Pressure mounts on CPAC chief Matt Schlapp as legal costs spiral

Another board member resigned amid concerns over the cost of defending Schlapp from a sexual battery claim

The parent organization of the Conservative Political Action Conference lost another high-profile board member this week amid mounting criticism of Chairman Matt Schlapp and ballooning legalfees from a sexual misconduct lawsuit against him.

Morton Blackwell, who has served on the board of the American Conservative Union (ACU) since the 1970s, said he submitted his resignation Monday but declined to comment further. Blackwell is the founder and president of the Leadership Institute, which trains conservative activists, and also serves as one of Virginia’s members on the Republican National Committee. He has previously expressed concerns about the sexual misconduct claim against Schlapp.

Blackwell is the fifth board member to depart in recent months, following an exodus of more than half of the staff since 2021. Some former board members are calling for Schlapp’s resignation to protect the reputation of one of the oldest and most prominent institutions in the conservative movement.

“Morton Blackwell resigning is a signal to the entire conservative movement that the game is over,” said Grover Norquist, the well-known anti-tax activist who served on the CPAC board for more than 15 years. “CPAC stopped being a useful part of the movement long ago and now it’s veering toward dysfunctional.”

In a statement, CPAC expressed gratitude for Blackwell’s decades of service and blamed the criticism of Schlapp on “those with an axe to grind.”

“To be clear, CPAC stands in full compliance with all statutes and regulations and any claims to the contrary by a disgruntled former board member are false,” the organization’s statement said. “The full board has been united in its support of the Chairman and the CPAC leadership team.”

Schlapp was sued in January by a Senate campaign staffer who claimed that the longtime Republican power broker groped his crotch during a campaign trip to Atlanta last fall. Schlapp has acknowledged going to two bars that night with the staffer, Carlton Huffman, but has denied any wrongdoing and attacked his accuser’s credibility.

The ACU’s payments for Schlapp’s legal fees in the case exceeded $1 million as of August, as the discovery process was only beginning, according to the resignation letter from former vice chairman Charlie Gerow that recently was filed as part of the litigation in Alexandria Circuit Court. When board treasurer Bob Beauprez resigned in May, saying he could no longer vouch for the organization’s financial statements, he also sounded the alarm about Schlapp’s legal fees.

“Any settlement of upwards of a couple of million dollars plus the accumulated legal expenses … would break the organization, not to mention the reputational damage,” he wrote.

It is common for nonprofitsto cover officials from liability while they are conducting official business. In his resignation letter, Gerow said he was never provided with proof, demanded by the board in June, of Schlapp’s pledge to reimburse the organization if it was determined that the allegations arose from conduct outside his professional responsibilities.

“Tragically, for those who are encouraging Matt to ‘fight this to the end’ the costs are already staggering,” Gerow wrote in the letter.

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James Lacy, a lawyer and expert on nonprofits who served on the ACU board for decades until 2017, argued that the organization has no obligation to pay for Schlapp’s legal defense. The alleged misconduct occurred late at night and not at a sanctioned CPAC event, said Lacy, who said he has discussed with other former board members making a public statement calling for Schlapp’s resignation.

“The conduct at issue isn’t something ACU should be responsible for,” Lacy said. “It’s a big mistake because it has the effect of implicating ACU in the conflict, plus it’s a financial burden. The appropriate people to pay for the defense are the Schlapps themselves,” he said, referring to Schlapp and his wife, Mercedes Schlapp, who also works for CPAC and is named in Huffman’s lawsuit.

The ACU and its related organizations are not defendants in the lawsuit. The organization’s statement said that indemnifying top officials is “normal business” and required by its bylaws.

In the ongoing litigation, Huffman’s attorney subpoenaed two other witnesses who may be asked to testify about other misconduct allegations against Schlapp. As The Post reported in August, those incidents involve an attempt to kiss a staffer and an unwanted physical advance on someone else’s employee during a CPAC business trip, according to people familiar with the incidents. Schlapp has not commented on those allegations. Matt Smith, a member of the ACU executive committee, has said they were false.

Several former board members — including the two preceding chairmen — said Schlapp should step down or expressed grave concerns about his leadershipin recent interviews with The Post.

