Jonathan Chait

Palin As Secular Televangelist

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Dan Eggen has a great piece of reporting on Sarah Palin's bus tour. She's raising money for her own pocket:

“You can show your support for the Fundamental Restoration of America and the ‘One Nation Tour’ by making a generous donation to SarahPAC today,” reads a message on the SarahPAC Web site.

The arrangement is perfectly legal, campaign-finance experts say. SarahPAC is set up as an unconnected PAC, meaning that the usual restrictions on candidate committees don’t apply. Regular candidate committees, for example, are barred from converting campaign money to personal use.

As a result, unless Palin decides to formally explore a possible presidential run, she is free to spend the money raised by SarahPAC for “any lawful purpose” under federal law, experts said. That means it doesn’t matter whether the trip is a holiday, a political event or something in between.

“Not only can she use SarahPAC for a family vacation, she could use it for her home mortgage payments or anything else she wants,” said Paul S. Ryan, associate legal counsel at the Campaign Legal Center, an advocacy group focused on election laws.

In other words, your donation for "the fundamental restoration of America" may well go toward the fundamental restoration of Palin's vacation house. In that context, this quote from her treasurer is priceless:

Timothy Crawford, treasurer of SarahPAC, said all expenses and contributions connected with the tour will be disclosed next month as part of the committee’s regular report to the Federal Election Commission.

When asked how much the trip will cost, Crawford said: “I hope not as much as we’re raising. The fundraising is going very well.”

I think the proper frame of reference for Palin is not a candidate or a reality television star but a secular televangelist. She's selling a blend of conservatism and patriotism rather than religion, and she surely believes it, but it is above all a means of self-enrichment.

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