Recently announced Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy finished at 1% support in the 2024 Republican nomination straw poll conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last past weekend.
However, Ramaswamy, the multi-millionaire entrepreneur, best-selling author and conservative commentator who is a leading crusader in the culture wars, alleged that a political consultant tied to CPAC offered his campaign the ability to get tickets to the conference and bring in a bunch of supporters who could vote in the straw poll for a fee that would be upwards of $100,000.
“There’s also a funny little secret I learned,” Ramaswamy told Fox Business host Stuart Varney on Monday.
“I’m new to this as an outsider. One of the things you see as an outsider is how corrupt the system is. You know something funny about this. I’ve attended CPAC before. I didn’t know it works this way. A consultant calls my campaign shortly after I declare and says ‘hey, we can get you up to number two on there if you pay a few hundred thousand dollars. I was shocked. You know, there’s a lot of people who are making money not only off of me, but off of every presidential campaign,” he claimed on Fox Business’ “Varney and Co.”
When asked if he considered paying the fee, Ramaswamy quickly answered, “absolutely not. That is fake.”
Since they declined the offer, Ramaswamy’s campaign did not provide more details about the potential deal, and the name of the consultant was shared on the condition that the person’s identity not be revealed. However, Politico, which first reported the story, and Fox News have confirmed that the person who Ramaswamy’s campaign says made the offer does have ties to CPAC.
“A straw poll is a vote that those in attendance get to participate in. If a presidential contender is organized and popular, they can do well,” a spokesperson for CPAC told Politico on Monday.
CPAC is the oldest and largest annual gathering of conservative leaders and activists, and its Republican presidential straw poll has long been considered a barometer of sentiment in the GOP’s right flank. The conference has been largely favorable to former President Trump since the 2016 election.
It was not a surprise that the former president – who launched his third White House run in November – once again dominated the 2024 straw poll, with 62% support and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis a distant second at 20%, with everyone else in the low single digits.
Presidential campaigns have long coordinated to bring in their supporters to attend CPAC in order to boost their standing in the straw poll and loudly applaud their candidate during their speech on the stage.
However, Ramaswamy, a first-time candidate who is running as an outsider looking to shake up the system, said he is speaking out to expose what he argues are somewhat dirty, behind the scenes deal-making that is part of the political game.
“We’ve decided to go ‘full transparency’ on exposing the quasi-corrupt process of the campaign itself,” Ramaswamy told Fox News in a statement.
During his speech at CPAC on Friday, Ramaswamy reiterated his calls for a “national revival,” for disbanding the FBI and the Department of Education and again vowed to end federally mandated affirmative action.
“I think the crowd wasn’t exactly sure what to make of me because I’m a competing candidate to Trump. The fact that we got five standing ovations in the middle of my speech — I didn’t even get to finish everything I had to say because of the amount of applause I got,” Ramaswamy said in a Fox News Digital interview on Saturday.
Ramaswamy was interviewed on the sidelines of a donor retreat hosted by the politically influential fiscal conservative group the Club for Growth, which was held at an exclusive beachside resort in the upscale southeastern Florida seaside community of Palm Beach.
The 37-year-old candidate made campaign stops in Iowa and New Hampshire – the two states that kick off the GOP presidential nominating calendar – after declaring his candidacy last month. He will return to both states in the next couple of weeks. He also plans to stop in South Carolina, which votes third in the Republican primary schedule.
Ramaswamy’s allegations come as CPAC’s leader, Matt Schlapp, is being sued by a former staffer of Herschel Walker’s 2022 Senate campaign who alleges sexual misconduct. Schlapp denies the accusations.