Sarah Palin, Inc.

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  July 17, 2009

Barely any effort is made to pretend otherwise. Several of Base Connect's clients, like Freedom's Defense Fund and Black Republican PAC, exist only as a theoretical construct — just words on the piece of mail. A Base Connect executive, who serves as those organizations' treasurer, has a standard memo he submits to the FEC, to explain the lack of administrative costs for groups reporting multi-million-dollar operations: "Currently, the committee has neither paid staff nor an office headquarters." That fact is not at all clear in the materials sent to persuade movement conservatives to fund the groups — the mailings give the impression that there is some actual organization behind the name, doing battle against the apocalyptic horrors of Obama and the Democrats.

Urgent — give now
Palin can hit almost every hot button on the conservative-movement spectrum. The gun-rights crowd knows her as a rifle-toting hunter. The "Drill, Baby, Drill" crowd sees her as an energy expert. The populists buy the McCain-campaign-created image of the maverick reformer. To military fetishists, she is the proud mother of private first class Track Palin, soldier in Iraq. The economic conservatives praised her denouncing of the federal stimulus (although as governor she ultimately accepted almost every penny) and her willingness to suggest that Obama might be a socialist. (Her one major apostasy, belief in global warming, is almost never mentioned outside Alaska.)

Palin also clearly knows one of the most important lessons of the world she's entering: the urgent need for people to give now. She opened a legal-funds account earlier this year, and in the midst of a recession urged people to contribute money to cover her purported $500,000 debt — while at the same time, she was cashing a book advance reportedly worth between $4 million and $7 million. She has also already raised more than $700,000 through her political action committee, SarahPAC, since creating it earlier this year.

Finding and exploiting that urgent need, or even creating it out of thin air, drives the industry.

Gun-rights advocates, for example, should be relieved that the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress have taken virtually no action on gun control in these first six months. But an appeal for money to send thank-you notes to Capital Hill is unlikely to open many wallets.

So instead, groups like Gun Owners of America (GOA) — run by another titan of this industry, Alan M. Gottlieb — have been sending out action alerts warning, in dire terms, of an emergency threat to gun owners supposedly embedded in the Senate's health-care-reform bill (and before that, in Obama's stimulus package). The alleged danger lies in a provision that would create a digitized medical-information database, to increase efficiency, save money, and improve treatment. But according to GOA, it is possible that this could somehow result in a gun-store background check accessing your medical records — which could result (I am not making this up) in depriving people with Alzheimer's the right to illegally purchase firearms by not disclosing their condition.

Can Palin be this ruthless? Her high-school-basketball teammates didn't nickname her "Barracuda" for nothing.

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Related: Rise of the political bogeyman, Night of the living dead, Travels with Sarah, More more >
  Topics: Talking Politics , Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Rush Limbaugh,  More more >
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