Updated July 9, 2010 at 10:05 p.m.
For more information about the Steamboat Institute and the Freedom Conference, visit www.steamboatinstitute.org
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Institute co-founder Rick Akin finally landed the big fish he was after.
Akin confirmed Friday that influential Republican strategist and political analyst Karl Rove will be the keynote dinner speaker during August’s Freedom Conference in Steamboat Springs.
“Reagan was a big fish, this is a much bigger fish,” Akin said, comparing Michael Reagan’s appearance at last year’s inaugural Freedom Conference to the news about Rove. “Reservations have been coming in like crazy today. I would call that positive feedback.”
Rove, as much a hero in conservative circles as he is a villain in liberal ones, was senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush until his resignation late in Bush’s second term. Rove is now a contributor to Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek.
His lengthy career as a political strategist dates to the 1970s and took off during the successful election campaigns of, among others, former U.S. Sen. John Ashcroft and Bush’s two Texas gubernatorial campaigns and presidential campaigns.
He’s no stranger to controversy, having been named in a number of political scandals.
The Freedom Conference, sponsored and organized by the Steamboat Institute, is scheduled for Aug. 27 and 28 at The Steamboat Grand. The Steamboat Institute is a local conservative nonprofit organization that touts values of limited government, lower taxes, free markets, strong national defense, and individual rights and responsibilities.
This will be the second year of the Freedom Conference. Confirmed speakers include Rove; Virginia Thomas, founder of Liberty Central; Tony Blankley, a panelist on KCRW-Santa Monica radio show “Left, Right and Center;” Yaron Brook, president and executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute; Dan Mitchell, senior fellow at The Cato Institute; Peter Brookes, senior fellow for National Security Affairs and a fellow for Policy Studies with the Heritage Foundation; and Jason Mattera, author of “Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation.”
Although landing Rove is significant for the Freedom Conference, Akin said he’s just part of a bigger agenda.
“You have to have a few big-name speakers,” Akin said. “Certainly Karl Rove and Virginia Thomas fit that bill. But that’s not the primary motivation. I want people to hear people like Yoran Brook and Peter Brookes and Jason Mattera.
“We’ve got an array of people who can really convey a lot of information and help people understand things, but they’re not necessarily the names that attract attendees and get them in the seats.”
Registration for the full conference costs $250. People also can pay to attend only certain conference sessions. For example, Rove’s dinner keynote at Thunderhead at the top of the ski area is $100. The cost includes dinner and the gondola ride, Akin said.
Last year’s inaugural Freedom Conference included appearances by Grover Norquist, the president and founder of Americans for Tax Reform; Michael Reagan, conservative talk radio host and son of late President Ronald Reagan; and Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
Akin said organizers of the Freedom Conference want it to be the conservative alternative to the Aspen Ideas Festival, going on this week.
“We’re having a little more success in doing what we intended to do than we thought we would — or at least it’s happening faster,” Akin said. “Some of it is the tea party movement and the appetite for conservative speakers and Libertarian speakers.”