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Pundits are buzzing – It appears Sarah Palin is poised to plunge back into the political arena full force with a drive for the GOP Presidential nomination.  Reportedly a newly commissioned documentary about her partial gubernatorial term in Alaska and her Vice Presidential nomination will be part of the plan.  

But Sarah is also announcing on her SarahPAC website that she is about to launch a “One Nation” bus tour.  There aren’t a lot of details, but in classic Sarah-speak, here’s how she describes what she is about to do:

As we look to the future, we are propelled by America's past. (Comment:  Read that line carefully...it is classic Sarah...soaring, glorious and totally devoid of content.)  It's imperative that we connect with our founders, our patriots, our challenges and victories to clearly see our way forward. A good way to do this is to appreciate the significance of our nation's historic sites, patriotic events and diverse cultures, which we'll do in the coming weeks on our "One Nation" tour.

Through visits to historical sites and patriotic events, we'll share the importance of America's foundation.

We encourage you to support the pro-America events we'll be privileged to participate in during these coming weeks. Discover the ties that bind Americans, our history, our traditions, and the exceptional nature of our country!

There is little in the way of specifics on the site yet in terms of actual tour stops, (some reports say the route may focus at least initially on New England) but plans call for things to kick off Sunday in Washington where The Washington Post says she will be participating in the “Rolling Thunder memorial ride".

Hmmmm…Rolling Thunder….where have we heard of these guys before?  Well, let’s turn the clock back to July of 2007 when Rolling Thunder held a DC rally along with Gathering of Eagles, Move America Forward, the Free Republic and the Republican Party.  

At that time, a a Charlotte, NC activist named David Dixon posted this information on a website called warisacrime.org about the background and interconnections of all of these groups in support of the GOP, the Bush administration and the war.

The chairman of Gathering of Eagles (GOE), Ret. U.S. Navy Captain Larry Bailey (he was a leader of GOE's protest of Cindy Sheehan's Journey For Humanity & Accountability in Charlotte, NC on July 17), was the president of the Vietnam Vets for the Truth, "which attacked 2004 Democratic Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry's military record, on the heels of the more well-known" Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. (Raw Story). He reorganized the group as The Vets For The Truth in 2006 (& VFTT accepted donations on behalf of GOE). Bailey is a member of the DC chapter of Free Republic.

The GOE's press contact Kristinn Taylor is a co-leader of the DC chapter of Free Republic . Her bio on the FR site refers to her as "Warlord of the D.C. Chapter of FreeRepublic.com" and having been a member of FR since 1998.

Free Republic (FR) has a Gathering Of Eagles section on their website/"forum", which is included in the menu at the top of their site. Free Republic is an openly right-wing, pro-Republican blog/forum type website and organization. Kristinn Taylor has a recent posting on FR concerning the DC Free Republic's plan to disrupt the July 23 March from Arlington Cemetery to Rep. Conyers for Impeachment, being led by Cindy Sheehan.

In fact, it appears Free Republic is a main driving force behind Gathering of Eagles, which serves as an umbrella group for FR and the organizations they are related too.

Key organizations that promoted and participated in the launching of the Gathering Of Eagles & their first counter-protest at the March 17, 2007 March on the Pentagon are Move America Forward, Free Republic, and Rolling Thunder.

Conservative journalists that promoted and covered the GOE creation/counter-protest include Front Page Magazine's Jaime Glazov and syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. Malkin had articles published in places such as National Review Online and The New York Post and, of course, posted on Free Republic.

In a Feb 28, 2007 article Malkin wrote:

"Sgt. Artie Muller, founder of Rolling Thunder, the POW/MIA advocacy group, has called on his 80-plus chartered chapters to turn out. Move America Forward, a grassroots, nonprofit, pro-military charity, is launching a caravan from California March 8 to join the Eagles and will bring flags from across the country for the event."

Move America Forward (MAF) is lead by California Republican activists, talk show hosts and staff members of the public relations firm Russo Marsh & Rogers. MAF's California Articles of Incorporation registration address was that of PR firm Russo Marsh and Rogers (their first .com web address was also registered under the name Russo Marsh and Rogers). The firm has strong ties to the Republican Party.

Move America Forward's "Chief Strategist" Sal Russo is the founder and principal of Russo Marsh and Rogers, though he chooses not to list that on his MAF bio.

Melanie Morgan is the chairman of Move America Forward. She is a columnist for WorldNetDaily and conservative radio talk show host at KSFO in San Francisco. She has, or at least had, an email address with the PR firm Russo Marsh & Rogers, Melanie@RMRWest.Net.

