Washington (CNN) - Following his disappointing sixth place finish in this weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee criticized the conference as increasingly irrelevant to the conservative movement and accused its organizers of conducting a "pay for play" event.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a libertarian icon, won Saturday's straw poll with 31 percent of the vote. Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich each took in 4 percent, earning them a tie for sixth.
Huckabee, who has never fared well in the poll, said the results did not surprise him. "CPAC has has become increasingly libertarian and less Republican over the last years, one of the reasons I didn't go this year," he said Saturday on Fox News, where he is a paid contributor.
The 2008 GOP presidential candidate said the "truly grassroots" energy on the right lies in the Tea Party movement.
"Where CPAC was historically the event, the Tea Parties now are having their own events all over the country and a lot more truly grassroots people are getting involved because of the Tea Parties," Huckabee argued.
He added: "Because of the way that [CPAC] solicits sponsors it has almost become a pay-for-play. It's almost like, who will pay money to be able to be a sponsor and get time on the program. It's one of the things that has hurt it's credibility in recent years."
A CPAC organizer did not respond when asked to comment on Huckabee's observations.