Booze-fuelled parties, MAGA darlings and a sex assault scandal: Inside the life of Matt Schlapp
Matt Schlapp and his wife Mercedes have a long reputation of being the conservative darlings of Washington, D.C.
They are known for the lavish shindigs at their Virginia mansion with an array of cocktails and line-up of some of the most influential figures on the right.
The parties at Conservative Political Action Conferences have become stuff of legend – with late nights in hotel suites, drunken arguments and on-the-nose comments that would lead to being ‘cancelled’ if made in public.
But in recent months their presence and image in the nation’s capital has taken a hit because of misconduct allegations against Matt Schlapp.
American Conservative Union treasurer Bob Beauprez, one of the leaders of CPAC, resigned this week over payments made in Schlapp’s defense in a lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault.
Republican staffer Carlton Huffman claimed Schlapp grabbed his crotch during a night of drinking while they were on the campaign trail with Herschel Walker in Georgia in January.
Matt Schlapp and his wife Mercedes have a long reputation of being the conservative darlings of Washington, D.C. They are known for the lavish shindigs at their Virginia mansion with an array of cocktails and line-up of some of the most influential figures on the right
Schlapp has denied the allegations, but the claims have sent ripples through the organization that puts on the biggest conservative conferences – and parties – of the year.
His rise through the Washington media, political and social circles is detailed in Washington Post reporter Ben Terris’s upcoming book being released June 6, The Big Break: The Gamblers, Party Animals, and True Believers Trying to Win in Washington While America Loses Its Mind.
It details a Christmas party at the 10,000-square-foot Virginia home of Matt and Mercedes Schlapp attended by Trump administration staffers, Matt Gaetz and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Terris also delves into Matt’s upbringing in Kansas, dominated by a ‘difficult relationship’ with his ‘distant’ alcoholic father.
He then became one of Trump’s most ardent supporters and was on the front lines as his team of lawyers tried to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election win.
Matt arrived in Washington after winning a House race for former Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt and then joined George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.
He was part of the crew known as the ‘Brookes Brothers riot’ that showed up outside a Miami-Dade County to demand an end to the ballot recount in the race against Al Gore.
Schlapp’s rise through the Washington media, political and social circles is detailed in Washington Post reporter Ben Terris’s upcoming book being released June 6, The Big Break: The Gamblers, Party Animals, and True Believers Trying to Win in Washington While America Loses Its Mind .
Gore won the popular vote but Bush won the election in 2000 after a legal battle over disputed vote counts in the state of Florida.
After working for Bush, Schlapp left the White House in 2005, set up a consulting firm and then started to make regular appearances on TV.
The interview slots became so regular for Schlapp he would complain when the makeup brush was too soft, Terris writes.
‘When I ﬁrst began writing about him he had the reputation as being a Nice Republican’, Terris explains.
According to the book, he could be trusted to go on TV to ‘critique President Barack Obama without saying anything (too) racist’.
In 2015 the Schlapps grappled over whether to back Donald Trump in his White House run.
The business mogul had been a regular speaker at CPAC since 2011, but his hard line comments on immigration caused concern for Matt’s wife Mercy, who was from a Spanish-speaking Cuban immigrant family.
They also considered dropping their support for Trump for the sake of their daughters when the infamous 2005 Access Hollywood video surfaced.
But after a few bottles of wine at their second home, Matt and Mercy decided they were all in.
Terris writes that ultimately they believed Hillary Clinton would do ‘nothing’ for them.
Their loyalty to Trump was symbolized by an enormous flag baring his name hanging from a crane outside their Virginia mansion.
In December 2021, in the aftermath of the Trump administration, Matt called D.C. a ‘hostile place’.
‘D.C. can be the capital of Blue America and we will ﬁnd the capital of Red America.
‘I’m not saying we are going to have a civil war. I’m just saying you can’t treat us this rudely and expect us to play ball,’ he told Terris in a cigar bar in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.
