John Avlon, the co-founder of the anti-Tea Party No Labels group, wrote a bizarre attack piece on Sarah Palin’s lean political action committee last week after completely misconstruing what Palin said at the Conservative Political Action Conference. At CPAC, the former Alaska governor and Tea Party leader denounced the permanent political class and urged Republicans to “furlough” the consultants.
Palin railed against consultants and those who need them for stories–like Avlon, who, along with those like Mark McKinnon, feigns objectivity while pushing the “No Labels” agenda that is mutually exclusive with that of conservatives and Tea Partiers. Those like Avlon often bash influential Tea Party conservatives like Palin to pay tribute to their liberal mainstream media masters, who then reward them with dutiful pats on the head and television appearances for him to peddle his “centrist” books the country does not care about, will not read, and certainly has no intention of buying.
More importantly, though, Avlon and the No Labels crowd are directly threatened by the rise of conservatives and Tea Partiers, and they want to do everything they can do diminish the person who serves as a successful spokeswoman and clearinghouse for conservative and Tea Party candidates.
Never in Palin’s CPAC speech, which Avlon references heavily in his less than substantive article, did she say a politician cannot have advisers. There is a huge difference between a politician’s staff who work almost exclusively for a politician and consultants who look for a new roster of candidates every election cycle.
Palin was criticizing consultants associated with establishment groups like American Crossroads, which spent over $100 million dollars and got barely over a 1% return on their investment while supporting no winning candidates in 2012. She was criticizing consultants who do not care about electing conservatives or even winning elections so long as they just get paid.
Contrast that with Palin.
Every new Republican senator elected to the Senate in the 2012 election cycle was endorsed by Palin in the their primaries. Nobody else can say the same. Her PAC gets results, and SarahPAC donors are not the rubes Avlon stereotypically portrays them to be, and they get that.
At CPAC, Palin was railing against the types of advisers who would charge a candidate per speech, and promptly advise the candidate to make as many speeches as possible. She was lambasting advisers who make commissions off television commercials and then insist that the only “way to win” is to make as many commercials as possible so they can, most importantly, line their pockets. Palin was blasting consultants who can be bought off from working for other candidates with a six-figure check. The types who beg to work for a candidate and then rail against that candidate when they are rejected without, of course, disclosing their previous overtures. The types who dictate campaign strategy not based on what is good for the candidate but what is good for their bottom line (more television ads!).
Palin was criticizing politicians and party leaders who threaten to pull support for candidates if those candidates do not hire their friends. She was ripping the types of consultants who start bipartisan rackets and have companies with various shades of purple in their names and insist they are “above the fray” or without labels and partisanship, which often means they have no cores or convictions except self-promoting themselves and doing whatever is the most politically expedient that will get them invited to Aspen Ideas events and insufferable dinner parties populated by people who mistake activity for achievement, process for substance, and kabuki “bipartisanship” for leadership.
Palin’s staff is different.
If Avlon had looked at the filings, which evidence suggests he did not, he would see Palin’s advisers are salaried–they make the same amount every filing period. They don’t hang “for sale” signs around their necks every election cycle to field a slate of candidates to butter their breads. They don’t go on television shows while not disclosing their business interests or allegiances when attacking other candidates. In fact, it is difficult to even think of the last time a Palin staff member actually went on a television program. Again, it is because these are people who work for Palin, are assembled for the long run, and put Palin’s interests ahead of their own. They don’t have a stable or roster of clients.
Yet, Avlon is quick to criticize Palin for hypocrisy that is not there instead of investigating the tax dollars Obama is wasting while shutting down White House tours. Of course, that topic will not get Avlon attention from his mainstream media masters, so he cannot touch such topics that are “off limits.” He says Palin should have donated more money to candidates when there are federal limits ($5,000 to candidate per election cycle) on such donations. Palin–and her staff–is very selective in choosing and endorsing candidates because they go about it strategically and care about winning, instead of just producing commercials to make money, which Palin’s advisers are not in the business of doing. They are in the business of serving her, helping her vet candidates, and organizing events for her.
In the article, Avlon falsely asserts Palin is losing her relevance “because the vast majority of the money she raised for SarahPAC this cycle came in 2011, when there was still feverish expectation that Palin would run for president. When she retreated, the citizen spigot dried up.”
According to FEC filings, SarahPAC raised $2,420,570.90 in 2011. In 2012, SarahPAC raised $2,588,619.63, which means, contrary to Avlon’s false assertion, SarahPAC raised more money in 2012, after she decided not to run for president in an announcement on the Mark Levin Show in 2011.
But those facts do not stop those like Avlon from trying to diminish Palin.
To top it off, this information is not even new. SarahPAC’s finances were reported in January. Avlon chose to write his column, a bit coincidentally, at the end of the first quarter fundraising cycle and the beginning of the second quarter to try to turn off the spigots so groups like his No Labels can have better odds of electing anti-Tea Party and anti-conservative candidates the mainstream media elite salivate over.
