As Sarah Palin relaunches her image for the next stage of her political career, there’s a small set of advisers who are shaping the former governor’s policy positions and public persona.
The group, a brain trust of sorts, includes Randy Scheunemann, the lobbyist who advised McCain on foreign policy and was one of the architects of the Iraq War, and Kim Daniels, a little-known conservative attorney who specializes in “rights of conscience” health care issues.While Palin is leaving the door open to a 2012 presidential run, even as her poll numbers look grim, it’s not totally clear to what end the brain-trusters — some paid, some not — are working.
For now, they are cementing their positions of influence in Palin’s world as she sells books, gives $100,000 speeches, and hits the campaign trail for Republicans around the country.
No matter what Palin is planning to do next, it’s worth examining who it is that has her ear.
Many of the names we’re going to look at were first reported by the New York Times in a recent Palin profile. Here goes:
The chief foreign policy adviser to the McCain presidential campaign, Scheunemann was a campaign ’08 favorite of TPMmuckraker. Classic Scheunemann attack lines from 2008 include this one on Iraq: “Senator Obama seems to think losing a war will help him win an election.”
Known for his early and vocal support for the Iraq War — including as the founder of Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and a longtime ally of Ahmed Chalabi — Scheunemann brought unwanted scrutiny to the McCain campaign on several occasions, including for his work for the government of Georgia.
He runs a Washington lobby shop called Orion Strategies, and his clients have included not only Georgia, but also the government of Taiwan and the National Rifle Association.
Scheunemann is now a paid foreign policy adviser to Palin; he even traveled to Hong Kong with her last September for a foreign policy speech in which she went after President Obama on selective defense program cuts and took a hard line against “a China where the government suppresses the liberties its people hold dear.”
It’s also worth noting he recently hired Michael Goldfarb away from the Weekly Standard, though it’s not clear whether Goldfarb will be working the Palin account.
Paid $21,000 by Palin’s PAC in the second half of 2009, Daniels is a Maryland attorney who, according to the Times, prepares a daily briefing for Palin. But she has a markedly private profile compared to someone like Scheunemann.
Daniels has been identified as an attorney with the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative legal group that aims to be “the sword and shield for people of faith.” The firm is “dedicated to the defense and promotion of the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life.”
Politico describes Daniels as an expert in health care “rights of conscience” issues. She has testified around the country opposing efforts to make the morning-after pill available at drug stores and regulate pro-life pregnancy centers.
Daniels is now Palin’s personal domestic policy czar.
An extremely successful private equity investor who served as an aide to President Nixon (and famously played a central role in the Nixon Jew-counting episode in the early 1970s), Malek describes himself as a friend of Palin. The Times reports that he has been advising Palin on “political matters.” He has appeared in her corner on TV multiple times.
In a post on his personal blog, Malek describes meeting Palin when he was finance chair for the McCain campaign. “I do admire her and feel she is filling a need in this country like few other political leaders,” he writes.
Palin’s relationship with Malek has helped give her entrÃ©e to the world of the Washington elite. Malek invited her to the uber-exclusive Alfalfa Club dinner/roast in January 2009, which was headlined by Obama. “Sarah was a total hit at the dinner, and it was gratifying to see the high regard shown to her by many of Washington’s leading lights,” Malek writes.
Here’s Malek repping Palin on Hardball late last year:
The Williams & Connolly partner has earned the epithet “Washington power broker” next to his name through a celebrated career advising clients as varied as George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Benazir Bhutto, and Bob Woodward.
After negotiating the HarperCollins book contract that made Palin a rich woman, Barnett is now advising her on “on business and media decisions,” according to the Times.
”Few public figures not in office have leveraged the nexus between media and political positioning as Sarah Palin has,” he told the Times.
“I have been and will continue to be an advocate of Sarah Palin and her principles,” declares Matalin, the longtime GOP operative who has an informal relationship with Palin.
The Times says Matalin has been “in sporadic contact with Ms. Palin’s camp.”
She has worked for three Republican presidents, including a stint as counsel to Dick Cheney during the George W. Bush Administration. She is also a contributor to CNN, where she often appears with her husband James Carville.
After Palin’s surprise resignation as Alaska governor last July — which was met mostly with raised eyebrows — Matalin hailed the move as “brilliant.” Watch:
Matalin also showered Going Rogue with praise: “the way Palin lays out her world view throughout the book and especially in the eloquent closing pages is sure to attract conservatives yearning for an unapologetic articulation of first principles.”