Sarah Palin Turns Down Coveted Keynote Speaking Slot At CPAC Conference

Feb 3, 2011 10:52am

ABC News’ Michael Falcone:

UPDATED: After skipping the popular Conservative Political Action Conference for the past three years, Sarah Palin has once again turned down the invitation of CPAC officials to address the conference this year.

CPAC organizers invited Palin to deliver the closing-night keynote speech on Saturday Feb. 12, immediately following the announcement of the results of CPAC’s annual presidential straw poll,  but after several days of negotiations, she declined.

“We’re disappointed that she wasn’t able to make it this year,” American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene said through a spokesman on Thursday. He noted that Palin "expressed interest in wanting to come this year," but said that it came down to "a scheduling issue."

The former Alaska governor has a rocky history with the group. In 2010, she stayed away from the event citing the business dealings of the American Conservative Union and Keene, who is a lead organizer of the event.

In 2009, while still serving as governor of Alaska, she initially accepted an invitation to speak on the conference’s opening day, but later dropped out saying that she had to attend to the “duties of governing,” according to a CPAC spokesman. She sent a taped message to the conference instead.

In 2008, CPAC organizer Lisa De Pasquale said that Palin had to drop out of CPAC “at the last minute.” At that point she had not yet been named Sen. John McCain's vice presidential nominee, but was regarded as an up-and-comer in the Republican Party.

This will be her fourth year skipping the event. While Palin will not be there in person, her political action committee, SarahPAC, is sponsoring a Diamond Reception on CPAC’s opening night — Thursday, Feb. 10.

And many other potential 2012 GOP contenders will speak at the three-day conference, including Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, and John Thune.

Palin came in third in last year's CPAC straw poll, getting 7 percent of the vote, behind Ron Paul (31 percent) and Mitt Romney (22 percent). 

Had Palin accepted the invitation, she would have followed in the footsteps of Fox News host Glenn Beck who delivered the closing-night keynote address last year, and conservative talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh, who got the coveted slot in 2009. 

Some elected officials and conservative groups have decided to boycott this year's conference in protest of the involvement of the gay conservative group, GOProud. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and several powerful right-leaning groups such as the Family Research Council, and the Heritage Foundation have refused to sponsor the conference.

CPAC organizers say they expect more than 10,000 attendees at this year’s event, which has become a gathering place for conservative activists.

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