Wed Sep 22nd, 2010 at 04:06:46 PM EST
Politics is an expensive business and nowhere is it more expensive than in the USA. Indeed, so expensive that the methods of raising money are legion and accepted. To some extent, it is similar to putting on a play in a major theatre; so many of your costs are upfront and have to be paid far in advance of any possible income. Most plays lose money, but the hope of striking it rich drives people on. As Clive James once wrote, "there are two types of money in pop music, less than you'd think and more than you can believe".
However, there is another way of making money. As was the premise of the film "The Producers"; over-sell shares so that the play was massively over-capitalised, but for a production that will close on Opening Night. No one audits the books of a play presumed to have lost money, thus avoiding a pay-out and leaving the crooks free to walk away with all the seed money.
Max Bialystock: Don't you see, darling Bloom, glorious Bloom? It's so simple.
STEP ONE: We find the worst play ever written, a surefire flop.
STEP TWO: I raise a million bucks. Lots of little old ladies out there.
STEP THREE: You go back to work on the books, two of them - one for the government, one for us. You can do it, Bloom; you're a wizard!
STEP FOUR: We open on Broadway. And before you can say
STEP FIVE, we close on Broadway!
STEP SIX: We take our million bucks and fly to Rio!
Max Bialystock: Leo, how many percentage of a play can there be all together?
Leo Bloom: Max, you can only sell one-hundred percent of anything.
Max Bialystock: And, how much of "Springtime for Hitler" have we sold?
Leo Bloom: Twenty-five thousand percent.
Of course, in the comedy, they create a play so bad it is an overnight smash. But imagine if the Producers entered politics.
Think of the film Bob Roberts
Bob Roberts is a 1992 film written and directed by Tim Robbins. It is a satirical mockumentary, chronicling the rise of Bob Roberts, a conservative politician who is a candidate for an upcoming United States Senate election. Roberts is well financed, due mainly to past business dealings, and is well known for his music, which presents conservative ideas as rebellious. The film suggests that shady deals, hypocrisy, and deceit are mainstays of US politic
Only, in the Producers version, they have realised that, if you have a politician who can raise tens of millions of dollars just by seeming to be interested in running for President, it is far, far better to never actually enter the race and walk away with the money than to actually run and submit your finances to the grubby inspections electoral regulations demand. and if you walk away you really do get to keep the money !!!
So, when reading the recent Vanity Fair article about Sarah Palin, I was much taken with the following paragraphs;-
Palin's belief that evil surrounds her may account for the secretive nature of her business arrangements. SarahPAC staffers and contractors have made what seem like concerted efforts to disclose an absolute minimum of information. Palin's tours around the country are supported by a network of organizations that are not always what they claim to be. The Winning America Back conference was organized by a Missouri political-action committee called Preserving American Liberty (PAL-PAC). The group's Web site states that "Members of Preserving American Liberty are from the Kansas City metropolitan area and are all unpaid volunteers who want to make a positive difference in the community." Yet when I asked local politicians (including state representatives, a Senate candidate, and a congressional candidate) and local journalists about who had organized the event, I found that they knew nothing about the sponsors--"maybe because they're Tea Partiers," one reporter guessed, "and they're all new to politics."
PAL-PAC seems to have been created for a single purpose: to pay Sarah Palin to give a speech. PAL-PAC announced the Palin event at the same time that it announced its own formation. After the Palin event was over, most of the information on PAL-PAC's Web site disappeared. In effect, PAL-PAC was a disposable entertainment company, set up to put on a one-day show that collected the contact information of thousands of people who came to see Palin in the flesh, and to give her their money. The organization has not been mentioned again anywhere online or in local newspapers. The group's financial statements are curious. PAL-PAC was registered in Missouri last November; as of April 15, 2010, when it made its second quarterly disclosure report to the Missouri Ethics Commission, two weeks before Palin arrived in Independence, PAL-PAC had only $3,202 in the bank. This was not nearly enough money to reserve the venue, much less cover security, printing, advertising, or any of the other expenses associated with throwing an event for 4,000 people. PAL-PAC's third disclosure report, filed on July 14, reveals large payments to Wayne Graves, a Kansas City physician, whose wife, Karladine, also a doctor, is the president of PAL-PAC. Wayne Graves performed a key service for Winning America Back: he personally paid the speakers' fees and travel expenses. On June 23, according to the report, he was reimbursed for these outlays: $15,134.83 for "Reimburse Speak[er]," and $126,000, also for "Reimburse Speak[er]." By fronting the money for these expenses, Graves made it possible for PAL-PAC to keep details such as Palin's precise fee under wraps. But the lion's share of that $126,000, it seems safe to assume, went to Palin--that would tally with verified reports of what Palin has been paid elsewhere.
The article details other strange arrangements whilst hinting that that there are other more byzantine setups that surround the Palin organisation's financial affairs.
And now she is going to Iowa, traditionally the first State to hold its Primary. If you are going to win, you have to do well here, and that means that any candidate hoping to run for President or, at least, wishing to appear to be seen doing so has to be prominently courting relevant groups in the State from at least one year out. And so it is no surprise to find that Palin is making speeches there even now.
Now it could well be that Palin genuinely intends to run for President in 2012, but why should she want to ? She resigned as Governor of Alaska, driven to distraction by the frustrations of actually running an administration. Being President may look like fun from afar, but she's been close enough to realise that it's all work, work, work; and that really doesn't seem to be her style. Neither is the amount of scrutiny that President's must endure, especially of their financial affairs. For somebody so famously secretive it would be her idea of hell.
But standing on the sidelines while earning vast amounts of money by pretending to run ? Even if it's only for a couple of years, the vast amounts of money that seem to be available to attractive prospective Presidential candidates would be very attractive.
I have to end this diary with a note of caution. I do not know whether Sarah Palin will run for President, but it is reasonable to assume that she would, however much Democrats would cheer her entry into the race. So, everything written here, essentially triggered by a couple of paragraphs in a single article, is less about Sarah Palin so much as a thought experiment in what would happen if some political operator in the The Producers style realised that it is more lucrative to take a talismanic candidate similar to Palin and run them essentially as a cash cow.
And I don't think there is any means to stop them because nobody imagines anyone would try.