A new political fund-raising group called "Draft Sarah Palin" registered with the Federal Election Commission this month, federal records indicate, and the committee's treasurer has a history of big-time fund-raising.
Randy Goodwin, the group's treasurer, toldOpenSecrets Blog that a yet-to-be-developed website -- DraftSarahPalin.us -- will be the main fund-raising tool for the "grass roots committee." The pro-Palin site, he said, should begin functioning after January 1.
The committee's mission is simple, Goodwin said: Help make Palin the GOP presidential nominee in 2012.
"Sarah Palin is the single most effective leader in the Republican Party," he said in an e-mail. "When voters get a chance to know the real Sarah Palin -- not the unfair stereotype that bears no resemblance to reality -- we believe her support will increase to include independents, moderates and conservative Democrats."
Goodwin is also the treasurer and co-founder of the California-based Republican Majority Campaign political action committee responsible for creating a "Birthermercial" -- a long television spot wherein the group's other founder, attorney Gary Kreep, questioned where President Barack Obama was born. The group also sponsored advertisements accusing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of supporting Arab slave labor.
Draft Sarah Palin is classified as an independent expenditure committee with the FEC -- indicating that it may be able to collect unlimited sums of money from donors. But FEC spokeswoman Judith Ingram said the designation is used by the agency as an organizational tool and doesn't necessarily mean the group intends to collect large amounts of money for the sole purpose of communicating for or against politicians, as allowed by the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision earlier this year.
As it stands, the group has no plans to cater to big-time donors, Goodwin told OpenSecrets Blog.
"We have no connections or prior commitments from anyone who would be in a position to contribute large sums to our efforts," he said. "Those expectations are not realistic. Quite the opposite. We expect this to be a grass roots campaign driven by smaller donations."
And Goodwin's other political group has proven that it doesn't need help from the wealthy to raise millions of dollars.
During the 2010 election cycle, the Republican Majority Campaign raised $3.6 million -- and $4 million in the 2008 presidential election cycle.
Yet, during those two cycles, the Republican Majority Campaign only doled out about $36,000 to federal-level candidates, according to Center for Responsive Politics research.
So, where is the money going? In 2008, the Republican Majority Campaign made $2.5 million in independent expenditures, fueling advertisements against then-Democratic presidential candidate Obama and $540,000 against Hillary Clinton. Conversely, the committee spent just $55,000 in advertisements promoting Republican presidential nominee John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The group's top expenditures during the 2010 election totaled $2.5 million, the money going toward telemarketing services provided by a firm in Arizona. The committee only spent $105,000 in independent expenditures on eight candidates. Of that, more than $58,000 went toward promoting the candidacies of California Republicans Van Tran, David Harmer, Chuck DeVore and Carly Fiorina, as well as Republican U.S. Senate candidates Marco Rubio of Florida and Sharron Angle of Nevada.
Meanwhile, it spent $42,500 on negative ads against Reid and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who unsuccessfully ran as an independent in Florida's U.S. Senate race.
Even with all that cash, the group may not have all the power: It has had success in backing five winning candidates out of the 10 specific Republicans it favored in the last two election cycles -- only one of six won this cycle. But Republicans did gain an overall majority in the House, so it wasn't a total loss for the group.
As for Palin, the GOP's vice presidential nominee in 2008, she has yet to announce her presidential plans for 2012. But she's presently omnipresent -- writing books and articles, touring the country, working as a Fox News commentator, starring in her own reality television show. She's one among numerous Republicans -- some well-known, others not so much -- that are considering running for president as a Republican.
"Ronald Reagan famously said that the Republican Party must be a party of bold banners and not pale pastels. That is what Sarah Palin represents," Goodwin said.
Palin's own PAC, called SarahPAC, raised $5.4 million of its own this election cycle. In the lead-up to the midterm elections, it flooded the Internet with clickable advertisements, encouraging people donate to help "bring real change to Washington." Palin still has $1.3 million in funds left over from the election.
The Draft Sarah Palin committee plans to operate much in the same way -- Internet advertisements and reaching out to supporters via e-mail, Goodwin said. Although telemarketing represented a large percentage of funds for the Republican Majority Campaign, Goodwin said this is a different group entirely, and it will operate as such.
"We have no plans to do telemarketing. Television would be a much better media for this campaign and we will use it if we are successful in our other fund-raising efforts," he said. "Right now, we are just looking to raise the banner and rally support. As this evolves, we will see how far it goes, but we aim to involve our supporters to the fullest extent possible in the campaign."