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CPAC 2014: Booth Review!

Speeches, panels, parties, “celeb” hunting, these are the things CPAC is known for.

But buried underneath those important, if somewhat rote features lies the hidden jewel of CPAC:

The Booths.

Okay, maybe that’s a little over-dramatic, but not by much.  As I mentioned two weeks ago, both the panels and speeches of CPAC get filmed, uploaded to the Internet, and saved for posterity.

Not so for the booths, which also happen to be the closest thing CPAC has to actual activist training; you don’t get a chance to go up to Rand Paul after his speech and ask him how to message to millennials and minorities.

Well, I didn’t, at least.

What you ARE allowed, if not exactly encouraged to do, is to go down to the exhibition halls and talk with the people working the booths.  Note that I wrote “talk” and not “sign a petition, get a cupcake, and move to the next goodie bag stuffing station.”   As I walked the exhibition floor, it seemed, at least to me, that that was how the booths were viewed.

Swag stations, nothing more.

Instead of hearing people talk about how awesome a cause is, or how compelling a group’s messaging was, the word on the floor was “Who’s giving away the t-shirts??”.

Sadly, this isn’t a new phenomenon,  it was like this in 2012 and 2013, though I might not have seen it as clearly then.  What was apparent to me after last year’s CPAC, was that I wanted to bring the information of the booths to a wider audience.  That’s what led me to attempting my “boothstagram 2014″ project, an effort to get 15 second Instagram video summaries of all of CPAC’s 120 booths.

I regret to inform you guys that that was setting the bar a little bit too high.  I know, I was pretty adamant that I was going to get it done, but there were a few hiccups in my plan.

First off, for reasons beyond my understanding, a large amount of the booth guys didn’t want to be on video.  This was shocking to me.  I was essentially offering them a free 15 second Twitter commercial for their organization.

Who declines that?

Regardless, I cannot lay all the blame on hesitating booth people, I also have to blame the aforementioned throngs of free stuff seekers crowding the arteries of the exhibition floor.  Generation Opportunity was also a key contributor to the traffic, though for much better reasons.  With a raucously compelling booth featuring muscle-bound “government bullies”, the free tee-shirts I mentioned before, as well as an interesting “War On Youth” theme,  GenOp got people interested in what they had to say.

Also, they had a blimp.

I wasn’t able to maneuver in that crowd, and it was too loud to get anything listenable on video until well into the last day of the conference.  Sadly, by that time, a lot of the surrounding booths had already packed up, leaving me without footage.  #Sadface.

That all being said though, I DID get a LOT of booths Instagrammed, so without further ado, here’s my CPAC 2014 Booth Supercut!

Phew, I’m exhausted just watching it again.  There was a lot of walking, waiting, and cajoling involved in getting those clips, not to mention badge scanning and phone charging.  Taking a lot of tiny movies eats up a lot of battery power, who knew?

Honestly though, these guys were pretty much uniformly great sports about being filmed, though there were a few standouts:

Campaign For Liberty were the first guys to do one of these for me, so they got first placement in the supercut, and set the standard for rest of the field.  These guys exuded activism, and clearly were there to get people energized and interested in getting things done.

Stephanie Linn of The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice (who also happens to be a Buffalo Bills fan) was tolerant enough to deal with me, dressed in full New York Football Jets regalia, and get filmed promoting school choice, which was a very popular booth topic across the event floor.

On my Favorites list for back-to-back years are my buddies from Conservatives Concerned About The Death Penalty, who were ALSO quite confused when I told them just how many booths declined to be filmed.  Marc Hyden and the rest of the CCATDP crew were excited to get their message out and had one of the busier booths of the conference.

Jim Lakely of the Heartland Institute was awesome to talk to, and gave me more time than a lot of the other booths. He was also kind enough to take a business card from our bros at The Party Of Choice after we talked about how important taking the word “choice” back from the left is.

Finally, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and Right On Crime were both incredibly important voices to hear from, and ones that really didn’t need swag on hand to boost their visibility.  In fact, they were two of only a few (to my knowledge) booths that panel-goers were actively directed towards.  Apparently, when Rick Perry and Grover Norquist tell people to check out booths, people listen.  As soon as the criminal justice reform panel ended, lines formed up around the two booths.

Speaking of panels, I think I’ll be tackling those next, so keep an eye on the Free Radical Network Facebookand Twitter pages.

Before I go start writing that up though, I want to quickly note that the third to last and last clips in my video were from groups outside of CPAC: American Atheists, and LaRouchePAC respectively.  Neither of those two would, I think, claim to be conservative groups.  In fact, after I got the clip from the American Atheist guy, he came out and said he was a Democrat.  I’m not sure how the LaRouchePAC folks wish to characterize themselves.

Regardless, they had booths and were willing to talk.

So talk we did.

It’s a shame that so many others, both booth minders and CPAC-goers, did not.