In a story first reported by the superb Alaskan web site Mudflats, there has been a series of robocalls made in recent weeks regarding Alaska governor Sarah Palin in both Iowa and New Hampshire, two key primary sates in the 2012 Republican presidential campaign. (There have also been scattered calls reported in Southeast Alaska).
According to the Mudflats, the calls went something like this:
1. Do you have a favorable opinion of Sarah Palin?
2. Governor Palin thinks A, B, C, D & E. Do you agree with Governor Palin?
3. Do you feel it is important that Governor Palin is reelected as Governor of Alaska?
I also received a tip this week from someone in New Hampshire, indicating that the call seemed more like a "push poll" to her, with the questions being asked in the second part of the survey focusing on Palin's positions on higher taxes, gun control, oil drilling in Alaska and gay marriage rights--clearly some of the core, conservative red-meat issues on which Palin intends to run for President in 2012.
Speculation as to who placed the calls has run the political gamut, from the far left to the far right. Palin's "authorized" political action committee, SarahPAC, has formally denied conducting the poll.
Recently, there have been some pollsters or pitchmen trading on the Sarah Palin name -- taking a pulse on the Governor's favorability. None of these polls are authorized by SarahPAC or the governor. Again, SarahPAC is not doing any telephone solicitation at this time.
But if not them, who?
The answer can be found on the website of the conservative "Americans in Contact PAC," where on its blog for March 12, the following announcement was made:
AICPAC Launches Campaign to Re-Elect Gov. Sarah Palin
Washington, DC - Americans in Contact PAC has launched a multi-state campaign in support of re-electing Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin. In her tenure of serving in public office, Sarah Palin has stood for core conservative values like limited government, strong families, lower taxes and expanding our domestic energy development. Many liberal extremists across America are gearing up to fight against Sarah Palin and her reelection for Governor of Alaska. In response, Americans in Contact PAC is building a grassroots network of Palin supporters to fight against the liberal extremists from winning in Alaska. By starting now, Americans in Contact PAC will be poised and ready to fight liberal special interest groups and help re-elect Governor Palin.
AICPAC's website has a direct link to a controversial, black-ops robocall operation called ccAdvertising, which among other nefarious activities, has been linked to push polling on behalf of the National Rifle Association, the Minutemen, and the Economic Freedom Fund, a group bankrolled by Bob Perry, the right-wing Texas developer who funded Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
Records at the Federal Elections Commission indicate that the treasurer of Americans in Contact is Gabriel S. Joseph III, who also happens to be president of ccAdvertising, which was the focus of an investigative profile in the January/February 2007 edition of Mother Jones.
According to MJ, the organization, which goes by "thousands" of aliases, "has been fined for breaking anti-robo-calling laws in North Dakota, and a federal judge banned it from phoning Indiana voters under similar statutes."
While there are no direct links to Palin or SarahPAC in AICPAC's FEC filings, there were several odd, small expenditures listed near the end of the 2008 election to the McCain-Palin campaign and then later, to the Saxby Chambliss campaign. ccAdvertising also lists the Alaska Republican Party as one of its clients. So it's definitely within the Palin orbit.
The Daily Kos also did an extensive investigative piece on ccAdertising in 2005, following smear-tactic push-polling campaigns in Colorado, Ohio and California (all states which the Republicans lost last year). The organization was also suspected of push-polling against Obama in 2008. It does not a pretty picture make.
But lost in the buzz over who did the polling has been the final question being asked in the robocall: Do you feel it is important that Governor Palin is reelected as Governor of Alaska?
There are two ways to interpret the intentions of that question: One is to assess Palin's performance as governor; the other is to assess how important the governor's gubernatorial platform is to her 2012 aspirations.
Anyone watching Palin stumble in Alaska the last few months through more ethics charges, a flip-flop on the Federal stimulus package and her failed oil and gas proposals will tell you that Palin is looking like a barracuda out of water and not having all that much fun in the process. Moreover, her approval ratings in Alaska have tumbled downward ever since she was nominated as John McCain's running mate, and they have continued to tumble--particularly among Republicans--in recent weeks. And with Alaska facing a huge budget deficit and a decline in oil and gas prices (say good-bye to the fat Permanent Fund check), which way do you think they are headed?
As for the Senate, anyone who thinks that Palin is going to run against Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski, (especially since she's been named to the Appropriations Committee and Mitch McConnell's Republican leadership team) is off their rocker. Forget it.
Palin may have simply outgrown Alaska, where her eye toward a bigger prize has alienated a constituency that has always placed practical outcomes over rhetoric and ideology.
Conversely, the most recent CNN poll has Palin out in front of the GOP presidential pack with 29 percent, ahead of both Huckabee and Romney (both of whom seem to be made of wood and cardboard), with Bobby Jindal in the dust. And she is, without question, the one money-raising star in the Republican pack in the aftermath of the GOP's 2008 election travesty.
What is now tarnished in her home state remains bright and shiny outside. With a big book deal in the works and an adoring Republican base in the Lower 48, who, Palin may well be thinking, needs the long commute to Juneau?