Ex-AK Gov. Sarah Palin (R) “is raising new speculation in conservative circles that she is already preparing” for a WH ‘12 bid. “In the latest and clearest example of her plans,” Palin met with roughly 50 nat’l conservative leaders 10/6 in Palm Beach, FL, “where she discussed economic and diplomatic policy and led some to declare that she’s in the race.”
“The meet-and-greet was organized by the conservative magazine and website Newsmax and its boss Christopher Ruddy.” Ruddy, whose website helped sell 250K of Palin’s ‘08 campaign book, arranged for Palin to be interviewed by radio host Michael Reagan for an upcoming webcast dubbed “Make America Great Again.” Palin will kick off the webcast campaign 10/12. Her next book, “America By Heart,” is due out next month.
“Because of its ties to conservative leaders and donors, Newsmax plays a broad role in conservative politics and is fast becoming the place” for potential WH ‘12 candidates to be seen. Already ex-MA Gov. Mitt Romney (R) and ex-FL Gov. Jeb Bush (R) have stopped by for interviews. One conservative leader said Palin’s trip to Newsmax “was the strongest sign yet that she’s planning to run.”
Ruddy presented Palin with a faux Newsmax cover showing her running for WH ‘12. It was headlined: “Yes in 2012.”
At a later reception and dinner, “she made her case on several issues to top conservative leaders,” among them, Americans for Tax Reform pres. Grover Norquist, FNC commentator/ex-Bill Clinton adviser Dick Morris, ex-Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed, and WV SEN nominee John Raese (R) (Bedard, U.S. News & World Report, 10/7).
Palin “told a small studio audience” during the taping of a Newsmax.com webcast that she would run for WH ‘12 if “the American people” want her to. She added she’s not sure yet whether voters are ready for her “unconventional” and “out-of-the-box” style but left the door wide open for a run (Lambiet, Palm Beach Post, 10/7).
PA Gov. Ed Rendell (D) “is throwing down the gauntlet” in the first-in-the-nation state of IA.
The ex-DNC chair is calling on Dems “to help him match the political star power” of Palin, promising in an e-mail to IA Dems “to draw a bigger crowd” at the state party’s 10/16 Jefferson-Jackson dinner than Palin was able to muster at the GOP’s annual Ronald Reagan dinner last month.
Rendell: “Sarah Palin was able to get 1,300 people to show up at the Republican Party of Iowa’s dinner last month. I can do better than that at this year’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner.”
As of 10/6 IA Dems “said they were only 250 tickets from surpassing the turnout for Palin.” Rendell said besting the GOP’s attendance mark would “send Republicans and tea partiers a message,” and then went on to take a swipe at Palin.
Rendell: “While Palin has offered nothing but extreme rhetoric and a repackaging of failed Bush-era policies, Democrats have provided real leadership, and our nation is better off because of it. As someone who has served at all levels of government, I can spot a real leader when I see it, and Sarah Palin is anything but that” (Catanese, Politico, 10/7).
Meanwhile, ‘08 Obama mgr David Plouffe said 10/7 he doubts Palin will run for WH ‘12, saying “something tells me we won’t get that lucky.” Plouffe made the comments to reporters “during a question-and-answer session” in which he argued that the Tea Party movement will force GOP candidates to be more conservative in ‘12 and beyond.
Plouffe: “These guys are going to be running through hoops to please the far right folks, who are kind of the acolytes of Sarah Palin. Now maybe she’ll be running herself. Something tells me we won’t get that lucky.”
Asked why a decision by Palin to mount a WH ‘12 would be “lucky” for Dems, Plouffe replied: “We’ll talk about that later” (Shear, New York Times, 10/7).
On The Road Again
“A sell-out crowd of nearly 2,500 people packed the Montgomery Convention Center” 10/7 to hear Palin’s speech at a fundraiser for Faulkner Univ., a private Christian school. Faulkner officials “estimated” the event will raise $1M.
“The event was billed as the largest sitdown dinner ever served at the new convention center.” Patrons paid up to $40K for premium tickets and for the right to have four photographs taken with Palin.
Palin “mostly strayed from politics” during the speech, which was “tinged with religious and patriotic references about veterans.”
Palin “repeatedly praised” her WH ‘08 running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), as well as Ronald Reagan. Palin: “Character is not in short supply outside the Beltway.”
“Palin evoked the work of Montgomery civil rights icons Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King.” But she also touched on her routine criticism of what she termed the “lamestream media” and “Harvard elite” for being out of touch with most Americans (Lowry, Huntsville Times, 10/7).
Helping In Hawaii
Palin “is putting her political star power” behind two little-known HI candidates. Palin placed a call 10/7 on behalf of HI-02 candidate John Willoughby (R) and state House candidate Scott Henderson (R), both of whom “have won backing from local tea party groups.”
Palin: “Both John and Scott are commonsense constitutional conservatives, and they’re both patriots and devoted family men. Come November, I sincerely hope that Hawaiians will support these two patriots. We do need their voices. We need their votes. We need to get our fiscal house in order and our economy back on the right track” (Reyes, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 10/8).
Palin’s Pricey Visit
The day before losing a brutally close GOP GOV runoff to ex-Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA), ex-GA Sec/State Karen Handel (R) “had what seemed the perfect closing argument: A personal visit and rally” with Palin.
