Shocker: Palin buys books to incentivize donors

posted at 1:50 pm on February 1, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

ABC News has a breaking story that amounts to this: famous politician does what other famous politicians do.  Sarah Palin’s PAC bought 63,000 copies of Going Rogue in order to fulfill donation pledges, in a move that is neither illegal nor unusual.  Of course, one needs to get a little further into the story to discover this:

Sarah Palin has been using her political action committee to buy up thousands of copies of her book, “Going Rogue,” in order to mail copies of the memoir to her donors, newly filed campaign records show.

The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate had her political organization spend more than $63,000 on what her reports describe as “books for fundraising donor fulfillment.” The payments went to Harper Collins, her publisher, and in some instances to HSP Direct, a Virginia-based direct mail fundraising firm that serves a number of well-known conservative politicians and pundits.

Sarah PAC spent another $8,000 on colorful bookmarks designed by a Nashville-based event branding firm. And her committee paid her publisher $20,000 for what appears to have been the cost of sending her personal photographer and another aide along on her book tour. Those expenses are listed by the PAC as travel repayment to Harper Collins.

Um … so what?  Palin isn’t a candidate for office (yet), and since each book retails for $13.50 on Amazon, that amounts to less than 4700 books — hardly an effort to pull a Dianetics-like dodge and artificially keeping it on bestseller lists.  Making the book an incentive for larger donations is not only a no-brainer, it’s just about SOP with plenty of other politicians as well … including those still holding office, which ABC’s Matthew Mosk makes clear once readers click to Page 2:

Palin would not be the first politician to use a PAC to underwrite the purchase of a memoir. The Federal Election Commission has heard a number of cases on the question of whether it is an appropriate expense. The rules are somewhat complex, but because Palin is neither a candidate for office, nor a sitting member of congress, her PAC is free to purchase the book under current law, according to Jan Baran, a campaign legal expert.

Joe Lieberman did the same thing in 2004, when he was a Senator and preparing for a re-election bid.  He didn’t take royalties off of those sales, but ABC also acknowledges that they don’t know if Palin did, either.  And since she’s a private citizen, it really doesn’t matter if she did or didn’t.

The big news here is that Palin’s PAC had at least 4600 donors in the fourth quarter who gave enough money to warrant the incentive gift.  Otherwise, this is a big nothingburger.

Update: Joe Lieberman ran for VP in 2000, not 2004.  I guess this is what I get for squeezing one last post into a very busy day of meetings.   Call it an Edwarteurism, or what it really is, an embarrassing brain fade.  Sorry for the error!


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