But after claiming that Palin does not have the cash flow like politicians–and their bevy of consultants–Avlon wants to label as “leaders,” he slams Palin for being like the “leaders” he said she was not.
Avlon is right, in the sense that Palin does not lead the Republican establishment whose company people like Avlon, who rail against conservatives and Tea Partiers, enjoy.
But he is wrong to conflate being a party leader with relevance.
He should ask “party leaders” like John Boehner, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Eric Cantor how relevant their endorsements are. He may find they may be as relevant as Avlon’s.
Ask Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who said at CPAC he would not be in the U.S. Senate without Palin’s endorsement. Palin swung Tea Party voters the week before the runoff to ensure Cruz made the runoff against Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst. Those who conventionally donated money in that Senate race did not move the needle as much as Palin’s endorsement, which Cruz featured in radio and television ads the week before the runoff, which someone who claims to know something about the conservative movement like Avlon should be aware.
Did Avlon bother to reach out to Ted Cruz’s campaign? Had he, he may have discovered that they had never seen a politician–or any figure, for that matter, from Hollywood or the sports world–move numbers statewide like Palin did after she campaigned with Cruz.
Immediately after Palin endorsed Cruz, Cruz campaign spokesperson John Drogin told Breitbart News the campaign received eight times the web traffic it normally got that weekend and nearly 1,000 new donations. He essentially said her endorsement provided rocket fuel to the campaign.
Did Avlon bother to reach out to Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE)’s campaign?
Deb Fischer, who was elected to the Senate in Nebraska because of Palin’s endorsement, was a classic example of Palin’s power. Republican establishment groups backed Jon Bruning and Washington conservatives–like Jim DeMint, Freedomworks and the Club for Growth–backed Don Stenberg.
But it just took just 135 words from Palin, though, to shake up the race. Fischer’s campaign manager Aaron Trost told Breitbart News then that her endorsement brought the campaign grassroots volunteers, gave Fischer earned media statewide that they could not have been able to buy, letting people across Nebraska know Palin had endorsed Fischer, and led to surges in online contributions and phone calls. Trost told Breitbart News then that Palin’s endorsement had “a big impact on publicity” and the campaign simply had an “awesome day” after her endorsement was announced.
Did Avlon talk to DeMint, who in 2012 said Palin’s endorsement was the most influential?
During the 2010 election cycle, Palin’s endorsement carried as much weight, and she showed she is the conventional type of politician who must buy favors with PAC donations.
Palin endorsed Nikki Haley and propelled her to victory in a nasty runoff in 2010 in South Carolina. She endorsed Susana Martinez in 2010 and was responsible for pushing her to a primary victory in New Mexico.
People like Avlon often rail against Republicans for not being diverse, yet fail to acknowledge that Palin’s endorsements are primarily responsible for increased diversity in the Republican caucus. Palin also gave Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) national buzz to make him a household name in a way conventional people like Avlon and those he deems as “leaders” never could.
Furthermore, Palin’s endorsement ensured Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), a black conservative from South Carolina, would get elected to the House in 2010–and then appointed to the Senate–representing a district that has Fort Sumter in it.
Where are the diverse Republicans people like Avlon have helped elected to statewide positions?
Unlike Avlon, Palin’s supporters are smart enough to know they are help paying for Palin’s organization to help Palin select and elect conservative candidates. SarahPAC donors know they are donating money to help Palin and SarahPAC vet and elect candidates and be in it for the long haul. Those like Avlon see that as a threat–or perhaps are jealous of her influence or simply see attacking Palin as the cheapest way of getting on television to attempt to maintain what little relevancy he ever even had–and want to run SarahPAC out of town to disarm Palin from helping elect conservative candidates and defending herself against an onslaught of attacks from those who see her as a threat.
The value in Palin’s endorsement is not in the amount of money her PAC can donate to candidates. As the above examples show, the value in the actual endorsement itself, which is a signal to Tea Partiers and conservatives to go to work to fight for a particular candidate. One Tweet or Facebook note from Palin gives a candidate more than $10,000 in donations across two election cycles from any politician. It is called a “force multiplier.”
The bottom line is those like Avlon want to be the kingmakers. They want to be vettors. They want to be the gatekeepers in order to tilt the playing field against conservatives and Tea Partiers. They want to disarm Palin of her staff to render her less effective because they know SarahPAC is successful. They know Palin seeks to diminish every bit of influence permanent political class members like Avlon seek to have. They do not want to see conservatives and Tea Partiers elected to Washington to end their financial or information rackets, and they know Palin is the most successful at getting such candidates elected.
To put it simply, Palin has the “juice” that those like Avlon and the permanent political class crave but know they do not have.
Avlon should ask himself this question concerning Palin’s relevancy: if he were running in a Republican primary in a red state in which he and his wife would lose all of their money if he lost, and he had only one endorsement he could get, whose endorsement would Avlon want?