He said he ‘felt more powerful than ever’ even with Trump out of D.C. life because his CPAC conferences were still bringing in the biggest conservative names.
His parties were still a priority, and the book details how he once ‘yelled’ at subordinate because he thought the crab cakes at an event were ‘too small’ compared to jumbo-sized cookies on an adjacent platter.
The CPAC conferences were as much known for their drinking and debauchery as their conservative guests and the most prominent names in the MAGA world.
In winter 2022, when the event took place in Florida because of the more relaxed COVID requirements, a student from North Dakota and a British man had to be separated because of a drunken spat over the Queen, NATO and the war in Ukraine.
‘I would defend Russia to the f***ing end,’ the student shouted. ‘F*** you, you f***ing NATO shill!’
Terris writes also bizarrely suggested the Brit should perform a sex act on Queen Elizabeth, before other members of the conference intervened.
Matt, signing copies of his book ‘The Desecrators’ at the same conference, started to discuss the cancel culture that he would later become a victim of.
The new book details a Christmas party at the 10,000-square-foot Virginia home of Matt and Mercedes Schlapp attended by Trump administration staffers, Matt Gaetz and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh
Matt arrived in Washington after winning a House race for former Kansas Rep. Todd Tiahrt and then joined George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. He is pictured speaking at CPAC Hungary in May 2023
‘It’s the story of the radical left trying to destroy the country and how to ﬁght back,’ Matt said, handing one of his books to an attendee. ‘And it’s also the story of our own cancellation.’
In writing the book, his co-author Deal W. Hudson said he found out how much Matt and his wife Mercy had ‘sacrificed’ to run the ACU and CPAC, how they had been threatened and how much money they had lost.
They were targets from within their own conservatives wheelhouse and from the media.
‘In 2020, the so-called mob came for Matt. It began with an article written by a liberal muckraker named Judd Legum, which he had headlined a schlapp in the face,’ Terris writes.
It detailed how companies like Comcast, Verizon and Walmart claimed to support Black Lives Matter while paying for Matt’s lobbying services.
Matt had described BLM as ‘hostile to families, capitalism, cops, unborn life and gender,’ and previously tweeted ‘All Lives Matter’.
‘One by one, after a series of follow-up posts, each company ended their business relationships with Schlapp, and by 2021 his contract money went from $2.4 million to just $390,000,’ Terris writes.
Matt and Mercedes Schlapp with their five children in their home in Alexandria, Virginia
‘Still, the ordeal had an upside. The Schlapps were obvious creatures of the Swamp and had often been looked at skeptically by the MAGA masses.’
CPAC had become a place where the ‘cancelled’ speakers were drawing the biggest attentions, along with the parties.
At one after party, his daughter reportedly cut off Schlapp’s martini intake when he said he would break into Disney World and ‘raid the Magic Kingdom’.
Terris writes that at another soiree in Matt’s suite he was ‘trying his best to get cancelled’ when taking questions about whether Tim Scott would be a good vice presidential pick for Trump.
‘You think he picks a gay vice president?’ Matt said. ‘You think that’s going to work out great? I’m okay with it, if you’re okay with it?’
There is no suggestion that Scott is gay and there have never been reports to suggest otherwise.
He is unmarried and single, and spoke about being a virgin at 30 when he entered public life.
‘The joke said much more about Matt and his complicated feelings about homosexuality,’ Terris writes.
‘Publicly, he had been more accepting of gay people than much of the CPAC universe, announcing from the start of his tenure at the ACU that gay conservatives were all ‘welcome’ and taking meetings with groups like the Log Cabin Republicans, an advocacy group of gay conservatives.’
‘But privately things were more complicated. Ross Hemminger, a former CPAC spokesman, once told me that in 2015 he had asked Matt if he would ever attend a gay wedding.
‘This was a question being asked of Republican candidates for president at the time, and Hemminger thought Matt should have a good answer prepared for himself.