“There’s enough out there in the public eye to warrant not only transparency but also consequences,” said Al Cardenas, who served as chairman immediately before Schlapp and previously led the Florida Republican Party. “It’s time for damage control if ACU is going to continue to be a viable entity. For the benefit of the ACU and its future, there’s no other solution than to elect new leadership.”

Since Schlapp became chairman in 2014, board members who questioned his stewardship have quit or felt pressure to resign, said David A. Keene, who served as chairman for more than two decades before Cardenas.

“Dissent is not tolerated. … If all of this had happened at some other point in the past, there would have already have been in an intervention,” Keene said. “The board needs to be thinking about the importance of what they do to the movement as a whole.”

CPAC has long been a must-stop for Republican candidates eyeing higher office, and Schlapp helped build the conference into a global brand, with spinoff gatherings around the world. He also has been credited with putting the organization on more solid financial footing over the past decade.

“I think they’ve done everything by the book,” said Republican pollster Jim McLaughlin, a board member who stands by Schlapp. “Matt has always impressed me as a good marketer and a good communications person who believes in the cause. He’s really taken the organization to another level.”

But Schlapp has also faced criticism for moving the group away from its roots in the conservative movement and aligning it too closely with the donor class and far-right wing of former president Donald Trump’s political base. Some corporate sponsors have backed away, and ticket sales were slow at this year’s flagship gathering in Washington, D.C., which was scheduled shortly after the sexual misconduct claims became public.

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McConnell Breaks With RNC: Jan. 6 ‘Violent Insurrection’

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) criticized the Republican National Committee (RNC) for its censure of Reps. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and broke with their language on the Jan. 6, 2021 riot, calling it a “violent insurrection.”

“It was a violent insurrection with the purpose of trying to prevent a peaceful transfer of power after a legitimately certified election. … That’s what it was,” McConnell said. 

The RNC sparked fierce backlash after it described Jan. 6, when a mob of former President Trump’s followers breached the Capitol, as “legitimate political discourse” in a resolution censuring Kinzinger and Cheney. 

RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel appeared to try to clarify the resolution, alleging in a statement that the two GOP lawmakers were involved in persecuting citizens “engaged in legitimate political discourse” but “that had nothing to do with violence at the Capitol.” The last section was not in the RNC resolution. 

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The January 6th Omission

The January 6th Omission

As I write this, exactly one week after the commemoration of the January 6th “Insurrection,” I’d like to offer another perspective, as unbiased as one can, about the veracity of the narrative of this infamous day.  I believe this essay will show, undeniably, how our “news” has carefully woven an “event tapestry,” with threads of fiction and misconception, crisscrossing with threads of fact,  I’d like to unravel, so to speak, the mainstream narrative with the following five observations. 

Fake News by Omission 

It’s stunning to me how the media can change a narrative by not including something as much as  by including something.  Case in point: the “lessening of events.”  Both President Biden and VP Harris snugly opined that January 6th goes down in history with two other events: 911 and Pearl harbor.  Wow!  I almost could not believe my ears when I heard that, which I believe angered most of America as well.  My gut reaction was, “You’re comparing it to what??  You have to be kidding me Joe–.”  I don’t have to go into the enormity of the horrors of 9/11 or Pearl harbor to demonstrate that January 6th is simply not comparable in scope.  When we inflate certain events for political gain, there’s often unintended consequences of lessening the horrors of other truly terrible events.  Not to mention, I can think of other days which saw incredibly more chaos, death, and destruction than January 6th: the bloodiest day of our civil war at Antietam,  the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, the burning down of the entire area called Black Wall Street in Omaha, Nebraska in 1921, which saw upwards of 200 African Americans murdered, and so on.  Would I be wrong to say that the president and vice president may need a history lesson? 

A Mission…of Omission?

Amazingly, the media sometimes left out the fact that President Trump said to “…peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” during his speech on January 6th.  In fact, something that hurt the creditability of the impeachment trial was that the “peacefully and patriotically” line was totally left out of the video shown to Congress.  Instead, the video shows Mr. Trump saying, “We’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down…to the Capitol.”  Right after, it cuts to another scene showing someone in the crowd shouting, “Let’s take the Capitol!”  Good job, investigation members. 

Listen to Your “Elder”

I’d like to give the talk show host, Larry Elder, credit for mentioning for mentioning the following “deep thought.”  If the Dem Party thinks it’s vital to have an exhaustive “January 6th” investigation to find out who, what, and where was the cause of this insurrection, then WHY did they impeach Donald Trump for being responsible for it, as if it was already an open-and-shut, “LOCK HIM UP” case?  I think the value of the instrument of impeachment was also minimized in future importance by having this investigation after it, instead of before.

