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The Libertarian Invasion of the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference

by Jo Freeman

Libertarians packed the 37th annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which met in Washington, DC on February 18 — 20, comprising close to a third of the approximately nine thousand attendees. While libertarians have been present at past conservative gatherings, they haven’t been a major presence.

Led by the Campaign for Liberty, libertarians populated panels, passed out literature, guided chants and generally raised the roof.

CfL is the reincarnation of Congressman Ron Paul’s (R. TX) 2008 Presidential campaign. After the primaries ended in June, he turned his mostly online following and remaining $4.7 million in contributions into an advocacy and educational organization with the goal of influencing public policy and changing the Republican Party.

Paul was the Libertarian Party candidate for President in 1988. He was on the ballot in 51 jurisdictions and received 432,179 votes in the general election. In 2008, Paul got 1,145,138 votes in the Republican primaries, but only 15 delegate votes at the convention.

Paul is CfL’s honorary chairman and guiding light; his son, known as Ronnie, is the official Chairman of the Board and his daughter is the Treasurer. CfL has an e-mail list of two hundred thousand supporters and 79,000 donors, who gave it 2.2 million dollars in 2008 and 8.4 million in 2009.

At the 2010 CPAC, CfL paid $15,000 for seven spaces in the exhibit hall that it filled with its ideological siblings and also paid the $25 student registration fee for dozens of young Paul followers. Sharing those seven spaces were:

* Young Americans for Liberty, the youth offshoot of CfL; 
* Gun Owners of America, which believes that there should be no regulation of firearms ownership;
* Students for Liberty, which promotes liberty as a concept but has trouble identifying specifics; 
* Ladies of Liberty Alliance, an online network dedicated to empowering women that was founded by a CfL staff member; 
* Free State Project, which wants 20,000 activists to move to New Hampshire and take over the state; 
* Future of Freedom Foundation; which was founded in 1989 to promote libertarianism through education. It wants to abolish, not just reform, every government program.

At the far end of "Liberty Row," but not a part of it, was the Young Americans for Freedom, a more classic conservative organization. Founded in 1960, it was a major vehicle for Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. The major difference between YAF and YAL is their approach to foreign policy. Formed to fight Communism, YAF stresses victory over co-existence with whatever it deems to be the resident evil in the world. Right now YAF believes the biggest international threat comes from "radical Islamism."

YAL’s values are those of its parent, which is committed to "the great American principles of individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets, and a noninterventionist foreign policy."

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