I probably had encountered Lisa de Pasquale’s work before her introduction of Rush Limbaugh, prior to his CPAC 2009 speech, but she certainly registered on my radar after the hilarious anecdote she shared that evening! I have been to CPAC (the Conservative Political Action Conference) for the last three years running, and have thoroughly enjoyed each session. Some of you have been attending for much longer than that. Lisa is the one behind the scenes who makes the magic happen year after year, ushering multiple main auditorium speakers to the stage, ensuring panel sessions adhere to schedule and arranging logistics for the evening banquets.

                Lisa works all through the calendar year to ensure that each CPAC is successful and the countless hours that are devoted to this effort pay off handsomely as the conference unfolds. CPAC possesses a storied and star-studded history. (For example, Ronald Reagan addressed the first CPAC in 1975 and subsequently appeared for a number of return engagements.) In an age of media saturation that has impacted politics as much as any industry, building expectations that each CPAC will surpass the previous conference can be daunting. Yet, Lisa tirelessly brings it to fruition.

                If masterminding CPAC were the sum total of Lisa’s duties, that in itself would be sufficiently impressive, not to mention time consuming. But additionally, Lisa contributes regularly to Human Events (one of Ronald Reagan’s preferred news/commentary sources). I eagerly anticipate her Q & As each week with the likes of Nick Gillespie of “Reason” magazine, Sean Hannity, Andy Levy of Fox News Channel’s “RedEye” and many others. Lisa also has written for Townhall.com, frequently travels to and reports on conferences where her friend, Ann Coulter, appears and finds time to connect with friends on Twitter!

                I started this series because I wanted to foster greater camaraderie in the conservative Twitter community through a heightened awareness of what has made us the people we are today. Lisa has fulfilled my expectations to the hilt in today’s feature and I’m eager for you to learn more about this gifted lady. Follow her on Twitter at @LisaDeP for personal updates and @CPACNews for conference information!   

               10 Questions for Lisa De Pasquale 

1.      As I would assume is the case for many of us who live outside DC, I got to know who you are by attending CPAC. I have become better acquainted with you through Twitter, but I know nothing about your formative years. Tell us about where and how you grew up. 

I was born on Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.  My parents were both in the Air Force and had just come from a stint in Alaska.  I grew up in Tallahassee with my one sister, Jennifer.  My parents divorced when I was seven.  It wasn’t as common then.  I remember my elementary school having a “support group” for children of divorced parents and there were only about six kids in the group.  Can you imagine that being the case now? 

When I was 14, I decided that the movie reviews in the “Tallahassee Democrat”, the local paper, were silly.  For so many teenagers in a small city, movies were our social life and reviews were tailored to adults.  I complained to the paper and they asked me to submit a review.  They liked it and for several years I was the “Teen Movie Critic” for the newspaper.  I remember it was really exciting for me when there was a teaser on the front page for my review of “Jurassic Park.”     

With the actual James Bond gun from "License to Kill" at the National Firearms Museum.

After going to a journalism camp in Washington D.C. and listening to Rush Limbaugh, I became more interested in conservative politics.  My first trip to D.C. was in 1995, just after the Contract with America was introduced.  It was a great time, but I only saw famous Democrats.  I shook hands with Mayor Marion Barry.  I interviewed my Congressman (a Democrat).  I saw John Kennedy, Jr. (He was handsome, at least).  The last day of the trip I went to one of those stands where they put your photo on a mug or t-shirt or something.  I had a fake photo taken of me next to Newt Gingrich.  It never occurred to me that I would ever meet him one day.  Come to think of it, I still don’t have a real photo with Newt!

I went to Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.  It’s a beautiful campus.  I visited when I was 10 years old and never thought about going to any other college.  They put a lot of emphasis on the “doing.”  I was allowed to be funny on the college radio station and political in the college paper.  Also, they brought in conservative and liberal speakers. 

2.      When did you realize you were interested in politics? Beyond that, when did you understand what it meant to be a conservative and how do you define that today?  Some might remember the story I told when I introduced Rush Limbaugh at CPAC 2009.  Put simply, in 11th grade, I had a crush on a boy and he invited me to come out to his car during lunch period and listen to Rush. I knew what I believed, but I didn’t have a label for it until I started listening and watching Rush Limbaugh’s radio and TV shows.  The 1990s were really the best time to become a young conservative.  We had the Contract with America, the 1994 revolution and Rush on TV and radio every day!  My dad also bought me Rush’s books for Christmas one year.  It was all great ammunition for fighting with my high school teachers.  I was always a good student and I didn’t get into trouble, so other kids thought it was pretty funny that I would fight with the teachers.  Since teachers knew I was an A student and not being a smartass just to get attention, they engaged with me.  The only time a teacher wasn’t respectful was when we were told to write a letter to the Florida legislature in support of a bill.  I disagreed with the bill and said so.  I was reprimanded, but decided to keep at it.  I called into the local talk radio station and told the story.  The next day, the teacher changed the assignment and apologized.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it really illustrates the mass media tools the average citizen has at their disposal. 

