Daily Beast: Wanna Be a Player At CPAC? Write a Check First.


But, more often than not, it is business entities, not media outlets, that are underwriting the conference for the access and promotion that it brings. And at the center of that system is Schlapp, who did not respond to requests for comment.

In addition to running CPAC, Schlapp also has lobbying clients who have interests before the annual conservative confab. Schlapp runs Cove Strategies, a firm that has, until this year, represented Delta Airlines, another of the Partnership’s three members (the third is United Airlines). Delta paid Cove Strategies $80,000 for its work.

Disclosure forms show that, after a little over a year lobbying on FAA funding bills and general aviation issues, Schlapp shifted his focus in the fourth quarter of 2017 to Open Skies agreements, the deals governing Qatari and UAE access to U.S. airports. He also shifted the target of his lobbying efforts from Congress to the White House, where he remains a trusted confidant of President Donald Trump.

That raises red flags, according to Brendan Fischer, the director of federal and FEC reform programs at the Campaign Legal Center, an ethics watchdog group. “If the lobbying groups who pay six figures to sponsor CPAC can determine what is discussed at CPAC, then the conference looks an awful lot like a pay-to-play operation,” Fischer said in an email. “It looks even more shady if the head of CPAC is leveraging the credibility of the conference to advance the interests of the clients who are paying him.”

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