The RightOnline Conference Pic Dump

This week-end, I headed up to the RightOnline Conference in Pittsburgh that was put on by Americans for Prosperity. It was a great event, I had a fantastic time, and I’d recommend these AFP conferences to everyone reading RWN. To give you an idea of what they’re like, I’m going to give you a basic rundown on what I did while I was there.

First off, because I am a masochist, I decided to drive to the event from the Carolina coast. It was a good 12 hours each way.

Still, I was there early enough on Thursday night to head out to a blogger dinner with Verizon. They ended up taking a group of bloggers (most of whom I rounded up) out to eat at an excellent Italian restaurant called Buca di Beppo. I found the whole thing a little odd because ostensibly, the purpose of providing the great food was to get us there to talk about Network Neutrality. However, they just gave us a 30 second spiel and a portable flash drive with info on it. On the other hand, I do essentially agree with Verizon’s position on Network Neutrality and I just linked back to a post I did about it, so maybe they knew exactly what they were doing after all.

From there, all of us headed back to the Sheraton Hotel bar to hang out. Some of the people there included,

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Elizabeth Crum and EM Zanotti

Elizabeth Crum from RFC Radio and Em Zanotti, who runs The American Princess.

Katie Favazza & Alexa

Occasional RWN blogger Katie Favazza and Alexa of Alexa Shrugged & the RNC.

Melissa Clouthier and Elizabeth Terrell

Our own Melissa Clouthier and Elizabeth Terrell

We chatted for a few hours, hit the hay, and got up for the opening day’s session which happily, didn’t begin until noon.

Originally, I was supposed to speak on the closing panel of the conference, but at the last moment, they moved me to the opening panel. On the upside, I got to open up the conference, it went really well, and the room was packed (700 people attened the conference):

Right Online

On the downside, while the ending of the conference had less people around (these things always clear out a bit at the end while people catch their flights), it was covered by C-SPAN while I don’t believe the opening was.

In any case, I was one of three panelists who got up and talked about “Winning the Web 2.0” and it was at least covered by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Unfortunately, the reporter, Tim McNulty, got almost every aspect of the story wrong, at least where it concerned what I was saying — not “I hate you because you’re a conservative” wrong, but “I’m not paying attention” wrong.

Republicans have fallen behind in harnessing the Web for political fundraising too, something Democrats have done effectively since at least 2006. RightWingNews founder John Hawkins noted that he helped raise $900,000 for the Republican National Committee and John McCain’s campaign through traditional means last year, but has generated a measly $700 for his Web site online.

Actually, I said that I helped raise 300k for Republican candidates in 2006 and was on the board of Slatecard, which raised 600k in 2008. I didn’t raise anything specifically for John McCain.

Additionally, while explaining that liberal blogs get more financial help from donors, I noted that I had only received $700 in donations since RWN began. That turned into he “generated a measly $700 for his Web site online.” I also mentioned that I’ve been a professional blogger since 2005. How does the guy think I have been living that long on $700?

Web fundraising among Republicans is “like herding cats through a yarn factory in a flood,” Mr. Hawkins said.

Mr. Hawkins got interested in the Web during the Clinton years, when the right was ascendent online. The Drudge Report launched in 1997, for instance, and made its big splash with the Monica Lewinsky scandal a year later. With Barack Obama in office, conservative interest in the Web will surge again, many said yesterday.

Miraculously, the reporter got the quote right — and it was actually a pretty [email protected] good quote, if I do say so myself. However, while I did create my first web page during the Clinton years, I didn’t start doing political blogging until after the Florida debacle in the 2000 election. The story doesn’t explicitly say that I started writing during the Clinton years, but it incorrectly implies it.

Incidentally, I did write Tim McNulty and ask for a correction. He replied back today that he didn’t catch all of the speech (which is his explanation for screwing up) and that I would get a partial correction on the amount of money raised. From there, he started splitting hairs with me about what else needed to be corrected. Honestly, that’s better than I expected given how haphazard the original piece turned out to be (And incidentally, one other person complained to me that he got his story wrong while I was at lunch). However, it’s ridiculous that I have to argue with this clown to get him to do his job. Happily, I don’t have to rely on the press to correct the record, because I’m able to do it myself. I feel sorry for the people who don’t have that option and have to just live with it when these clowns get it wrong and won’t correct the record.

After the opening, the conference broke up into different tracks taught by varying panels. Soren Dayton did a particularly good job talking about online advertising and promotion (I definitely learned some things).

Soren Dayton

However, there was one problem that kept cropping up. There was too much of a mixture between people who were just getting started and the more advanced people.