A Call to Arms

If you watch or read the mainstream news about January 6th, you will occasionally hear about an “armed insurrection.”  This is another kind of “fake news” by omission.  If you consider flagpoles and fire extinguishers as arms, then yes, the riot was an armed event.  But, of course, the inference refers to firearms, of which nobody had in the Capitol that day, except for law enforcement.  Leaving out what kind of “arms” in the story…really affects the story.  Also, what about “all the deaths” that day?  The only death, sadly, that day, was one of the rioters, tragically a patriotic female  Air Force veteran.   Conversely, the BLM riots (aka the Woke Riots) saw an estimate of 25 people murdered, including people of color.  

The Long Arm of the Law

I’d lastly like to draw the stark contrast between the general progressive attitude toward law enforcement nearly all year round, juxtaposed with their view of law enforcement on January 6th.  Typically, as of the past few years, law enforcement is scolded by progressives through defunding, abolishing, blaming, scapegoating, etc.  However, with the January 6th observation earlier this month, it was pleasantly amazing how “the Left” showed nothing but praise, thankfulness, solidarity, and good wishes to the Capitol police.  (Note: Let me be absolutely clear that I’m not saying all progressives are against law enforcement, but rather speaking in general terms.)   The mainstream media also repeatedly spoke with great empathy about how some  Capitol officers were maimed, kicked, punched, maced, and so on.  However, concerning the hundreds of police injured during the 2020 Riots (a total of 574 riots), the level of sentiment shown by “the Left” was not the same.  Equity was lacking.  I’d like to end by wishing good vibes for the future of this country, that we will somehow find the peace, unity, and civility it deserves.  May we all seek to be more united…in these, the United States.

House Votes To Hold Meadows In Contempt

WASHINGTON — The House voted on Tuesday to hold former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with a special committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, setting the stage for possible criminal prosecution of an advisor to former President Trump.

The vote, 222 to 208, was the second time in recent months that the House had held a former Trump advisor in contempt, and it was the first time since the 1830s that the chamber had leveled such a sanction on one of its former members. Two Republicans joined all Democrats present in voting for the measure.

“Mr. Meadows is a central participant and witness to the events of Jan. 6,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank), a member of the House committee investigating the insurrection, said before the contempt vote. “If he can get away with ignoring the law, and witnesses summoned before Congress can merely pick and choose when they comply, our power of oversight will be gone.”

The contempt vote came a month after the House took the same action against Stephen K. Bannon, alleging the the Trump confidant and former White House advisor had refused to comply with the House committee’s subpoena for information and testimony. Bannon was indicted by a federal grand jury last month on two charges of contempt of Congress. He is set to go on trial in July.

The House action against Meadows followed a 9-0 contempt vote on Monday by the House Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Lawmakers on the panel said Meadows initially provided 9,000 pages of records before refusing to provide more records or show up for a deposition last week. They said Meadows is uniquely positioned to provide information to discuss the role Trump and the White House played in inciting the riot and responding to it.

“We’ve given Mr. Meadows every opportunity to cooperate with our investigation,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House panel, said Tuesday. “We’ve been more than fair. He’s brought this situation on himself. But there is no doubt in my mind that he’s in contempt of Congress and has to be held accountable.”

Republican House members countered that Democrats were pursuing the contempt charges for partisan reasons. Just two of the nine Republicans who voted to hold Bannon in contempt did so on Tuesday. Meadows served as a GOP House member from 2013 to 2020, when he took over as Trump’s chief of staff.

“He is a good man, and he’s my friend. This is as wrong as it gets,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said before the vote. “Your lust for power, your lust to get your opponents is so intense that you don’t care.”

Meadows’ attorney, George Terwilliger III, has asserted that the former White House advisor cannot comply with the subpoena for two major reasons. As a former top presidential advisor, Meadows shouldn’t be compelled to testify before Congress because it might result in staffers wary of providing candid advice to presidents.

He also said Meadows did not wish to undermine Trump’s assertion of executive privilege, a legal doctrine that has allowed presidents to withhold certain confidential communications from public disclosure.

