In early April, dozens of national GOP poohbahs came to New Orleans for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SLRC), a bellwether event for the 2012 presidential election. The big star at the SLRC, though, was former Alaska Gov. and current Fox News analyst Sarah Palin, whose minions placed little gifts on the seat of every attendee: a shrink-wrapped chunk of caribou jerky, with a jaunty note attached: "An Alaskan Snack from SarahPAC!". At a convention where most of the swag ran toward cheapie ballpoint pens, Palin's cari-boudin made an impression.
The jerky showed up again last week in SarahPAC's quarterly finance report submitted to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), which had a $3,800 line item for "gift bag items" from Indian Valley Meats, located in the small town of Indian, Alaska ("where the mighty Chugach mountains meet Cook Inlet"). The other mail-order cured meats from Indian Valley could almost be described as Northern Exposure meets Cajun cuisine: teriyaki jerky with Arctic ox, salmon jerky, and hot and spicy summer sausage with reindeer.
According to the FEC filing, SarahPAC raised more than $850,000 in contributions and spent most of it on typical campaign expenses, including airfare, mailings and donations to other political candidates (Nevada senatorial candidate and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle — a sort of Palin manque — received $2,500).
As for how Palin spent her dough in New Orleans, there was a $1,500 expense for "Dinner/Meeting" at Mother's Restaurant on April 8, and two separate filings for unspecified "Meals" at the Windsor Court Hotel on April 8 and April 12, totaling $162.49, and "Business Center, Printer Rental, Printing" at the Windsor Court totaled $259.
Though Palin was famous on her book tour for signing her biography at populist spots like Walmart and Sam's Club, she didn't go the Motel 6 route while in New Orleans, but stayed at the Windsor Court, one of the city's poshest hotels. One night's lodging there on April 12 came to $205.57. All told, SarahPAC contributed more than $2,100 to the New Orleans economy — and that's not counting the caribou jerky. — Kevin Allman