WASHINGTON - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin opened a political action committee Tuesday, a move that may not outright confirm her intentions of running for president in 2012, but indicates she intends to remain a regular on the national political stage.
SarahPAC, which will raise money online at www.sarahpac.com, was registered Monday night with the Federal Election Commission. The Web site went live Tuesday, said Pam Pryor, who worked as a liaison between the McCain-Palin presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee. Now Pryor is serving as a volunteer spokeswoman for the new political action committee.
The goal of the committee, according to its Web site, is to "make it possible for Gov. Palin to continue to be a strong voice for energy independence and reform. ... SarahPAC will support local and national candidates who share Gov. Palin's ideas and goals for our country."
But it also allows Palin to more easily differentiate between her political activity and her gubernatorial duties, Pryor said. She can use the money raised by the political committee to donate to other like-minded candidates or to incur travel expenses on behalf of them. She also can use it to pay for her own political activities unrelated to her official job.
So, for example, Palin can use money raised by the committee to attend this weekend's Alfalfa Club dinner, Pryor said. The elite club's members include such politicians as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn. and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The club, founded nearly 100 years ago, attracts about 200 high-profile people to its annual dinner.
Palin's PAC also could be used to offset the costs of attending the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington at the end of February. Palin is tentatively scheduled to speak at the annual conservative gathering.
"She came onto the national scene, and there's still a great deal of appetite in the political world to have her be a part of that," Pryor said. "Her family and Alaska come first. After that, if there's extra time, I think she still wants to be involved and will look at the PAC as a way to fuel that to kind of fuel that political activity."
Pryor said that Palin wants there to be a "bright line" between her duties as governor and her political activity. Some critics, including Alaska political activist Andree McLeod, have complained that Palin blurred those during her bid for vice president.
Earlier this week, McLeod filed ethics complaints against two of Palin's top aides, alleging her communications director, Bill McAllister, and close aide Kris Perry misused their positions to promote the governor's political ambitions.
McLeod cited as evidence the time Perry spent traveling with the governor on the vice-presidential campaign trail and afterward. She also cited e-mails that she said showed McAllister in "an ongoing collaboration with Republican National Committee convention staff."
Palin's press office in Anchorage, citing the state's ethics guidelines, would not answer any questions Tuesday about SarahPAC. They also would not refer a request for an interview about it to the governor. They referred all questions to the Alaska Republican Party.
Pryor was emphatic that the PAC is not an exploratory committee for a potential presidential bid in 2012.
"No, Lord, no!" Pryor said.