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Right-Wing Disunity? Clashes at This Year's Conservative Political Action Conference

If there was any unifying theme to this year's conference, it was conflict between different factions on the Right.

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GOProud Chairman Chris Barron told Chris Geidner of Metro Weekly, a Washington, D.C., LGBT publication, that Mitchell was "a nasty bigot," only to apologize a day later.

Right-wing media sensation Andrew Breitbart -- king of the deceptively doctored video -- co-sponsored a party with GOProud on Friday night, featuring lesbian singer Sophie B. Hawkins. Party-goers received stickers reading, "OUR GAYS ARE MORE MACHO THAN THEIR STRAIGHTS."

Meanwhile, Ann Coulter got in on the act during a question-and-answer session after her podium presentation. Calling herself "a friend of the gays," Coulter said, "there is something to being gay apart from the sodomy." She then called for the inclusion of gay groups in the conservative movement simply because, she said, it's assumed that gays should be liberal. "The Left is trying to co-opt gays, and I don't think we should let them," Coulter said. "They should be on our side. We're for low taxes, we're against crime, we're against the terrorists who want to kill gays. Gays are natural conservatives."

One might consider such divisions good news for Democrats, if only Democrats had ever displayed any appetite for the sort of wedge-driving politics routinely practiced against them by Republicans. Yet, in the wake of Barack Obama's historic presidential victory in 2008, there does seem to be some fear among the right-wing Republican leaders who put together CPAC that infighting could lead to less than victorious results in next year's presidential and congressional contests.

Bachmann Appeals for Unity

After the requisite round of Obama-bashing, including the routine accusation that there's a socialist occupying the White House, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., opened CPAC with a rousing speech imploring right-wingers to stick together. "We cannot shun each other in 2012," she said.

Calling for victory in 2012, and inviting all attendees to a reception she hosted later that day, Bachmann shouted, "Let's party!"

Even if you missed her opening gambit, it was hard to miss Bachmann if you stayed at CPAC for any length of time. Many of the people who sought to shake her hand at her reception waited on a line the length of a corridor in order to do so. The next day, she appeared on a panel sponsored by Citizens United, the movie-producing group for which the infamous Supreme Court case, which opened the spigot of corporate cash into election campaigns, is named. Throughout the day, she popped up here and there, shaking hands in the lobby, taking her turn before the cameras of Pajamas Media. Nonetheless, she mustered only 4 percent of the vote in CPAC's straw poll.

The Koch Brothers Solidify Their Grip

Bachmann is a regular speaker at events sponsored by Americans for Prosperity, the astroturf group funded by oil magnate David Koch, who, with his brother, Charles, runs Koch Industries, one of the nation's biggest polluters. As AlterNet has chronicled for several years, the Kochs are putting their billions behind politicians who will advance their anti-regulatory agenda, and arraying those dollars against those who would stand in their way. In addition to their funding of Americans for Proserity, the Kochs fund legions of organizations and individuals that deny the scientific evidence for climate change.

A standard part of anti-Obama attacks delivered by Koch-sponsored pols is a diatribe against the Environmental Protection Agency and energy reform. Bachmann, never one to be outdone, delivered, decrying the Obama administration's energy policy, especially proposed new EPA regulations affecting carbon emissions. Bachmann also complained about regulations barring drilling and natural gas extraction in protected areas.

"We are the Saudi Arabia of energy right here," Bachmann said. "We just can't access it."