A better question: Why shouldn’t Palin skip CPAC? She’s got her grassroots flank covered by speaking at the tea party convention and she’s got her party establishment flank covered by speaking at the SRLC. What does she gain by speaking at CPAC? With no obvious benefit in attending, better to skip it and use your absence to burnish your credentials as a crusader against corporate interests. Even Rick Moran, who’s no Palin fan, agrees she’s making some shrewd moves.

Or is she? A better question is, should Palin be skipping the tea party convention?

The Tea Party Convention is being organized by Tea Party Nation, a for-profit company that runs a social networking website for activists, but is not considered a leading group in the tea party movement. It’s paying for Palin’s fee (reported to be in the low six figures) and other overhead by selling tickets (at $560 a pop) and by offering sponsorships, in some cases for $50,000 each.

Tea Party Nation is hoping to turn a profit from its convention so that it can “funnel money back into conservative causes” through a 527 group it plans to set up to get involved in campaigns, according to Judson Phillips, the group’s president…

But some Tea Party activists and organizers have questioned whether Tea Party Nation can pull off a successful convention, and also whether its plans are consistent with the goals of the grassroots movement, which exploded onto the scene last year when conservatives mobilized in opposition to the ambitious big-spending initiatives backed by President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats…

“She thinks she’s coming to endorse the tea party movement, but most tea party people won’t be there because they can’t afford it,” [Anthony Shreeve, a Tennessee tea-party organizer,] said. “The tea party movement is a grass-roots movement; it’s not a business,” he added, asserting the convention “could potentially harm the movement, because it’s a premature national initiative that doesn’t have the support of the majority of we the people.”

The base loves her too much to hold her participation in the cooptation of the tea-party movement against her, but for what little it’s worth, when I tweeted about the ticket prices last night there was plenty of grumbling in response and some complaints (echoed in Politico’s story) that the convention isn’t a “true” bottom-up leaderless tea-party event. If she’s decided she’ll only do either that or CPAC, she probably made the right choice — it’s tea partiers who have the media buzz right now — but I’m not sure it’s an unalloyed good. Exit question: Is it?