By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
The latest campaign finance numbers coming various maybe-presidential candidates has produced more data points to support the theory that Sarah Palin is less interested in being a presidential candidate than in being a political celebrity. Politico reported last week that Palin's Sarah PAC raised less than those of some of her possible rivals for the 2012 GOP nomination. Palin's roughly $400,000 raised lagged behind potential rivals Tim Pawlenty ($567,000, according to the PAC's FEC filing) and Mitt Romney ($1.624 million, according to the FEC report, including an impressive $950,000 in March alone). All three were ahead of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee ($278,000 for the first quarter) and were dwarfed by Newt Gingrich, who raised $2.7 million for his 527 committee, which is a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison because it operates under different fundraising rules.
I thought the key bit from last week's Politico report was the notation that "unlike Pawlenty and Romney, Palin has done very little to add to her campaign fund," instead focusing on paid speeches and her Fox News and Discovery Channel gigs, not to mention stumping for favored candidates. That plays into the notion that she's more interested in promoting the Palin image than preparing a Palin candidacy.
Which brings us to today's report from Politics Daily which notes that Palin gave precisely no money to candidates in the 20 House races she unveiled as targets (complete with bulls-eyes) on her Facebook page last month. That announcement, of course, invited supporters to visit SarahPac.com and "join me in the fight." The implicit message being: Give me money so I can spend it on getting our candidates elected in these key races. One would think that in order to kick-start her targeting drive she might have sent a few bucks into those districts. It will be interesting to see if she eventually does (and how much).
Overall this year, Sarah PAC has spent $402,000, of which a cool $9,500 has gone to GOP candidates (that's less, Politics Daily notes, than was spent on a single photographer, who earned $11,596). Let's be clear: This sort of fundraising bait and switch is not unique to Palin, but rather is part of the leadership PAC game. Romney's Free and Strong America PAC which has spent $1.28 million this year, of which a bit more than $52,000 went to other candidates and committees; Pawlenty's Freedom First PAC spent upwards of $540,000 of which a hair under $27,000 went to other candidates and PACs; and Huckabee's Huck PAC spent $232,000 while contributing $13,500.
So if one wanted to take a crude measure, around 5.8 percent of Huckabee's spending has gone to candidates, committees and PACs, as compared to about 5 percent of Pawlenty's, 4 percent of Romney's and 2.3 percent of Palin's. But until year's end, when we can look at the final tally for each candidate, the numbers are not only crude but arguably misleading.
Then there's Newt. His American Solutions for Winning the Future comes under section 527 of the tax code, which separates it from the leadership PACs mentioned above in two important ways: First it can raise sums in unlimited amounts and from any source (PACs are confined to $5,000 per person and can't take money at all from corporations and unions) and second it is barred from making political donations. But Politico reports that the group has pulled in $2.7 million this year, which trumps the combined total of the rest of the field.
The full article is worth a read as it describes how Gingrich has used American Solutions to build a "robust political operation." My favorite part, though, is American Solutions COO Dan Varroney "rejecting the premise that American Solutions is geared towards positioning Gingrich for a 2012 presidential run. 'Not at all,' he said. 'Our focus is clear cut: to save America."
Oh that. In case you missed the point, GOP 12 points out, Gingrich has a new book coming called (and really, this isn't from the Onion), To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine. Ah how times change. I remember when Newt's literary mission was merely To Renew America.