But, the next day Palin was gone and Handel “lost by fewer than 2,500 votes.” The cost of bringing Palin and her family to town was more than $100K. Handel’s campaign paid an OH jet charter service nearly $92K “and her latest campaign finance report shows it was for the Palin event.” Handel also paid an additional $13K in expenses to the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead for the event.
Handel’s quarterly report shows her campaign committee to be $28K in debt, with another $55K in deferred expenses still outstanding (Sheinin, Atlanta Journal Constitution, 10/7).
From Alaska To The Alamo
Palin will address an evangelical women’s conference 10/8 p.m. in San Antonio and “is expected to discuss faith and family issues during a Women of Joy evening service at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center” (Jefferson, San Antonio Express-News, 10/8)
The bid by Verizon Wireless to buy spectrum and enter into joint marketing agreements with a group of cable firms was bound to spark concern. After all, Verizon is already the nation’s biggest wireless provider. But, so far, critics have yet to reveal a smoking gun that would prompt federal regulators to block the deal outright. As a result, the agreements are likely to get approved, but the government could add conditions aimed at addressing some of the competitive issues.
The deal raises important questions about how the distribution of spectrum, which wireless companies need to expand their services and reach more customers, will affect competition in the wireless market. If smaller rivals can’t get access to more spectrum, critics say, they will have trouble competing with Verizon and AT&T. At the same time, the marketing agreements highlight concerns about whether consumers will still have access to more than just one provider of wired Internet, video, and phone services.
“I’m not so sure there is a solid legal argument for blocking the Verizon-cable deal,” said Jeffrey Silva, a telecommunications, media, and tech analyst with Medley Global Advisors. Silva and others say that although the bid is prompting serious scrutiny from federal regulators, it has yet to spark the kind of antitrust concerns that helped doom AT&T’s move last year to buy T-Mobile USA.
Verizon announced in December that it would buy spectrum from a joint venture made up of Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House Networks; and, in a separate deal, from Cox Communications. Anticipating eventually offering wireless service directly, cable firms had bought the spectrum but eventually gave up on the idea. Verizon and the wireless companies also agreed to marketing arrangements to sell each other’s services and to launching a joint venture developing technology aimed at better integrating wireline and wireless products and services.
Verizon officials argue that the deal will bring spectrum that the cable companies are not using to market and allow Verizon to continue building out its next-generation 4G LTE wireless network. The cable firms say that the marketing agreements will allow them to offer their customers wireless service along with their cable, Internet, and phone bundles.
The Federal Communications Commission must approve the spectrum deal. The Justice Department is examining the marketing agreements.
Rivals such as T-Mobile and Sprint worry about Verizon getting even more valuable spectrum.
“At a time when the mobile-broadband industry is facing a looming “˜spectrum crunch,’ it strains credulity to assert that the public interest would be served by allowing Verizon Wireless to hoard even more spectrum, especially in the [Advance Wireless Services] band where many of its smaller competitors would be able to put this spectrum to use immediately as they roll out 4G LTE services to compete with Verizon Wireless,” T-Mobile wrote in a recent filing urging the FCC to block the spectrum deal.
Public-interest groups and unions worry about the marketing and technology deals, saying that the companies appear to be agreeing not to compete against one another for wired broadband services. They note that Verizon and its FiOS video, Internet, and phone service offers the only alternative to cable in many markets.
“By Verizon agreeing to provide the video services of its chief rivals (at least in its DSL territories) and the cable guys reselling the largest wireless provider as their “˜wireless strategy,’ the side agreements amount to a tacit agreement to divide the markets between them and avoid competition,” Harold Feld, legal director at Public Knowledge, blogged in March.
Verizon and the cable firms told senators in March that they will continue to compete aggressively in those markets where they both provide wired broadband services. And Verizon argues that even with the airwaves from the cable firms, its spectrum holdings in most markets won’t violate the guidelines the FCC uses when considering such spectrum deals.
“The assertion that, all of a sudden, Verizon is going to dominate in the spectrum market doesn’t square with the facts,” Verizon Executive Vice President Tom Tauke said in an interview last week.
Tauke and others, including AT&T officials, argue that if the FCC is serious about wanting to help companies meet their customers’ growing demand for wireless services, it must ensure that wireless firms have access to spectrum through secondary transactions, particularly since the FCC is unlikely to auction spectrum any time soon.
“Having a secondary market to allow for the relatively easy transfer of licenses is really important,” Tauke said. “I think if this got turned down, that would put a real damper on the secondary market.”
Verizon appears to have gotten ahead of critics last month by pledging to sell two of its spectrum licenses if its deals with the cable firms are approved. Analysts, and even some critics, say they still think the FCC will approve the spectrum sale, possibly with conditions.
“The scope and severity of such conditions, including any divestitures, would depend on the extent to which the government is unpersuaded by the companies’ arguments and corroborating information, but we still suspect [Verizon] would gain most the spectrum,” research firm Stifel Nicolaus said in an investment note earlier this month.
The bigger question is whether the Justice Department will find that the marketing and technology agreements raise enough competitive concerns to warrant action.
“The joint marketing agreements are a bit of a wild card because they are not public and the [FCC] has tied them to some degree to the spectrum acquisition,” said Paul Glenchur, a telecommunications analyst with the Potomac Research Group. “But it is not clear there is a strong antitrust case to be made against the deal unless there is something problematic but not transparent in those agreements.”
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