Meadows “has fully cooperated as to documents in his possession that are not privileged and has sought various means to provide other information while continuing to honor the former president’s privilege claims,” Terwillger said in a statement Tuesday before the vote.

Citing executive privilege, Trump has sought to block the National Archives from turning over his White House records to the House committee. His case suffered a setback last week when a federal appeals court rejected his arguments, setting the stage for those documents to be given to Congress if the Supreme Court declines to intervene.

The House panel, which has two Republicans, has interviewed more than 300 witnesses and subpoenaed more than 40 people as it seeks to paint a clearer picture of the day’s violence and what contributed to it.

Goaded on by Trump’s months-long, falsehood-filled campaign that the 2020 election had been stolen, hundreds of his supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, hoping to block the certification of President Biden’s electoral college victory. More than 700 people have been charged by federal prosecutors in the Capitol riot.

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

President Biden’s Job Approval Sinking On Inflation, Crime and COVID: POLL

President Joe Biden is facing significant skepticism from the American public, with his job approval rating lagging across a range of major issues, including new lows for his handling of crime, gun violence and the economic recovery, a new ABC/Ipsos poll finds.

As the White House confronts rising and widespread concern about inflation, Americans are especially negative on how the Biden administration is managing this issue.

More than two-thirds of Americans (69%) disapprove of how Biden is handling inflation (only 28% approve) while more than half (57%) disapprove of his handling of the economic recovery. Partisan splits for inflation show expected negativity in Republican views (94% disapproving), but the survey also reveals weaknesses from Biden’s own party with only a slim majority of Democrats (54%) approving. Biden’s orbit is also hemorrhaging independent voters, with 71% disapproving of his handling of inflation.

MORE: Social spending plan will help ease pain from record-breaking inflation: White House

he ABC/Ipsos poll, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel, reveals these rocky ratings for Biden at a time when the bulk of Americans name inflation and paying everyday bills as a top concern. Concern about inflation has eclipsed worry about the coronavirus pandemic, according to recent polls from Monmouth and AP-NORC, as Republicans continuously spotlight rising prices at the gas pump and the grocery store as a key issue for the upcoming midterm elections — likely to be a referendum on Biden’s performance.

These low job assessments in areas of high public concern have led to a new low in Biden’s overall approval rating, measured by FiveThirtyEight at 43%.

Click here to read the full article at Yahoo! News

Eastman Takes the Fifth With Jan. 6 Committee

The attorney, who helped former President Donald Trump contest the 2020 election, asserted his right against self-incrimination in a Dec. 1 letter to the Capitol riot panel.

John Eastman, the attorney who helped former President Donald Trump pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the 2020 election, has asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to a letter he delivered to the Jan. 6 committee explaining his decision not to testify.

“Dr. Eastman hereby asserts his Fifth Amendment right not to be a witness against himself in response to your subpoena,” his attorney, Charles Burnham, wrote in a letter to Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) dated Dec. 1.

“Members of this very Committee have openly spoken of making criminal referrals to the Department of Justice and described the Committee’s work in terms of determining “guilt or innocence,” Burnham continues. “Dr. Eastman has a more than reasonable fear that any statements he makes pursuant to this subpoena will be used in an attempt to mount a criminal investigation against him.”

Eastman’s decision is an extraordinary assertion by someone who worked closely with Trump to attempt to overturn the 2020 election results. He met with Trump and pushed state legislative leaders to reject Biden’s victory in a handful of swing states and appoint alternate electors to the Electoral College, effectively denying Biden’s victory.

The former Chapman University law professor also pressured Pence, who is constitutionally required to preside over the Electoral College certification on Jan. 6, to unilterally refuse to count some of Biden’s electors and send the election to the full House for a vote — or delay long enough to give states a chance to submit new electors.

Eastman also spoke at Trump’s Jan. 6 rally alongside Rudy Giuliani.

Most of Burnham’s letter makes procedural objections to the structure of the Jan. 6 committee, focused on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to reject Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s appointees to the panel.

“The lack of a ranking minority member makes it impossible for this Committee to comply with clearly applicable House rules on subpoenas and depositions,” he writes.

Burnham also complains that the Capitol riot committee conducts its depositions in secret.