‘But Hemminger was also curious because he was himself a gay conservative— something he was open about with Matt— and he and Matt had become close work associates.
‘He said he would never attend a gay wedding,’ Hemminger said. ‘And then I asked, ‘Well, you’d come to mine, though, right?”
‘I don’t think he’s a bigot or a homophobe,’ Hemminger told Terris. ‘I think he’s conﬂicted.’
Matt even enraged fellow conservatives by referring to a transgender swimming by her referred pronoun and insisted her story deserved ‘compassion.’
‘I’ve never known anyone to fail here,’ he said. ‘I think I’m the only one I know to actually fail in Washington,’ he told Terris referring to being canceled for ‘speaking his mind.’
‘Over time, I guess, because people have been so harsh in their language toward me, I’m less concerned about what people think of me,’ Matt said. ‘I am less politically correct today than I would have been. I’m less willing to play the game.’
CPAC was still a force among conservatives in the U.S. and around the globe. Alongside the centerpiece event based in or near Washington every year, there is CPAC Australia, CPAC Brazil, CPAC Japan, CPAC South Korea, CPAC Hungary, CPAC Israel, and CPAC Texas.
But the storm clouds gathered when Huffman came forward with allegations of a night of drinking and a subsequent encounter on the campaign trail in Georgia.
Herschel Walker was dealing with a litany of allegations – including forcing an ex-girlfriend to have an abortion while he was publicly pro-life.
Matt headed to Georgia to provide reinforcement and to try and get Republican Walker over the line against the incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock in the December 2022 runoff election.
He met Huffman in the small town of Perry and was tasked with chauffeuring Matt around.
Terris writes that Huffman gave Schlapp a lift to the Hilton Garden Inn near Atlanta Airport and later the pair had a drink.
‘What happened that night is something Huﬀman wouldn’t talk about publicly (or tell me) for months’, Terris wirtes.
‘Through a lawyer, Matt would deny Huﬀman’s account, and the two men would go to court over it.
‘Suﬃce to say it did change the course of both men’s careers, and not at all in the way Huﬀman had imagined.’
According to Huffman, who told Terris his side of story, Matt started downing Tito’s vodka at a restaurant in the Atlanta suburb of Buckhead.
They then went off to another nearby dive bar, where they kept drinking.
‘After about ten minutes, Matt scooted a little too close and left his leg pressed up against Huﬀman’s,’ Terris writes. ‘“What’s that?” Matt asked.’
Republican staffer Carlton Huffman claimed Schlapp grabbed his crotch during a night of drinking while they were on the campaign trail with Herschel Walker in Georgia in January
‘He didn’t really seem drunk. He wasn’t slurring his words or any-thing. But he’d had seven or eight drinks at that point, by Huﬀman’s count.
‘“That’s my Sig Sauer,” Huﬀman replied.’
“What’s a Sig Sauer?”
‘“It’s my handgun.”’
‘That remark made the hairs on the back of Huﬀman’s neck stand up. Around then, Huﬀman suggested he drive Matt back to the hotel,’ Terris adds.
They then took the 15 minute drive from the restaurant back to the hotel. Ten minutes in, ‘Matt put his hand on Huffman’s leg.’
‘Huﬀman froze, unsure of what to do. As they approached the hotel, Matt’s hand crept into Huﬀman’s lap, grabbing him by the crotch and lingering there.’
‘All Huﬀman could think to do was sit there, and not send Matt any signals that this was at all welcome. Don’t let him think you are enjoying this, he thought. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Matt’s lips were pursed.’
Matt allegedly invited Huffman up to his room but he declined.
The allegations then broke in the press after Walker’s defeat and it has now turned into a legal battle.
Matt has denied the allegations.
DailyMail.com has reached out to CPAC for comment.
The Big Break: The Gamblers, Party Animals, and True Believers Trying to Win in Washington While America Loses Its Mind by Ben Terris is out in most book stores on June 6.