For me, being a conservative meant speaking your mind, especially when everyone around disagrees.  The bill the teacher wanted passed would have allowed students receiving the work-study college scholarship I was receiving to coast for two semesters rather than one semester to have the adequate GPA necessary to keep the scholarship.  I thought it was wrong because I was willing to work hard every semester.  The conservative part of me also thought about all the taxpayer money that would be wasted on students who didn’t take the first semester seriously.  I knew some of my friends in the class had no intention of keeping the scholarship and just saw it as a free ride for a year.  I didn’t think it was fair.  Being a conservative is about freedom and individual responsibility.  I’ve had a job since I was 16, so that certainly played into my conservative beliefs.

When it comes to writing, my influence has been Ann Coulter.  In addition to enjoying her writing style, she has been a wonderful mentor for me.  During low times when I thought it might be time to leave politics, she encouraged me to keep writing.  I’ll always be grateful to her for the writing opportunities I’ve had with “Human Events” and other publications.

3.      Your employer is the American Conservative Union, a highly prestigious DC-area organization. What is your exact title and how and when did you obtain this position? 

 My title is CPAC Director at the American Conservative Union.  We’re actually located in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of D.C.  I couldn’t bear to commute to D.C. every day.  I heard about the position from the former CPAC Director.  I was previously with an organization that was a CPAC cosponsor, so I had attended several CPACs and worked with the director on bringing in more conservative women speakers to the conference.  I interviewed with ACU’s Executive Vice President and Chairman and started in June 2006.  CPAC 2011 will be my 5th CPAC as director, which is a record!

4.      CPAC is THE premiere political activist event of the year for so many of us, including me. Give us a taste of what happens behind the scenes during the 3 days of the conference…and also, what are you doing for the other 362 days of the year to ensure that each CPAC is superior to the previous one? 

 A few days after CPAC 2010, I wrote a blog post about some of the behind the scenes moments.  Time goes really fast.  The only speech I’ve ever been able to sit and watch in the last 4+ years is Rush Limbaugh at CPAC 2009.  And that was only because I was on stage and couldn’t do anything but listen.  After each CPAC, I always think there is no way the next year will top that year.  Thankfully, the movement is always changing! CPAC and I are a vessel for the conservative movement’s desires!  At CPAC 2011, we’ll still be on a post-election high.  Could any TV star we could book beat seeing Senator Marco Rubio or Congressman Allen West?  It will be great, so be sure to register at www.cpac.org.  :) 

5.  And now, the requisite list of favorites: Books, movies, musical artists, TV shows, vacation spots, foods, restaurants?

Books: If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans; Guilty (OK, all of Ann Coulter’s books); Bitter is the New Black by Jen Lancaster (@altgeldshrugged); the Harry Potter series; The Bible of Unspeakable Truths by Greg Gutfeld

Movies: The Godfather I and II, Gladiator, Toy Story 3, anything Chaplin.

Musical Artists: Elvis Presley, CarbonLeaf, Lady Gaga, Fleetwood Mac and music from the soon-to-be released album by Robert Davi.

TV Shows: Mad Men, House, the Real Housewives series on Bravo, The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Sopranos, Fox NFL Sunday, Arrested Development, Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld and, beginning November 8, Conan.

Vacation Spots: Palm Beach, Florida

Foods: Chips and guacamole; Crabcakes (still searching for the best!), Chick-fil-a nuggets with a peach milkshake; Does Diet Coke count as a food?

Restaurants: Rosa Mexicano, Geranio’s in Old Town, Chick-fil-a, Sonny’s Bar-b-que

6.      You must have, by this point, many fascinating stories to share about your interactions with various political celebrities. Can you share 2 or 3 of your top anecdotes?  

Lisa with her friend, Ann Coulter, at Harvard University in 2002.

 

 Wow, this is a hard question!  I have a friend who calls me the Forrest Gump of the conservative movement, so there are a few to choose from.  The first thing that comes to mind is when I was traveling with Ann Coulter to Tallahassee, my hometown.  I was really excited about the trip.  She was coming from New York and I was coming from D.C.  I took the metro with my mom, who was on the way to her job at the Pentagon.  I made my flight, but Coulter and I never made it to Tallahassee that day.  My flight was grounded in Columbia, SC.  The flight attendant said there was a “national emergency.”  It was the morning of September 11, 2001.  Within a few minutes, I was able to get in touch with my mom, who was still at the Pentagon.  Coulter was on her way to the airport when it happened and was stuck in Queens.  I don’t want to be one of those people who make a national tragedy about them, but it was just one of those moments when the real world and my Forrest Gump life collided.

