Under the leadership of Eagle County Republicans Chair Kaye Ferry, the party continues to invite political extremists to the Vail Valley, which might explain why the local GOP currently has just one county elected official – Sheriff James van Beek — to its credit in recent years.
After co-hosting a fundraiser in Cordillera for gun enthusiast, QAnon-sympathizer and Republican congressional candidate Lauren Boebert last week, Ferry is now welcoming the Steamboat Institute’s 12th annual Freedom Conference to the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Friday-Saturday, Aug. 28-29.
The confab will feature far-right conservative activist Charlie Kirk, who’s fresh off opening the Republican National Convention by proclaiming President Donald Trump the “defender of Western civilization” and the choice between Trump and Democratic nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden as “a decision between preserving America as we know it and eliminating everything that we love.”
Kirk is also one of the founders of the Falkirk Institute with the disgraced Jerry Falwell Jr., who this week resigned as head of the conservative Liberty University in the wake of a sex scandal involving his wife and another man. Falwell has been a key Trump backer and bridge to evangelical Christians.
It’s unclear why the conservative nonprofit Steamboat Institute is holding its event in Beaver Creek instead of Steamboat (The group did not return an email inquiry.) and whether COVID-19 restrictions played a role. Turning Point USA in late July deleted a tweet mocking mask wearing after Kirk’s cofounder, Bill Montgomery, died of complications from the virus.
Also speaking this weekend in Beaver Creek will be Chapman University law professor John Eastman, whose recent Newsweek column drew praise from Trump and national condemnation from others for echoing the disproved and racist Obama birther conspiracy Trump championed for years before finally acknowledging it wasn’t true. Eastman, who’s a visiting scholar at the Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization at the University of Colorado at Boulder, questioned the eligibility of Biden vice presidential pick Kamala Harris, who was born in Oakland, Calif.
Ferry, who resigned as head of the Vail Chamber & Business Association in 2008 after referring to Denver-area snow riders buying Epic Passes as “riff-raff,” has presided over a steady radicalization of the Eagle County Republican Party that has resulted in a unanimous Democrat board of county commissioners and overwhelming blue waves in recent years.
The party’s support of Boebert, who has been invited to the White House to watch Trump’s acceptance speech on Thursday, continues a trend of embracing candidates with fringe views. Boebert’s campaign has renounced QAnon despite the candidate saying in May, “I hope that this is real …”
The unfounded conspiracy promoted by the anonymous “Q” asserts that Democrats are part of a deep state of Satan-worshipping, cannibalistic pedophiles opposed to Trump. A growing number of Republican candidates follow the conspiracy, prompting Democrats and some members of the GOP to call on Trump and other Republicans to disavow it.
The FBI has warned QAnon poses a domestic terrorism threat, but Trump last week refused to reject the conspiracy and its followers – instead saying he’s heard they “love our country” and “supposedly like me.” After hearing the conspiracy’s false premise and being asked if he could support it, Trump replied, “Is that supposed to be a bad thing or a good thing? If I can help save the world from problems, I am willing to do it. I’m willing to put myself out there.”
On Monday, former Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and more than two dozen former Republican members of Congress endorsed Biden over Trump, saying “decency matters” and “civility never goes out of style.”
Beaver Creek, site of this weekend’s Freedom Conference, was put on the map by former Republican President Gerald Ford, who built a home there after pardoning the late President Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Unlike Trump, who was impeached by the House late last year for pressuring Ukraine to smear Biden, Nixon resigned from office.
Ford pardoned Nixon to heal the country, even though he acknowledged it cost him the White House in 1976 when he was beaten by Democrat Jimmy Carter, who later became a friend of Ford. For many years Ford hosted the conservative and off-the-record AEI World Forum in Beaver Creek, which is a favorite playground of venture capitalists and corporate CEOs.
Beaver Creek’s central plaza area features the Leon Black Family Ice Rink atop the Vilar Performing Arts Center. Black is the founder of the private equity firm Apollo Global Management that plucked Vail out of bankruptcy in the early 1990s, acquired Keystone and Breckenridge and took Vail Resorts public in 1997, laying the groundwork for arguably the world’s most dominant multi-national ski company.
Black, who is being subpoenaed by the attorney general of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the ongoing investigation into the finances of the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein – a former business associate of Black’s – also made headlines recently for a trip he took with Trump right around the time Apollo owned Vail.
In 1996, Black and Trump, while on a business trip to look at various properties and potential deals, hit several discos and maybe even a strip club together, according to a Senate Intelligence Committee report. The bipartisan report from the Republican-controlled committee, which details the extent of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election that helped propel Trump to the White House, also examines the counterintelligence threats to and vulnerabilities of Trump.
The Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creek is just beneath the Black Family Ice Rink and is named for Alberto Vilar, an investment manager and philanthropist who spent 10 years in jail for fraud.
The Park Hyatt’s primary conference area is called Ford Hall for the president who died in 2006, and Beaver Creek and nearby Vail have a long history of presidential and vice presidential visits from both parties, including most recently Mike Pence in 2018.