News & Politics

CPAC’s 2020 Edition Was a Coronavirus Bonanza. It Will Hold Its 2021 Convention in…Florida

Photograph by Evy Mages
Coronavirus 2020

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The 2020 CPAC convention will probably be remembered less for the time Sacha Baron Cohen interrupted Mike Pence’s speech and more for its role in helping to kick off the coronavirus pandemic around DC. A New Jersey doctor who bought a VIP package for the annual conservative convention in National Harbor, Maryland, this past February came into contact with dozens of Republican members of Congress and other big shots later developed Covid-19; in all, CPAC had to notify around 100 people that they may have been in contact with him.

Newsrooms around DC asked journalists who attended the conference to self-quarantine as news of the potential exposures spread. By the middle of March, most of them had sent all employees home.

The convention’s disregard of the coming pandemic was a feature, not a bug. At the time, President Trump, who headlined the conference, was playing down the threat and many conservatives said they considered news of the pandemic another “hoax.”

This week the American Conservative Union, which operates the conference, said it would hold its 2021 gathering in Florida: Under Sunshine State Governor Ron DeSantis, ACU chairman Matt Schlapp told Fox News, “Florida has kept its economy, schools, and churches open – while balancing the health and safety of Floridians,” making it “the right state to host CPAC 2021.”

Also, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor is closed.

“Silver” and “Gold” VIP packages at the 2021 CPAC promise access to exclusive lounges and VIPs, and receptions with Congressional leaders. They go for $2,500 and $7,500, respectively.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute,, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.