She’s earned $13 million since the 2008 presidential race that shoved her onto the national stage, but Sarah Palin apparently is a crappy tipper. A new Vanity Fair profile of the former Alaska governor paints a picture of a woman who has skyrocketed to success — stepping on staff, friends and family along the way — but who is so deeply concerned about controlling her public persona that she hired a friendly blogger to write her much-ballyhooed Facebook posts.
The wide-ranging profile documents hotels where Palin stiffed bellhops; her demands during the presidential campaign and on her busy speaking circuit; tensions with residents in her home town; and Palin’s fashion preferences (and includes a sidebar with more details on the RNC clothing flap) — up to and including mentioning her use of Spanx and push-up bras. But after the more salacious details, Vanity Fair writer Michael Joseph Gross also drops strong suggestions there’s something fishy with some of the political action committees paying Palin to boost candidates across the country — but he doesn’t quite nail it down.
This line from the profile sums up the theme of the piece:
A onetime gubernatorial aide to Palin says, “The people who have worked for her—they’re broken, used, stepped on, down in the dust.”
The most fascinating nuggets from the piece explore the many consultants Palin has paid to sharpen her image and help her as she (maybe) explores a 2012 White House bid. TPM took a close look at her spending this summer and found Palin spent nearly $400,000 on consultants, lobbying firms and the standard direct mail and fundraising firms politicians frequently use just in the second quarter.
Our piece detailed that Palin paid $22,000 to Rebecca Mansour’s Aries Petra Consulting for “internet messaging,” also known as posting on the Palin Facebook page. Previously identified by Politico as a “Los Angeles screenwriter and political neophyte whose creation of the popular cheerleading blog Conservatives4Palin (C4P) endeared her to Palin’s inner circle,” Mansour is described by Vanity Fair as “Palin’s most unconventional hire.”
From the profile:
After Mansour’s voice disappeared on C4P [by mid-August 2009], however, Palin’s voice on Facebook and Twitter started sounding increasingly provocative and irascible. A company called Aries Petra Consulting was formed in September and registered to Mansour’s home address, but under someone else’s name. (In astrology, Aries is the ram—or “RAM.”) SarahPAC’s first payment to the firm was made in October, about two weeks before Palin began her book tour. By then, Palin’s new virtual voice was growing in intensity. The more shrill it became, the more news Palin made…
Mansour’s work for the campaign only became public in February 2010 with SarahPAC’s quarterly disclosures; the day before the disclosures were filed, C4P announced that Mansour and another founder had gone to work for SarahPAC the previous year. Mansour denies that she writes Palin’s Facebook posts or Twitter feed, telling a reporter that “anything that goes out under [Palin’s] name is hers.”
Gross sees a pattern in the many firms with Palin affiliations that use the name “NorthStar,” including Jason Recher’s NorthStar Strategies:
Palin’s rooms in Wichita were booked by NorthStar Strategies, a Virginia company registered to Jason Recher. When a man in Wichita asked Palin how he could get involved if she decides to run for president, Doug McMarlin offered him a business card identifying himself as a partner in NorthStar. An Amazon.com store called the North Star Group, maintained by a Palin blogger, “sells Governor Palin’s books, and numerous products she has referenced or is known to use,” such as the red Naughty Monkey Double Dare pumps she often wears. As a side project to Conservatives4Palin, Joseph Russo in 2009 contributed to a separate pro-Palin blog called Fist of the North Star. The blog shares its name with a Japanese manga series set in a post-apocalyptic world devastated by nuclear war, in which a faithful remnant work to save their Heavenly Empress, who has been imprisoned by the corrupt Imperial Army.
Palin can afford the expensive consultants, given she’s being paid $2 million for the TLC Network show “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” and a nice advance for her new book, America by Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag. But Gross found that, despite her new-found fortune, she didn’t show much in the way of largess to the working class folks that weren’t explicitly fans: she tipped the bellhop in Wichita only $5 for seven bags, and didn’t tip another one at all, despite arriving with ten bags well after midnight. And none of the maids at either hotel received tips. Palin did, however, give a $100 bill to a St. Joseph, Michigan chocolate store owner who sent her a care package — in front of fans and a few press people.
But most in need of a deeper look are the details Gross has uncovered about the political action committees who have brought Palin into their fold for speeches and endorsement events:
The Winning America Back conference [in Independence, Missouri] was organized by a Missouri political-action committee called Preserving American Liberty (PAL-PAC). The group’s Web site states that “Members of Preserving American Liberty are from the Kansas City metropolitan area and are all unpaid volunteers who want to make a positive difference in the community.” Yet when I asked local politicians (including state representatives, a Senate candidate, and a congressional candidate) and local journalists about who had organized the event, I found that they knew nothing about the sponsors—“maybe because they’re Tea Partiers,” one reporter guessed, “and they’re all new to politics.”
PAL-PAC was seemingly formed strictly to pay for the Palin speech, Gross writes, noting that the speech and the existence of the group were announced at the same time and the website became a shell shortly after Palin left town. The group’s financial disclosures show that it had little money before the event and thereafter reimbursed two area doctors more than $140,000 for expenses related to the event — including $126,000 in speaker fees.
Gross documents similar organizations that sprung up around Palin’s speeches and then disappeared, including a group in Dallas that hosted Palin for an apparent pro-life speech and claimed to be a 501(c)(3) but never registered as one and disappeared once the speech was over; and a group in North Carolina that announced its own existence and that Sarah Palin was coming to speak at its event at the same time. The latter event never materialized.
Gross notes that one of the people on the SarahPAC payroll is Timothy Crawford, the former interim finance director of the Republican National Committee who is under investigation by Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner (D) for the murky financing behind Let Ohio Vote. State laws prohibit political organizations from concealing the source of their funding; Let Ohio Vote was backrolled by Crawford’s Virginia-based New Models, a non-profit that hasn’t disclosed its donors despite a subpoena from Ohio.
Read the entire profile here.
[Ed. note: This post was edited after publication.]