Finally meeting Rush in person was so unbelievable that I barely remember it.  I know we spent about 20 minutes in the green room, but I don’t remember much about it.  We took photos.  He asked what had been the biggest news to come out of the conference.  I have no idea what I said.  As it turned out, it hadn’t happened yet.  The most auspicious moment of CPAC 2009 was definitely Rush’s first “National Address to the Nation.”  It was probably the most significant moment leading up to the 2010 elections.  When Rush spoke, it was one month after Obama’s inauguration.  Conservatives were on the ropes, but Rush gave a message of hope.  The fight for freedom wasn’t lost; it was just beginning.

7.      You recently conducted an engaging interview with Eric Metaxas, author of the newest biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. What role should faith, whether Christian or otherwise, play in politics and public engagement today?

First, given today’s hectic political lifestyles, not everyone can follow Harry Truman’s advice — if you want a friend in D.C., get a dog.  To survive today’s political battles, you must have an anchor that offers unconditional love and that affords you both a sense of protection and wonder at the greater plan at work in earthly culture. 

But delving further, politics at its base level is about legislating the human condition — an exercise that necessarily invokes morality and concepts of right and wrong.  While existentialists would argue that man is born with an inherent moral compass, numerous “Lord of the Flies” experiments throughout human history (the just concluded Pelosi Congress being the most recent) would tend to argue otherwise.

Successful politicians must repair to a code of morality handed down by God, tended daily by walking in faith.  Virtually the entire canon of western law is derived from the Code of Hammurabi in the Old Testament.  No Ivy League graduate seminar in the past 5,000 years has substantially improved upon these values.

8.      You blog and also maintain two Twitter accounts, so it is fair to say that you’re integrally involved in social media. When did you begin both of these?

@CPACnews has been on Twitter since July 2008.  In March 2010, I decided that I needed to start a separate personal account (@LisaDeP) after I realized that conservative activists might not want to hear what I think about after 8 p.m., which is generally reality TV.  Twitter has been a great way to connect with activists and bloggers, promote CPAC, and make me feel better about my reality TV habit.

I started my blog, www.thelotusblog.com, in September of 2007, mostly as an outlet for non-political writing and thoughts.  Thankfully, I’ve been able to combine my political and pop culture side in my Human Events column, the De Pasquale’s Dozen.  It’s fun to read about serious people being non-serious.  I also do the CPAC Director’s blog at www.cpac.org.

9.      I’m fascinated by what you do and from the outside, it looks very appealing, fun and challenging. 10 years ago, would you have thought you would be doing what you are for a living or is it all essentially a huge surprise?

The funny thing is that 10 years ago, I was doing the same thing, but on a smaller scale.  I was Program Director at the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute.  I organized conferences for Hill interns and conservative women with many of the speakers you see at CPAC – Ann Coulter, Bay Buchanan, Michelle Malkin, Star Parker, among others.  I also organized their campus lectures.

In high school and college, I didn’t know about all the opportunities that exist within the conservative movement.  However, there is (at least) one negative to working in politics in D.C.: your personal life suffers.  I don’t mean happy hour-type personal life; I mean your relationships, both romantic and with friends.  Politics isn’t a 9 to 5 job.  When you work at a non-profit, there is no such thing as “office hours” and you can’t have an ego about doing menial tasks.  We’ve all stuffed envelopes on the weekend or worked until midnight when dinner is an old granola bar you found in your desk.  Then Rush Limbaugh reads an article you wrote over the air or you see thousands of people go wild when Vice President Cheney makes a surprise appearance and it all seems worth it.

10.  Tell us about 3 memorable life experiences so far, as well as 3 goals that remain on your list.

Life Experiences:

1. The first email I ever sent was in 12th grade.  My mom was in the Navy and in Egypt at the time, so we were rarely able to talk.  It was amazing to me that we were having a conversation within a few days or hours of the last correspondence.  I was at school and half the class had gathered around the computer to see how it worked.

2. I don’t remember how old I was, but my dad, my sister and I were visiting my grandfather (Poppy) in Orlando.  He was a retired Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force.  He had grown up in Glasco, a small town in upstate New York that was mostly Italian immigrants.  He was a great storyteller.      

Lisa's mom painted this watercolor of Lisa and her dog, Buster.

3. The first time I met my dog, Buster.  He was at a foster home in Northwest D.C.  He was a shy dog, but came right up to me and licked my nose.  I was in love.  I had him for almost 9 years.  He passed away in 2008.  I often read this poem and think of him.

Goals:

1. Write a book and then promote it on “Red Eye” (see how I snuck in an extra goal?)

2. Have my own place in Palm Beach

3. Soul mate, children, white picket fence, etc. (OK, I’m up to like 6 goals now.  I guess I better get started!)