the ACU, but it always seems like there is controversy surrounding him (I remember that going back to the early 90’s). What started with a sit down interview between the two that turned into Ziegler chasing Keene around the conference with a camera crew in tow. The latest Keene controversies, for which he was being pursued by Ziegler, included Keene’s criticisms of Sarah Palin, his personal contributions to Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter in 2008 (early this year the liberal Republican bolted the GOP all together – good riddance), and a controversy where the ACU under Keene’s leadership weighed into a Capitol Hill battle between UPS and Fedex, with the ACU offering to assist Fedex with a multi-million dollar price tag involved. You can see Ziegler’s take on the whole thing (complete with 27 minutes of video footage he took at WCPAC) here. I will say that while I sympathize with Ziegler’s goal – all those who hold leadership positions should be held accountable for their actions – for my part I think John was more aggressive than was appropriate at the conference once Keene indicated he no longer wanted to be interviewed.
It’s important to note that Ziegler has his share of detractors.

The other dust-up started after the Saturday morning panel. Blogger Ed Morrissey of Hot Air penned this post critical of Floyd Brown’s articulation of the need to impeach President Obama. Morrissey
(and Congressman Rohrabacher among many others – see Rohrabacher’s chat with bloggers written up on feel that calling for the President’s impeachment is not a credible course of action, and detracts from other efforts to take on the President politically. That is a debate for another day. Suffice it to say that on the afternoon tech-panel which I moderated, Chris Carmouche (who is close to Floyd Brown) rather inappropriately took much of his time to blast fellow panelist Morrissey for his criticism of Brown’s arguments on his blog. I did bring Morrissey and Brown together for some in-person time, which I think was helpful. There has been much written about all of this — I will simply say that I was personally embarrassed for the treatment received by Morrissey, to the point that I extended an apology to him.

I will close by saying that while I devoted a couple of paragraphs of this write up on WCPAC to two controversies, I am sure that if you inquire among conference attendees, they would tell you that they had a great time, and that they are planning on attending next year’s conference. If you are reading this review of Western CPAC, but did not attend the event this year, I encourage you to read this article that appeared in the Costa Mesa Daily Pilot, and look for the “Save the Date” announcement, and plan on being there next year!

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