Palin's Donation Strategy and Romney's: The Tea Party Surge versus the 2012 Surge

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 29 2010 1:28 PM

Palin's Donation Strategy and Romney's: The Tea Party Surge versus the 2012 Surge

The final pre-election donations made by Sarah Palin's SarahPAC and Mitt Romney's Free and Strong America PAC are on the FEC's site now. I'm focusing right now on the 11th hour donations the PACs made in October.

To generalize a bit, Romney's donations were alternately strategic, focused on Massachusetts and 2012 states, or big tent. He gave $2500 to Massachusetts's Sean Bielat ($5000 total for him), Bill Gunn, Bill Hudak, Vern Harrison, Jon Golnik, Gerry Dembrowski, all congressional candidates who lost. At the same time, he gave $5000 to New Hampshire U.S. Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne on October 4, 2010. Why is that significant? The New Hampshire primary had happened three weeks earlier, and Lamontagne lost to Kelly Ayotte, whom Romney had maxed out to. Lamontagne had just signaled that he'd remain a force in the state. Also significant: Romney gave $2,500 in October to Anh Cao, the one Republican who voted for the health care bill (the first version that passed the House in November).


Palin's donations don't look anything like this. In October, SarahPAC opened up for 18 House candidates. Twelve of them won. Two -- Arizona's Ruth McClung and Utah's Morgan Philpot -- almost scored upsets. One of them, Mississippi's Bill Marcy, was a black Republican in a hopeless race against Bennie Thompson in Mississippi's safest Democratic district. The full list:

$5,000 to Michigan's Dan Benishek
$5,000 to Arizona's Janet Contreras
$5,000 to North Carolina's Renee Ellmers
$5,000 to Virginia's Keith Fimian
$5,000 to Tennessee's David Hall
$1,500 to Arkansas's Tim Griffin ($5,000 total)
$5,000 to Missouri's Vicky Hartzler
$5,000 to Pennsylvania's Mike Kelly
$5,000 to Virginia's Robert Hurt
$5,000 to Illinois's Adam Kinzinger
$5,000 to Mississippi's Bill Marcy
$5,000 to Arizona's Ruth McClung
$5,000 to Georgia's Ray McKinney
$1,500 to South Carolina's Mick Mulvaney ($5,000 total)
$5,000 to Mississippi's Alan Nunalee
$5,000 to Utah's Morgan Philpot
$1,500 to Ohio's Jim Renacci ($5,000 total)
$5,000 to Alabama's Martha Roby

It's actually tough to see a strategy in the Palin donations. They match up neatly with the lists of candidates Tea Partiers embraced at the end of the cycle. Maybe that was the strategy.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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