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As the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) gets set to kick off tomorrow just outside of Washington DC, the event is already mired in yet another controversy over white nationalism.

ProEnglish, the white nationalist-led English-only outfit that created serious headaches for the conference in the past, is once again being allowed to be an official exhibitor at CPAC 2015 when the doors open tomorrow. On top of that, another white nationalist outfit has come to town to try and influence the CPAC conversation.

White Nationalist-led Group Allowed to Participate in CPAC 2015

According to the CPAC 2015 event app, conference attendees can find the ProEnglish booth (number 113), nestled between booths for Concerned Veterans of America and a group called Raise the Money. Booths at CPAC 2015 cost $4000.

ProEnglish was created in 1994 by the grandfather of the contemporary anti-immigrant movement, John Tanton, to promote English-only legislation. Tanton had to create ProEnglish after his racist memos got him kicked out of the first English-Only group he founded.

In the fall of 2011, ProEnglish hired Robert Vandervoort to be the group’s executive director. Prior to going to work for ProEnglish, Vandervoort was the organizer of the white nationalist group, Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance, while he lived in Illinois.

During that period Vandervoort was at the heart of much of the white nationalist activity in the region. While he was in charge, Chicagoland Friends of American Renaissance often held joint meetings with the local chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens. He also made appearances at white nationalist events outside Illinois, for instance participating in the 2009 Preserving Western Civilization Conference.

Much more on Mr. Vandervoort can be found in “What about Bob? Robert Vandervoort and White Nationalism.

Vandervoort isn’t the only white nationalist figure employed by ProEnglish in recent years. Shortly after Vandervoort took the job, the group hired Phil Tignino as the group’s web master and social media coordinator. Tignino was the former head of the Washington State University chapter of the white nationalist college group, Youth for Western Civilization.

The Vandervoort problem shouldn’t be new to CPAC staff. After IREHR raised concerns because of Vandervoort’s white nationalist attachments during CPAC 2012, a significant discussion ensued. The Kansas City Star and Mother Jones were among the publications to take note of these events. American Spectator, a decidedly conservative periodical weighed in with the comment that “if Vandervoort indeed organized events for an American Renaissance affiliate … he should explicitly and publicly renounce his old associates; that is a crowd that no one should touch with a ten foot pole.”

Instead of taking that advice, Vandervoort tried to bamboozle the public by claiming “I have never been a member of any group that has advocated hate or violence.” No one has accused Vandervoort of advocating violence. But the record clearly shows that Vandervoort not only acted on American Renaissance behalf, but that he shared its white nationalist views. Which as American Spectator aptly noted, should not be touched with a ten-foot pole by CPAC, or anyone else.

The Recurring White Nationalist Problem at CPAC

CPAC 2013 also had problems with white nationalism. On the eve of the conference, the group responsible for organizing CPAC chose to feature the work of a controversial white nationalist professor on its website. The American Conservative Union (ACU) website featured an article by Dr. Robert Weissberg, a retired University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign political science professor with a second career as a white nationalist. Like Vandervoort, Weissberg has been active with the white nationalist group, American Renaissance.

That same year, the CPAC white nationalism problem erupted in the middle of the conference, during a Tea Party Patriots workshop entitled, “Trump the Race Card.” White nationalists turned the workshop into a pro-segregation apologia for slavery.

National Policy Institute’s CPAC Piggyback

Last year, the repeated green-light given to ProEnglish appears to have encouraged white nationalists to hold their own rump event at the same facility during CPAC 2014. The National Policy Institute (NPI), a white nationalist “think tank” whose stated mission is to “elevate the consciousness of whites, ensure our biological and cultural continuity, and protect our civil rights” held an “unconference” on the second day of CPAC 2014 at a steak house inside the same complex. The Unconference featured a special guest, Jared Taylor of the other white nationalist “think tank,” American Renaissance. (The same group for which Robert Vandervoort created a Chicago chapter). 

This year, the National Policy Institute is again hoping to capitalize on the CPAC buzz. As the second day of CPAC 2015 winds down, NPI has organized an evening gathering called “Beyond Conservativism.” The event will feature several notable white nationalist speakers including: NPI president, Richard Spencer; Peter Brimelow, founder of the white nationalist website VDARE (Brimelow spoke at CPAC in 2012); and Jared Taylor, founder of the white nationalist think-tank, American Renaissance. Unlike last year’s get-together at a steak house inside the convention grounds, this year’s NPI event is taking place about ten miles away back in the heart of Washington DC at the National Press Club.

Devin Burghart

Author Devin Burghart

is vice president of IREHR. He coordinates our Seattle office, directs our research efforts, and manages our online communications. He has researched, written, and organized on virtually all facets of contemporary white nationalism since 1992, and is internationally recognized for this effort. Devin is frequently quoted as an expert by print, broadcast, and online media outlets. In 2007, he was awarded a Petra Foundation fellowship. more...

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