Conservative activists cheer Rand Paul at national conference – and “Ben Franklin” stops in
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Published: 16-Mar-2013

National Harbor, Maryland -- A great kick-off to the 40th anniversary of CPAC, today's roster was filled with attendee favorites Allen West, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Tim Scott. 

These congressman highlighted faith, freedom, liberty and the American Dream; topics that had attendees on their feet the entire day. 

Celebrating its 40th year at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, a new location for CPAC this year. 

The highlight of Thursday's agenda was Sen. Rand Paul and the "stand with Rand" campaign that has been following him since his nearly 13-hour filibuster.

Activists, led by Young America's Foundation, got permission to take “Stand With Rand” signs into the ballroom, a rare exception to a long-standing CPAC rule against campaign-like actions within the meeting hall. The American Conservative Union, chief organizers of the event, made an exception in this case. Nearly a quarter of the packed ballroom literally stood with Rand for his 19-minute speech. 

Rand’s recent filibuster, and his appearance at CPAC to thunderous applause, are attracting attention across the spectrum. 

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, spoke on Friday.  He was warmly greeted by the conservative crowd, as he encouraged advocates of limited government “to learn from our mistakes and my mistakes.” Romney encouraged Republicans to look to the states, where conservative governors are fashioning effective policies.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli took the first speaker slot on Thursday. As he prepares to run for governor of the Old Dominion, some activists at CPAC were pressing him to renew his pledge not to raise state taxes. Cuccinelli earned cheers for his promise to fight big government and to combat human trafficking.
 
Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist and tax limitation veteran Lew Uhler and Nick Dranias made the case for a federal Balanced Budget Amendment, one of the goals Ronald Reagan set earlier in his presidency but which was never achieved.
 
The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity and Watchdog.org had a visible presence at the CPAC events, including Benjamin Franklin himself strolling through the exhibit halls and the Gaylord Center where the gathering was held. 

Events continued through Saturday afternoon (March 16). Speaker highlights included Kelly Ayotte, Wayne LaPierre, Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Ted Cruz.

In a National Public Radio report, Cruz – the Texas U.S. Senator who is a “Tea Party” favorite – was described as a rising star for the movement.
 
Note: Keisha Schultz works at Jones Public Relations in Oklahoma City. She is a social media advisor to CapitolBeatOK/Oklahoma Watchdog editor Pat McGuigan, who contributed to this report. 

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