Sarah Palin won't have the title of Alaska governor for much longer, but she gained a new one on Monday: fundraising queen. Her political action committee has reportedly raised nearly a million dollars since Palin created it at the end of January.
Palin intends to use the SarahPAC money to campaign for candidates nationwide and to spread her message after she resigns as governor on July 26.
"We will support candidates who believe in the same conservative values ... which include smaller government, fiscal restraint, energy independence," said Meg Stapleton, the SarahPAC spokeswoman. "There's no rush in terms of figuring out who is best; we'll spend time really studying and learning about the candidates."
Reports filed Monday with the Federal Election Commission show that Palin received $732,867 in donations through June 30.
Stapleton said that another $200,000 came in after Palin's July 3 announcement she was leaving office.
The donations come heavily from the Lower 48. The FEC requires only names and addresses of people who gave more than $200 -- and 28 of the 709 donations came from Alaska.
Stapleton said there were nearly 11,000 total contributors.
"A lot of these checks are five bucks coming in, people saying, 'Hey I've got to heat my home,' or 'I've got to pay this bill or that bill,' but really support her and want her to succeed," Stapleton said.
She said Palin had only one fundraising event, a last-minute affair in Long Island, N.Y., last month.
HOW TO SPEND IT
Steve Gordon, a Washington, D.C.-based Republican fundraising veteran, said the amount of money Palin has raised is "above par." It's also promising that the bulk of her donations came from those smaller than $200, Gordon said. But the big question is what she does with the money.
"You need a white-hot base to build your political activities from," Gordon said. "The question most significantly is, is she going to focus her political activities in the base, or is she going to try to expand outside of that? That's really the question. And if she does reach outside her safety area, how will that be received?"
SarahPAC has spent $276,200 of what it raised as of June 30, according to the Federal Election Commission reports. The biggest piece of that money -- $106,519 -- went to eDonation.com/Campaign Solutions, the firm owned by the online campaign fundraising pioneer Becki Donatelli. Stapleton said Donatelli isn't working for the political committee anymore and a new firm will be hired.
SarahPAC also paid Stapleton's $8,000-a-month salary, as well as reimbursing her for expenses.
So far, Palin has donated to just two candidates: $5,000 to her 2008 running mate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and another $5,000 to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, given on June 7.
Murkowski has since criticized Palin's decision to resign, saying she was "deeply disappointed that the governor has decided to abandon the state and her constituents before her term has concluded."
Stapleton said there are no regrets about giving the money to Murkowski, saying she's a good advocate for Alaska.
"I think that, when the senator and governor have a chance to sit down and walk though it, that the senator will recognize that the decision (to resign) was in Alaska's best interest," Stapleton said Monday. Palin has said she's leaving, in part, because of what she describes as the financial and distraction costs to the state of attacks on her.
AFTER PALIN LEAVES
Stapleton said Palin hasn't charted out what she'll do after she steps down from office on July 26. She said there are "numerous invitations" to appear at events, but Palin hasn't accepted any of them yet. Stapleton said that she and Robert Barnett, the Washington, D.C., lawyer who negotiated her book deal, will go through the options and talk to Palin about them after she leaves office.
Meanwhile, the political action committee will continue to raise money to fund Palin's new course. It appears to have already brought in more money than did Palin's 2006 run for governor.
The closest fundraising comparison to Palin nowadays could be former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney, who raised $1.3 million for his political action committee through June 30.
Palin has a separate legal defense fund to help pay her personal legal bills from the "Troopergate" investigation and ethics complaints. Stapleton said she understands that fund, set up in late April, has raised about $250,000 so far. The trustee of the fund, Kristan Cole, has estimated Palin's bills at more than $600,000.
By ERIKA BOLSTAD and SEAN COCKERHAM
Anchorage Daily News