With the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicking off today, we’re in for a week of far-right extremism, baseless conspiracies, and partisan political stunts — and it’s all thanks to a lineup of prominent conservative organizations. Meet a few of CPAC’s top far-right features:

The American Conservative Union (ACU), CPAC’s host, claims to be a “grassroots” organization but it’s funded by some of the nation’s wealthiest conservative foundations and dark money groups, including the 85 Fund, the Mercer Family Foundation, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and DonorsTrust. ACU has stayed true to its slogan, “we grow conservativism,” by giving a platform to former President Donald Trump and other radical conservative figures. The organization also consistently promotes far-right leaders and activists in the U.S. and abroad and has played a key role in moving the ideologies of the Republican Party further and further right.

The America First Policy Institute (AFPI)—the largest of the MAGA-affiliated nonprofits that emerged after former President Trump left the White House—is sending several staffers to speak at the conference as well, including the vice chair of the Institute’s Center for Election Integrity.

The organization is best known for originating the “America First Agenda” that proposed gutting the Affordable Care Act and lowering the corporate tax rate, mainly drawing inspiration from the Trump Administration’s right-wing agenda. Trump’s often inconsistent policy positions during his tenure in office.

AFPI’s extreme allegiance to the MAGA agenda led the New York Times to write that the group has “the look of a Trump administration in waiting,” given the slew of ex-Trump officials who now staff the organization. 

In its first year of operation, AFPI received nearly $15 million, including contributions from the Searle Freedom Trust and the Dunn Foundation. The Save America PAC, Donald Trump’s primary fundraising vehicle after the 2020 election, donated $1 million to AFPI in 2021. The former president’s fundraising through this political action committee is now the subject of a federal investigation.

While the Republican Party considers its next steps, AFPI’s prominent role at the most important conservative event of the year indicates a commitment to MAGA extremism and far-right policy ideals. 

The web of dark money groups represented at CPAC does not end there. Two other groups—the Heritage Foundation and American First Legal (AFL), a self-styled far-right “answer to the ACLU,”—are joining them in the spotlight. 

Stephen Miller, founder and president of AFL, will represent the group as a speaker at CPAC, joined by the group’s senior counsel. AFL is staffed by a number of former Trump administration officials and continues to influence the House MAGA majority.

Meanwhile, the Heritage Foundation has reprised its role as a CPAC supporting sponsor, bringing its debunked claims of widespread voter fraud and passionate attacks against abortion access with it. 

One glance at CPAC’s long list of political sponsors and speakers sheds light on the shadows of ultra-conservative politics. Our Monitoring Influence site is an essential tool for filling in the gaps of this network of money and power — highlighting the influencers behind the far-right ideologies that have dominated the Republican Party and have taken center stage this week at CPAC.

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