Other Massachusetts residents who contribute to right-wing groups, in interviews with the Phoenix following Palin's resignation announcement, agreed with that sentiment. Palin has many options for channeling that following into a quite-profitable enterprise built around her brand.
If she plays it right (and finds trustworthy people to manage her affairs), she can make a lot of money, from a lot of different sources. And there's more than just dollars. Nonprofit organizations will pay for her and her fisherman-husband, Todd, to cash in on their notoriety and live the lifestyle of the rich and famous: travel, well-appointed offices, and other lifestyle accouterments. She will be paid to take part in luxury "conference" cruises, like one hosted by Oliver North's organization in June, or National Review's this month.
(Palin knows all about that world: her path to the V-P nod actually began when she visited with groups from National Review and Weekly Standard cruises during their stops in Juneau.)
And if she's looking for a model of success, she would do well to study at the feet of the master: former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich's large and growing empire illustrates the scope of the conservative marketplace. In 2007, Gingrich launched American Solutions for Winning the Future, a "527" organization that can raise and spend unlimited amounts — more than $14 million last year, almost all from small-dollar donors. He also created the for-profit American Solutions, which does the nonprofit's telemarketing. The Gingrich Group offers consulting. There is also the for-profit Center for Health Transformation, funded largely by pharmaceutical companies, and CHT Press, which thus far has published three books, including two by Gingrich. Gingrich Productions creates multimedia products. Most recently, he formed an umbrella group of religious conservative organizations.
He also has a deal with townhall.com, a top right-wing portal Web site (and part of another multifaceted player in this marketplace, Eagle Publishing), to distribute a twice-weekly e-mail newsletter. Largely as a result of all this activity, he has one of the most coveted mailing lists in the business, which commands one of the highest premiums around (starting at $125 per 1000 names). Such lists of proven conservative contributors — who skew heavily toward white, suburban retirees with disposable income — are attractive not only to other conservative groups, but to companies selling financial services, health products, and other wares.
And all of these ventures — plus his contract as an FNC commentator, his highly lucrative speaking engagements, and his paid fellowships with prestigious conservative think-tanks — not only make money off the Gingrich name but promote it, placing him and his products in ever-greater demand.
Whatever Gingrich can do, Palin can likely do better. All of the above, and more, is open to her.
Like Gingrich, who has made an art of it, Palin boosts her visibility, and status, by coquettishly stoking the rumors of a presidential candidacy.
Whether Palin intends to seek the nation's highest office in 2012 or not, she certainly won't say for the next 18 months. If she isn't planning to run, saying so would remove some of her cachet, media attention, and influence. And if she is running, she won't say so — because federal-election laws would then prohibit her from involvement in any political-action committees.
Who's Worth What
When lists of Sarah Palin's contributors inevitably hit the market, how much will they be worth?? Here are the going rates, per 1000 names, of lists associated with various name brands in the right-wing world. *
Rush Limbaugh $135
Bob Barr $130
Newt Gingrich $125
Tom Tancredo $125
Fred Thompson $125
Alan Keyes $120
J.C. Watts $105
Tom DeLay $100
Linda Chavez $95
Randall Terry $90
Pat Buchanan $85
Mike Huckabee $85
Oliver North $85
Mitt Romney $85
Michael Reagan $75
*Figures culled from marketing material of Atlantic List Company, Omega List, Response Unlimited, and Robertson Mailing List Company
Gingrich is one of the most profitable brand names in the industry, but he's hardly alone. Pat Buchanan, Gary Bauer, Oliver North, and Linda Chavez are among the many competing for conservative donors. (For a comparison of their value in the marketplace, see "Who's Worth What.")
Alan Keyes has parlayed his quixotic 2000 presidential campaign into a veritable conservative kingdom.
Keyes and his loyalists now operate a for-profit Web site; a number of PACs and not-for-profit organizations focused on abortion (Life and Liberty PAC), immigration (Minuteman Civil Defense Corps), and economic populism (Declaration Alliance); a consulting firm (Politechs); a political-research firm (Primer Research); a political Web consultancy (Strategic Internet Campaign Management); a political media firm (Mountaintop Media); a mailing-list provider (Response Unlimited); an online-fundraising site (rightmarch.com); and a media-relations company (Diener Consulting) — many of which operate out of the same address.
If Palin doesn't want to invest in that kind of operation, she could choose to lend her name to those who have the expertise. There are plenty of operatives around who already have the infrastructure and organizations, but who lack a big-name celebrity with drawing power in the conservative arena.