The 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place this past weekend in Washington DC. Aside from the usual assembly of conservative leaders, such as Phyllis Schlafly, Newt Gingrich and Andrew Breitbart, there were a number of anti-immigrant activists and white nationalists in attendance.
The Tanton Network was well represented with employees of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, ProEnglish, the Immigration Reform Law Institute and the Center for Immigration Studies either speaking on panels or staffing booth in the vendors’ hall. Another Tanton Network organization, the Social Contract Press, was not in attendance but its journal, the Social Contract, was being passed out free of charge by controversial college campus group Youth for Western Civilization.
Even at a conservative venue, groups with ties to white nationalist John Tanton were not immune to queries about their stance on certain issues. The New Republic reported that at one of the CPAC panels a student asked ProEnglish executive director Jayne Cavanna about her group’s ties to Tanton:
“When Cannava, sporting sparkling jewelry and heavy eyeliner, was asked by an earnest GW student in the crowd what she thought about John Tanton, the founding chairman of Pro-English, who has been linked to the white supremacy movement, the panel’s moderator came to her defense. He told the young student the panel wouldn’t waste time answering such questions and added, in a complete non sequitur, that Cannava was not a communist. I guess at CPAC, that’s all the explanation you need.”
White nationalists also weren’t shy about showing their faces around CPAC. Several attended an immigration panel hosted by Youth for Western Civilization (YWC). YWC members have been known to attend Council of Conservative Citizens conferences, quote white nationalists at anti-immigrant rallies and host far-right speakers on college campuses. The group’s panel at CPAC attracted white nationalists such as Jared Taylor and William Johnson.
Jim Gilchrist, a controversial minuteman leader, was also in attendance. One interesting development was the apparent collaboration between Youth for Western Civilization and the Tanton Network to distribute materials. YWC passing out the Social Contract a white nationalist quarterly journal published by John Tanton, who still sits on the boards of FAIR and ProEnglish. FAIR staffers were passing out fliers at their booth encouraging individuals to attend YWC’s immigration panel.
Not to be forgotten among all of the white nationalist/anti-immigrant activity at CPAC was the increase in Islamophobic activity. The two main panels that dealt with the subject of Islam focused on conspiracy theories that purport that Muslims are taking over. They were extremely well attended, with one panel at standing room only.
At that event, Islamophobic activist Pamela Geller stated that CPAC was being “corrupted and compromised by the Muslim Brotherhood.” At the other panel, the Muslim Brotherhood was also the main target. Andrew McCarthy from the National Review attacked the Council on American-Islamic Relations during his speech.
There were strong xenophobic themes at the conference focusing on the so-called “tidal wave” of immigrants and the “takeover of the U.S. constitution by Sharia Law.”