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The SALT Fight Is Coming To a Head

In April, this column reported on the great SALT controversy and how it impacts California taxpayers. SALT stands for “state and local taxes,” and for many years prior to President Trump’s term in office, taxpayers could deduct those taxes from their federal tax returns without limitation. But in 2017, Congress enacted Trump’s tax reform, which limited the amount of state and local taxes that taxpayers could deduct up to $10,000. Whether limiting the SALT deduction is good or bad tax policy is not nearly as interesting as the politics behind it.

The adoption of the limitation by the Republican-led Congress was broadly perceived as a big middle finger to high-tax states such as California. Whether a pretext or not, states with modest income tax rates, or no income tax at all, complained that their residents were essentially subsidizing residents of profligate, big-spending states.

But moderate- to high-income taxpayers in California and other high tax states lost a valuable deduction on their federal returns. Suddenly they felt the full pain of high state income tax rates and property taxes. Frantic state politicians began plans to lessen that pain. For example, immediately after passage of the tax reform law, California floated the idea of a semi-voluntary “charitable deduction” scheme to give high-wealth Californians some relief. It would have created a “charitable” fund within the general fund so high-earning taxpayers could claim a deduction for “donating” the equivalent of what they owed in state taxes. But the IRS, in an opinion letter, quickly shot down that idea.

More successful was a method adopted by many states to provide relief for certain “qualified entities,” consisting mostly of small businesses organized as partnerships, LLCs or S corporations. While Gov. Gavin Newsom signed California’s workaround embodied in Assembly Bill 150, it provided little relief for citizen taxpayers.

Click here to read the full article at the Pasadena Star News

Along With the Now Indicted Steve Bannon, Whom Has The Jan. 6 Select Committee Subpoenaed — and Why?

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has issued almost three dozen subpoenas as it aggressively seeks information about the origins of the attack and what former President Donald Trump did — or didn’t do — to stop it.

The panel — which referred Trump campaign and White House strategist Steve Bannon’s flouting of a subpoena to the Department of Justice, leading to Friday’s criminal indictment — is exploring several paths simultaneously, demanding testimony from Trump’s inner circle about his actions that day as well as from outside advisers who organized the rally he spoke at the morning of Jan. 6 and allies who strategized about how to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory. They are also turning toward former Vice President Mike Pence’s orbit and questioning witnesses about efforts to pressure him to stop the congressional electoral count.

An attendee’s sign calls for the impeachment of Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming as Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida speaks at a rally in Cheyenne, Wyo., on Jan. 28. Cheney is one of two Republicans on the House select committee investigating the events of Jan. 6. MICHAEL CIAGLO/GETTY IMAGES

The committee is expected to issue more subpoenas as some witnesses, especially those closest to Trump, have indicated they won’t comply or refused to answer questions. But lawmakers on the panel have already talked to more than 150 people, most of them voluntarily, about what led up to the violent siege by Trump’s supporters.

While the committee doesn’t have the power to charge or otherwise punish anyone for their actions, the seven Democrats and two Republicans on the panel say they hope to build the most comprehensive record yet of what happened when hundreds of Trump’s supporters brutally pushed past police and broke into the Capitol, interrupting the certification of Biden’s victory.

A look at whom the committee has subpoenaed, and what is to come in the panel’s investigation:

Trump’s inner circle: The committee’s first subpoenas in late September went to four men who were among his most loyal allies: former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Bannon, longtime communications aide Daniel Scavino and Kashyap Patel, a White House national-security aide who had moved to the Pentagon in the weeks after Trump lost the election.

Bannon immediately told the panel he wouldn’t cooperate, citing a letter from Trump’s lawyer claiming that his conversations should be privileged and shielded from the public. The committee balked at that reasoning and the House voted to hold Bannon in contempt, referring the matter to the Justice Department, ultimately resulting in Friday’s two-count indictment against Bannon alleging criminal contempt of Congress.

Meadows could also be held in contempt after his lawyer indicated Thursday that he would not testify, saying in a statement that the courts would have to decide, after the White House notified him that Biden would waive Trump’s claims of executive privilege over the testimony.

From the archives (September 2020): White House chief of staff Mark Meadows lashes out as FBI director fails to echo Trump claims about vote fraud

The House has since subpoenaed several other well-known members of Trump’s circle, including former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and top aides Stephen Miller and Jason Miller. The committee said all three participated in efforts to spread false information and may have been with Trump as the attack unfolded — a key area of investigation, as little is still known about what he did to try to stop it.

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