As my fellow Gaggler Liz White reported yesterday, Sarah Palin has raked in a cool $12 million in personal income since quitting the Juneau Statehouse last July. But the more interesting number, at least as it pertains to politics, is how much she has given out—or rather, how little.
Typically, White House hopefuls form political action committees (PACs) so they can travel around the country raising money for, and donating money to, other members of their party. The point is to amass political capital and gather chits that could help them in future campaigns. But of the $400,000 Palin's SarahPac raised from individual donors in the last three months, only $9,500—or 2.4 percent—went to current Republican candidates: $2,500 for Sean Duffy in Wisconsin; $1,000 for Allen West in Florida; $1,000 for Adam Kinzinger in Illinois; $2,000 for Rand Paul in Kentucky; and $1,000 for Vaughn Ward in Idaho. In contrast, Palin spent $243,000 on consultants, $16,000 on hotels, and $14,000 to de-ice a private jet.
In my view, Palin's current financial patterns—the focus on personal money over PAC money; the meager campaign donations—suggest that she's not interested in running for president (at least not yet). To see why, compare her first-quarter FEC report to the reports from a pair of politicians who definitely are interested in 2012: Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty. All told, Romney has raised more than $1.6 million since the start of 2010; even the relatively unknown Pawlenty managed to clobber Palin with a haul of $566,000. The telling statistics, however, are their contributions: Romney gave $53,000 to 22 candidates; Pawlenty gave $29,200 to eight candidates (plus the NRSC). They're spending like actual presidential candidates, in other words. Palin is spending like a political celebrity.
Late last year, I asked whether the former Alaska governor was "too
selfish" to win over the Republican establishment and capture the 2012
GOP presidential nomination. "What's
clear from her strategy so far," I wrote, "is that she sees no need to
follow the same old dues-paying rules as her Republican forebears.
Right now, Palin probably doesn't know what she wants to do next, so
her main priority is building Brand Sarah into something strong enough
to work in any number of different arenas: maybe politics, maybe
advocacy, maybe even television." But now that the Wasilla Wonder is channeling even more of her energy into self-enrichment than she was then—Palin currently serves as a contributor to FOX News and has a Learning Channel show about Alaska in the works—I'm starting to doubt that we'll ever see her pivot back to electoral politics.