To give you an example of what I mean, during the opening session, there were people who were asking basic questions about Facebook and what a “Tweet” is. However, there was also a political operative who asked me how his state’s Republican Party could get optimum results when they worked with bloggers. So, on every question, half of the people were either bored or learning the basics, puzzled or getting advanced information. The solution to that would probably be to have 4 different classes going at a time, 2 basic and 2 more advanced. It would mean smaller panels and more people doing double duty teaching them, but it would probably lead to a better experience for some of the attendees. Now, don’t get the wrong idea — the panels were good “as is” — but, if they asked me how to make them even better, that’s the first suggestion I would make.

Friday night, a group of us headed out, walked like half a mile, and rode a primitive trolley up a mountain that may have been put together by Tonka, all in order to eat at a place called Monterey Bay Fish Grotto. But, I have to tell you — it was worth it. It wasn’t cheap, but the service was superb, the view was spectacular, and the food was outstanding. Personally, I had Mako shark for the first time.

After the meal, I took a cab back to the hotel to catch Not Evil, Just Wrong, which was designed to counter Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Not Evil, Just Wrong + Plus Elizabeth Terrell

Surprisingly, given my profession, I don’t like political documentaries. It’s because I’ve seen every argument, every graph, and every quote from a famous person 3-4 times before. It’s my job to be immersed in this stuff. However, one thing I did like about Not Evil, Just Wrong is that it tried to place the focus on how the global warming alarmists are going to impact people’s lives and better yet, it had some great footage from liberal nuts on camera. My fave was the woman who didn’t seem to care how many African children died from malaria because she thought DDT might hurt the birds.

After the movie, it was back to the hotel bar for a few hours. Colleen O’Boyle from CRC Public Relations and Skye from Midnight Blue joined us:

Skye & Colleen O'Boyle

A little later on, I noticed Joe Wurzelbacher, also known as Joe the Plumber, at the bar. While he was walking around, I snapped a pic and he walked over to chat.

He was really friendly, noted that he had been pounding a few back, and told us he didn’t have anything prepared for his remarks tomorrow. Tabitha Hale of Pink Elephant Pundit was standing with me when Joe came over and so I got the two of them to take a pic:

Tabitha Hale and Joe Wurzelbacher

Incidentally Joe spent a good amount of time out in the bar that night talking to people. Out of the “big name” people who were at the event, John Fund from the Wall Street Journal was the only other one I noticed taking time out to mingle with the hoi-polloi (Add Erick Erickson from Redstate & Ed Morrissey from Hot Air if they count as “big name.” Actually, maybe they should given how they seem to be coming up in the world lately. Also, in Michelle Malkin’s defense, she is so big that she can’t walk 2 steps through a conservative conference without being mobbed. So, it’s a little different game for her than everyone else)

After some time in the bar, I headed out with Elizabeth Crum and Sean Hackbarth to a dive bar next door because Elizabeth wanted a snack. The bar was a meat market and listening to Elizabeth try to stop herself from making snarky comments about how skanky some of the women were dressed was the highlight of that jaunt. Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel and that was it for the night at 2 AM.

Saturday morning was the last day of the conference and it opened up with the “A-List” speakers rolling through speech after speech.

Poor Joe the Plumber had to open things up. I thought he might blow it because he didn’t seem prepared at all the night before, but he actually did a great speech.

You know, before this conference, I thought Joe the Plumber was on minute 16 of his 15 minutes of fame, but I have changed my mind about him. I do think he has something to add to the conservative movement and I hope he hangs in there and keeps plugging.

My favorite speaker of the day turned out to be Grover Norquist. He gave a short, funny, well thought out talk about the differences between the conservative and liberal coalitions.

After him, my fave wasn’t such a big surprise: Michelle Malkin rocked the house.

Michelle Malkin

Additionally, the other highlight of the session was my buddy Melissa Clouthier getting an Al Gore award for internet excellence:

Melissa Clouthier & the Al Gore award for internet excellence.

After that, we headed to lunch and got in few more snaps:

The RFC Radio girls, Melissa Clouthier, Elizabeth Crum, & Tabitha Hale.

Melissa Clouthier, Elizabeth Crum, & Tabitha Hale

Tabi and me,

John Hawkins and Tabitha Hale

Elizabeth Crum and me,

John Hawkins and Elizabeth Crum

After that, there were a few more panels and a really great closing session featuring Rob Bluey from The Heritage Foundation, Erick Erickson from Redstate, and Matt Lewis from Politics Daily.

Rob Bluey, Matt Lewis, Rob Bluey

Once that was done, everybody said their good-byes and I began the trip back. I’ll spare you all the details, but it featured three wrong turns, an outrageous $21 toll fee in Pennsylvania, and weather so bad in Wilmington, NC near the end of the trip that I thought I might be driving into a hurricane.

Wilmington non-hurricane

All in all, it was a great conference, I had a fantastic time and I would recommend that everyone attend the next AFP shindig, The Defending The American Dream Summit which is occurring in DC on October 2nd. If it’s as good as the RightOnline conference was, you won’t want to miss it.

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