When the 2023 edition of the American Conservative Union’s Conservative Political Action Conference opens in National Harbor this week, the man greeting the countless activists and enthusiasts in the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center ballroom will be doing so under a bit of a dark cloud.

That man, longtime ACU chairman and veteran GOP lobbyist Matt Schlapphas been the butt of jokes among liberal commentators in the months since a male Republican campaign operative accused him of making unwanted sexual advances in the final days of Georgias Senate runoff between Herschel Walker and Senator Raphael Warnock.

In documents filed in a Virginia court as part of a lawsuit against Mr. Schlapp, the anonymous accuser alleges that the ACU chair “placed her hand” on his leg and “began to aggressively fondle (his) genital area in a sustained manner” as he was driven to a hotel after visiting a bar in Georgia.

In a video reported by The Daily Beast as the accuser did the night of the alleged assault, the accuser said Schlapp had “put his hands on me in a persistent and unwanted and unwanted manner.”

“Matt Schlapp from CPAC grabbed my junk and hit it for a long time, and I’m sitting there thinking what the hell is going on, that this person is literally doing this to me,” the accuser said, according to the report.

The veteran Republican who has accused Schlapp of abuse has also sued his wife, former Trump White House staffer Mercedes Schlapp, for defamation, citing statements both she and her husband made after The Daily Beast first reported on the charges.

He has separately filed a lawsuit in federal court against an ally of Schlapp’s, GOP fundraiser Caroline Wren, alleging that Wren defamed him by making disparaging statements about him on Twitter in defense of Schlapp.

The allegations against Schlapp have been confirmed by several news organizations, including NBC News and Washington Post, which earlier this week published an article reports on their efforts to follow up on the accuser’s claims and describes more troubling aspects of Schlapp’s conduct prior to his time as ACU president.

More particularly Post alleged that Schlapp was forced out of a lobbyist position at Koch Industries after making anti-gay comments to a colleague. He also allegedly retaliated against employees who spoke to management about the offensive comments, including one he denigrated to a new employer after leaving the company himself.

The CPAC chief, who has been active in GOP circles of influence since the George W Bush administration, has denied the allegations. In a recent interview with Washington Examiner, he portrayed the allegations made by his accusers as part of a plot to impeach him orchestrated by news organizations.

“Fake journalists are pushing this leftist agenda and lying, and I’m a victim of that, right? This media will take all responsibility and run with it if they can destroy a Republican or a Trump supporter or conservative. That’s what we have in this country,” he said.

He suggested that the unflattering media coverage of him and other supporters of the twice-impeached ex-president “must stop” and said others in similar situations should not be fascinated by negative press attention.

“People like myself, when we find ourselves in these situations, we have to find a way to not back down. And I think that’s what the people at CPAC are all facing in their own lives,” he said.

The American Conservative Union, the organization that has hosted CPAC for decades and which Schlapp has led since 2014, is also behind him.

In a statement, ACU vice-president Carolyn Meadows defended Mr Schlapp and attacked Post for what she described as politically motivated coverage meant to bring him down.

“Under Matt’s leadership, CPAC has grown into a professional organization focused on strengthening grassroots conservative activism, influencing policy, stopping communism, fighting back against fake news, and prioritizing individual liberty in America and around the world,” she said.

Still, the conference seems Meadows credited him with growing, declining this year.

While CPAC has previously been sponsored by corporate giants like Facebook, this year’s edition appears to be largely sponsored by niche organizations that cater to the fringes and extremes of the conservative movement.

Schlapp himself has acknowledged the shift in sponsorship quality, noting at a CPAC event in Texas last year that sponsors had dropped the conference “because they think we’re narrow-minded.”

“They think you’re bigoted and racist and anti-Semitic,” he said during the event in Dallas. “So they’re not here.”


A former CPAC employee, Regina Bratton, recounted Post that the event in recent years has been more about Mr. and Mrs. Schlapp cementing their connection to Trump — who is scheduled to speak Saturday — than anything else.

Ms. Bratton, who has a complaint against CPAC pending with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, said working for the conference “wasn’t like … working for an assignment.”

“It was like you were promoting a king and a queen. … I didn’t feel appreciated because I was just a lackey doing their bidding,” she said.

ACU board members are reportedly set to discuss the allegations against Schlapp at a board meeting during the conference. But for now, Schlapp’s position remains secure and he is still set to open the conference with an appearance alongside House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan.

The irony of Schlapp appearing alongside Jordan, who himself has been accused of covering up sexual abuse during his time as wrestling coach at Ohio State University, was not lost on one of the Ohio congressman’s critics.

In a statement, Kyle Herrig, executive director of the Congressional Integrity Project, said it was “no surprise” that Schlapp conducted the interview with Jordan.

“He has a history of trying to brush abuse under the rug and the allegations against his far-right MAGA friend Matt Schlapp will be no different,” he said.