Rolling Thunder claims to be a POW/MIA advocacy organization. However, their ardent support of right-wing, pro-Republican organizations and their active role in organizing and participating in their "events" reveals another agenda as well.

Ar Rolling Thunder's last rally in Washington, DC on May 27, 2007, two of their featured speakers were "Capt. Larry Bailey USN, Retired" and "Kristinn Taylor freerepublic.com". The leader of their group met privately with President Bush prior to their rally.

Sourcewatch.org provides this additional information about Move America Forward:

Move America Forward (MAF), part of a pro-war lobby, is headed by California Republican activists, talk show hosts and staff members of the public relations firm Russo Marsh & Rogers, which has strong ties to the Republican Party. PR professional Sal Russo is the chief strategist [1] for MAF. It is a conservative 501c3 not-for-profit organization formed in early 2004 by Howard Kaloogian and "acclaimed radio and television personality" Melanie Morgan (formerly of KSFO 560 AM -- San Francisco). As a non-profit organization it is not required to reveal its funders to the public. [2].

Melanie Morgan is MAF chairman and a columnist for WorldNetDaily, and author of the book America Mourning. She gained national notoriety in the summer of 2006 when she suggested that Bill Keller, an editor of the New York Times, be killed in a "gaschamber" for alleged "treason" after the Times' reporting on US government spying on Americans. [3]  Melanie Morgan has an email address associated with the Russo Marsh & Rogers PR firm: Melanie AT RMRWest.Net.

According to its website, MAF "is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization committed to supporting America's efforts to defeat terrorism and supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces." [4] MAF identifies their domestic opponents as "self-loathing liberal journalists and 'Blame America First' politicians" (June 29, 2005 email, titled "The War at Home - in America"). In September 2007, MAF claimed to have "raised an estimated $2 million," and to have "about 1 million members and financial supporters," according to The Indianapolis Star. [5]

Not noted by Sourcewatch, but certainly worth noting is that the listed “founder” of Move America Forward is a one-time California politician named Howard Kaloogian.  His listing from the MAF sitereads:

The Honorable Howard Kaloogian served as a Republican member of the California State Assembly from 1994-2000.  Kaloogian was selected as Assistant Republican Leader, where he led the fight for smaller government and lower taxes.

Considering Ronald Reagan to be one of his political heroes, Kaloogian agreed to lead the Defend Reagan Committee.  He led hundreds of thousands of Reagan supporters across America to fight against the smear campaign waged against Reagan by CBS, Viacom and Showtime with their anti-Reagan production, "The Reagans."  So many Reagan supporters flooded the offices of CBS and their sponsors with complaints that the movie was cancelled on Network television.

A champion of Proposition 13 and taxpayer hero, Kaloogian is a leading voice for fiscal responsibility, individual freedoms and conservative values.

Kaloogian has advanced the issues important to him and the people of California as a conservative radio talk show host, noted convention speaker and documentary host.  He is a frequent lecturer on topics surrounding economics and the detrimental effects of over regulation and stifling levels of taxation.

Kaloogian’s high point of notoriety however, came in 2006 during his run for a special election Congressional seat in California.  To bolster his creds, he posted a photo on his campaign website he claimed was taken in Baghdad during a visit he supposedly made to Iraq that spring.  It wasn’t long before net sleuths pinpointed the actual location of the shot…a street in Istanbul, Turkey.   Kaloogian wound up losing the race to fill the vacancy created by the indictment of Congressman Duke Cunningham.

Oh….you see that name Russo, Marsh and Rogers flowing all around and through this narrative?  Sal Russo listed above as the “chief strategist” for Move America Forward.  Sal is a busy man. As Talking Points Memo noted in late 2006, your favorite “grass roots” political movement, The Tea Party Express, was in fact the creation of Sal Russo, who (big surprise) then wound up making a fortune off his baby.

The political action committee behind the Tea Party Express (TPE) -- which already has been slammed as inauthentic and corporate-controlled by rival factions in the Tea Party movement -- directed almost two thirds of its spending during a recent reporting period back to the Republican consulting firm that created the PAC in the first place.

Our Country Deserves Better (OCDB) spent around $1.33 million from July through November, according to FEC filings examined by TPMmuckraker. Of that sum, a total of $857,122 went to Sacramento-based GOP political consulting firm Russo, Marsh, and Associates, or people associated with it.

