Palin’s SarahPAC Embarrassment: Consultants Are Cashing In
The ex-governor and VP pick railed against political consultants at CPAC. But her latest FEC filings show they took millions of dollars from her in the last election cycle.
Sarah Palin attempted to relaunch her political career and her political action committee, SarahPAC, on Thursday with a Web video called “Loaded for Bear,” which presented the former Alaska governor as the new kingmaker for conservative populists in the GOP.
The video riffed off her speech at CPAC, in which Palin railed against “the big consultants, the big money men, and the big bad media.” But there’s an irony alert ahead: the current stated purpose of SarahPAC is to raise money ahead of the 2014 election—most of which will be spent on conservative consultants.
Don't believe me? Well, this is a perfect time to page through SarahPAC’s Federal Election Commission filings, which—helpfully enough—were just released yesterday.
Seen through the lens of the invaluable Center for Responsive Politics, Palin’s PAC spent $5.1 million in the last election cycle (more than it raised in that time period, raising some questions about Palin’s claims of fiscal responsibility).
But the real news comes when you look at how donors’ money was actually doled out: just $298,500 to candidates. The bulk of the rest of it, more than $4.8 million, went to—you guessed it—consultants.
That’s some seriously hypocritical overhead.
In total, Palin’s PAC spent $980,000 on campaign expenses,$1.3 million on administrative costs (including almost a million dollars on postage), and three-quarters of a million on fundraising. Hidden in all of this—amid the direct mail and the media buys—is consultants’ cut of every dollar spent.
These are the top-line costs of life in PAC era. But the devilish details in expense reports are what makes it really come alive. Palin’s chief PAC consultant, Tim Crawford, pocketed more than $321,000 this election cycle in direct payments alone, according to the documents. Aries Petra Consulting was taking in between $6,000 and $8,000 a month for speechwriting and “grassroots consulting”—something that sounds like an oxymoron, but ended up costing north of $160,000.
C&M Transcontinental racked up $10,000 a month in management consulting, which is hard to imagine for a PAC whose job is simply to raise money and spend it on candidates. Inside SarahPAC, there were consultants for research and consultants for logistics and consultants for issues and on and on and on. It's hard to find any area where consultants weren’t employed.
So when Palin thundered at CPAC that “Now is the time to furlough the consultants, and tune out the pollsters, send the focus groups home and throw out the political scripts, because if we truly know what we believe, we don’t need professionals to tell us”—it was a riff written by speechwriters and informed by all tools she tried to diss.