ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Sarah Palin's national political committee filed its latest financial report over the weekend. It shows that Palin has a powerful base of small donors, and that she is busy doing what prospective presidential candidates usually do: giving campaign cash to candidates who can help her later on.
NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY: A year after resigning as governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin has burnished her anti-establishment image. But she's also working through the same White House checklist that any hopeful would have. Her committee, SarahPAC, took a speech and turned it into a high-energy video about mama grizzlies and pink elephants.
(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL AD)
SARAH PALIN: Look out, Washington, because there's a whole stampede of pink elephants crossing the line, and the ETA, stampeding through, is November 2, 2010.
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)
OVERBY: And in April, May and June, SarahPAC raised $866,000. Most of the money paid for consultants, travel and organization. But SarahPAC gave out $87,500 to Republican candidates.
In Iowa, a state where Republicans will start winnowing presidential candidates as early as next summer, she sent $5,000 to Senator Chuck Grassley, and another 5,000 to former Governor Terry Branstad, who's running for his old job with Palin's endorsement.
SarahPAC even steered $2,500 to California Senate contender Carly Fiorina, who doesn't exactly need it. Fiorina is a millionaire and has put more than $3 million into the race so far.
Political scientist Anthony Corrado is at Colby College in Maine. He says Palin's strategy seems to be about building a Sarah network within the GOP, not about targeting presidential primary states.
ANTHONY CORRADO: What we are seeing is the PAC making contributions that focus not just on giving to Republicans, but more ideological contributions, focusing on those candidates who tend to share many of her political views.
OVERBY: So SarahPAC's activity doesn't necessarily mean that Sarah 2012 is right around the corner.
Andrew Langer is a longtime conservative activist, and president of the advocacy group Institute for Liberty.
ANDREW LANGER: I don't think that Palin is really looking at a 2012 bid.
OVERBY: Langer says Palin has a longer timeline than some of the other possible contenders.
LANGER: I think she recognizes that if she wants to be president of the United States someday, it will take a considerable amount of effort to really work on building from a base of strength, and not just the 18 months that we're sort of looking at right now.
OVERBY: But there is someone who's definitely got a money campaign for 2012: Mitt Romney. And by any metric - fundraising, contributions to other Republicans, cash on hand - his numbers are close to double Palin's. In Georgia alone, Romney's Free and Strong America PAC gave to 34 Republican candidates, mostly running for the state legislature.
Analyst Anthony Corrado says Romney has a two-tiered system, the same as his 2008 bid, with one PAC at the national level and other PACs in various states.
CORRADO: That gives him an added advantage, which is that he can use the state PACs to receive contributions that are larger, or are prohibited under federal law. He can tap into two kinds of money.
OVERBY: That's a strategy that's off-limits to members of Congress. But it is something Palin can do, too, if she feels she needs the money.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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