One leading Republican who is conspicuously absent from this year’s CPAC is Fox News pundit Sarah Palin. A source told Politico that Palin declined the invitation because she “does not want to be affiliated” with David Keene, head of the American Conservative Union (ACU), which organizes the conference. Saying CPAC will be about “pocketbook over policy,” the source said Palin objected to Keene asking “FedEx for between $2 million and $3 million to [win ACU's] support in a bitter legislative battle with rival UPS” last September. A Palin spokeswoman wouldn’t address the issue directly, saying only, “We support those who advance our core beliefs and lead by principle.”
Palin “ruffled feathers” last year when she dropped out of CPAC two weeks before the event. She had been the conference’s first confirmed speaker and organizers said they were “obviously disappointed.” At the time, she cited the “duties of governing.” Palin also dropped out at the “last minute” from CPAC 2008.
While declining CPAC this year out of concerns over profiteering, she had no problem attending the National Tea Party Convention. Judson Phillips, a Tennessee lawyer who organized that convention and started the for-profit corporation Tea Party Nation, said his intention was to make money from the event. Tickets for the convention cost $549, and many Tea Party leaders publicly condemned Philips’ profiteering. RedState.com editor Erick Erickson said the event “smelled scammy” and called it a “great con” to make money off peoples’ “passions.” The convention lost sponsors, and even Tea Party stalwarts Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) dropped out.
Palin was reportedly paid $100,000 for her appearance at the Tea Party convention, but CPAC doesn’t pay its speakers and some speculated that Palin’s absence is due to money. Right-wing anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist blamed Palin’s own profiteering for her absence at CPAC:
“Palin was paid a lot to go to the other one” says Norquist, referring to the recent Tea Party Convention in Nashville. Her absence this week, he says, is a political sign.
“Is Palin running for president? The answer is no. She could have spoken to 10,000 people, but instead she chose to speak to 600 and get paid $100,000. That’s being a spokesperson and making a living, not running for president.”
Palin is still on the CPAC presidential straw poll — the only candidate who is not a white male. According to a Hotline survey of “GOP party leaders, strategists, activists and pundits representing backers of virtually every potential candidate in the field,” Palin is the odd-on favorite, with former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) close behind.