CPAC, D.C.—Day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was full of members of Congress palling around with white nationalists, conservatives offering dating advice, and Marco Rubio ripping into the president for considering birth control an essential health-care service. Day two is set to be dominated by talk of the 2012 race, with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich all slotted to speak in the main ballroom of the Marriott Wardman Park hotel on Friday.
The real fun of CPAC lies in the basement labyrinth of booths where conservative groups of all stripes hawk their wares. In addition to covering the above-ground speeches, over the course of the day I'm going to profile a few of the more colorful vendors hidden away from the light of day.
First up is HSP Direct, a mail fundraising firm that is working for Santorum this cycle. For a candidate who isn't particularly known for pulling in the money or an extensive organization, HSP sure was proud of its association with Santorum. Walk by their booth, and the first thing you notice is the lifelike cardboard standup staring you down.
Their website says HSP has a "reputation of being the most effective national direct mail fundraising agency in the country," and includes a positive testimonial from the treasurer of SarahPAC. The woman in the background of the above photo declined my request for an interview last night—she cited a negative experience in the past—but earlier in the afternoon, Chase Parker was happy to chat. He touted the relationship with Santorum and was proud to show his support with a nifty sweater vest.
That same sweater vest could be any CPAC attendee's for the low cost of $50—all funds go directly to Santorum's campaign.