POLITICO - Sarah Palin's political action committee has been selective and strategic in its donations to candidates over the past six months, but if money is any indication of where her heart lies, her political loyalties can be traced to Ohio.
While SarahPAC has devoted just 5 percent of its total expenditures over that period to fellow GOP colleagues, four of the 17 candidates Palin contributed to hail from Ohio — the state where she held by far the most presidential campaign events in 2008, according to The Washington Post's candidate tracker.
The former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee gave $5,000 to former GOP Rep. John Kasich, who's running for Ohio governor; $3,500 to former Rep. Rob Portman, who's running for the state's open Senate seat; $1,000 to Rep. Jean Schmidt; and $1,000 to state auditor Mary Taylor, whom Kasich recently tapped to be his running mate. A GOP source familiar with Palin's thinking said most of these candidates solicited Palin's support. She feels there is a real chance to turn the tide in Ohio, said the source.
It makes sense to me that she may be looking to a future where Ohio matters to her, and if she's building support, I think it's great, said Alex Triantafilou, the GOP chairman in Cincinnati's Hamilton County.
We've got an incumbent governor in Ted Strickland who is very vulnerable, so perhaps she sees where her dollars can make a difference, he added.
Palin's largest monetary donation went to Kasich, the former House Budget Committee chairman and Fox News talk show host, who has edged ahead of Strickland in recent polls. Strickland's reelection campaign said the Palin donation demonstrates that Kasich is out of step with mainstream Ohioans.
Sarah Palin's support for Congressman Kasich highlights what we've known all along: He has a radical agenda that would take Ohio backward. Whether it's his reckless tax plan that could drastically slash funding for education, health care and law enforcement or support for the failed Wall Street-Washington policies that got us into this economic mess, Congressman Kasich has shown he will side against Ohio's working families, said Strickland spokeswoman Lis Smith.
Republicans dismissed the attack as predictable.
These are the things you talk about when you were just outraised by $1.7 million over the past six months and when the highlight of your report is $11,395 from Jerry Springer, said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols.
With Ohio in its customary role as a key battleground state in 2010, Democrats expect to see Palin return frequently in the coming months.
It is, after all, where Palin splashed onto the national stage back in late August 2008, when Sen. John McCain wrestled the spotlight away from Democrats with a rally in Dayton to unveil his running mate. She appeared at 20 events across the state during the campaign — five more than in any other state — including an October rally that featured Taylor and Portman.
In November, Palin made stops in Norwood and Columbus as part of her nationwide book tour for Going Rogue. And in March, she'll be back in Columbus to speak to the Ohio Right to Life organization.
Sarah Palin will probably campaign for GOP candidates in Ohio and try to convince us that we need the failed policies of George Bush's trade czar, Lehman Bros.' John Kasich, or ‘Mean' Jean Schmidt, but she'll have as much success as she did as John McCain's running mate, said Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Seth Bringman.
Most of Palin's other donations went to sitting members of Congress, including Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).
High-profile Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) also won Palin's financial blessing, as did Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who is running for the Senate.
There's no discernible pattern to how Palin selects conservative candidates for donations. Some of these members sit in states with important early presidential contests, several are not expected to have competitive reelection campaigns, and a few aren't even up for reelection in 2010.
Palin went one-for-two in donations to off-year candidates last year, giving $5,000 to Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman, who lost to Democrat Bill Owens in New York's 23rd District special election, and $2,500 to Bob McDonnell, who easily trounced Democrat Creigh Deeds in the Virginia gubernatorial election.
Palin spokeswoman Meg Stapleton did not address contributions to specific candidates, saying only that Palin plans donations in dozens of more states in this important election year which give voice to the grass roots.