Sarah Palin Turns Down CPAC Keynote Address

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin speaks at the Republican National Committee Final 2010 Victory fundraising rally on Oct. 23, 2010, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

Matt Stroshane/Getty Images

Sarah Palin has declined the keynote speaker slot at next weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference, the yearly confab for conservative activists that also doubles as something of a cattle call for GOP presidential contenders.

Palin has now skipped the conference four straight years, a rarity for a prominent Republican politician. Among those attending this year are Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, John Thune, Haley Barbour and Mitch McConnell.

David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union (which runs CPAC), said in a statement released to CBS News that Palin "expressed interest in wanting to come this year" but had "a scheduling issue."

"We're disappointed she couldn't make it this year," Keene added.

Palin's decision to skip the event comes amid a mini-revolt against it by social conservatives, who are sitting out due to the involvement of a gay conservative group called GOProud. Among those who are skipping the event are the Family Research Council, the Heritage Foundation, Concerned Women for America and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, a hero of the Tea Party movement.

Palin will have something of a presence at the event, however, and she has not commented on the presence of GOProud. Her political action committee, SarahPAC, is reportedly sponsoring a "Presidential Diamond Reception" on Thursday, February 10, the first day of the three-day event.

A Palin source told Politico that her decision to skip the event last year was tied in part to reports that the American Conservative Union asked FedEx for more than $2 million to take its side in a dispute with UPS. The two previous years she dropped out after initially accepting invitations to speak.

The keynote speakers at the last two CPACs have been Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

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