OCDB, which built the Tea Party Express, is essentially a Russo, Marsh creation, as we've detailed. The PAC's site was registered in July 2008 by Sal Russo, the firm's founder. That site also lists Russo as the PAC's "chief strategist." Tea Party Express fundraising emails, sent by OCDB and obtained by TPMmuckraker, come from another Russo, Marsh employee, Joe Wierzbicki.

Just for good measure, legendary GOP bamboozler Howard Kaloogian is also on OCDB's board, and has close ties to Russo, Marsh.

From July through November 2009, the firm received $832,403 from OCDB, according to the FEC records. An additional $8,500 went to Russo himself. And Wierzbicki took in $16,219.

The services for which Russo, Marsh was paid appear to be legitimate campaign needs. For instance, it took in several hundred thousand for what OCDB listed in the FEC filings as "PAC Email Newsletter Costs - Generic Fun." That would appear to refer to the numerous fund-raising and activism emails sent to volunteers to promote and build the Tea Party Express -- a nationwide bus tour to build opposition to the Obama agenda -- many of them by Wierzbicki.

But one expert on political action committees told TPMmuckraker it was unusual for a PAC to direct so much spending back to the entity that created it. And the spending details raised hackles among members of the Tea Party Patriots, a rival faction of conservative activists who have denounced TPE as a creature of Republican political professionals that lacks grassroots authenticity. In an email to a Patriots group that was obtained by TPMmuckaker, one TPPer who had examined the filings asked, "What would the true grassroots people think if they knew their money is being spent in this manner?"

At this writing, it isn't clear just what involvement Russo and his band of sleazy right wing opportunists have with the latest Palin moves, but it is clear that the one thing Sal is really good at is spotting opportunities to make money for himself and his friends.  Interestingly enough, a lot of that money has come from the very people he and his team have "mobilized" for what they see as a political and religious jihad led by folks like dear sweet Sarah.

As the documentation notes, many of the right-wing entities listed here are creations of the Russo organization, and/or groups which regularly coordinate their activities for supposed "grassroots" rallies and demonstrations.  It is an interconnected network for organization and mobilization, often formed around a core of uber-patriotism.  And for Sal Russo, these organizations all serve as mechanisms to raise money....much of which, it appears, winds up getting funneled back through Russo Marsh and into the hands of Russo and his team.

And the "bus tour" concept has been a favorite of the Russo organization.  Under the guise of "The Tea Party Express," a purportedly grassroots organization but in fact created by Russo and his team, four such tours were held in 2009 and 2010.  In many cases, events along the way drew fairly small crowds, but scored big with media coverage.  

CNN, for example, sent a team along for the fourth cross country tour in the fall of 2010 and drew criticism that the network was "Pimping" the TPE cause.

Since the kickoff of the TeaParty Express Tour, CNN has embedded a small press corps in their custom-painted “CNN Express” press bus for the sole purpose of following teabaggers around the country, reporting 3-4 times daily on the activities of the corporate-funded, RNC-connected Tea Party Express.

In one short clip, we have two reporters apologizing for low turnouts, promising more, and watching for it to grow as it gets closer to “Washington, DC”.

And of course Faux Network has clearly functioned as a propaganda arm of the TPE, actively promoting upcoming rallies on its news and talk shows, then providing coverage.  

At a Sacramento, CA rally, commentator Neil Cavuto was caught on tape talking with a producer about a crowd size estimate of about 5,000.  Soon afterwards he went live and claimed the crowd was 15-20,000.

And at a September, 2009 9/12 rally in Washington DC, a Faux producer was caught off camera encouraging the crowd to make noise and appear more active than they actually were.

There are numerous questions as to Sarah's true motives in suddenly launching what seems to be a plan to pursue the GOP presidential nomination.  Several commentators have suggested that she knows she doesn't have a chance in any race for the Presidency, but by getting in now and fighting the battle, lightning might strike and get her the nomination.  Yet win or lose, she keeps herself in the political and media spotlight for what may be her greatest desire....to keep the publicity bandwagon....and the millions in fees, flowing through the Palin machine.  

Given the circumstances behind this upcoming "tour" and the initial players, it appears possible that many of the old gang are back together again, prepared to gin up another faux grassroots drive on behalf of Sarah Palin.  It will be interesting to see whether the media is yet any the wiser as to how they have been played up until now.

Originally posted to www.dailykos.com on Sat May 28, 2011 at 05:22 AM PDT.

Also republished by California politics.

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