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COLUMN ONE

Behind Sarah Palin, a low-profile but high-impact aide

Rebecca Mansour calls herself boring; her missives, however, are anything but dull.

March 17, 2011|Robin Abcarian

Mansour was working for Harvard's West Coast development office, throwing parties for wealthy alumni, as she put it, when she launched the website Conservatives4Palin in spring 2009. (Her former boss, Shirley Anne Peppers, hung up on a reporter who called to ask about Mansour.)

Mansour had been appalled by what she considered the persecution of Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign. Conservatives4Palin entered the fray with gusto.

"We are ordinary citizens," Mansour wrote. "We watched with horror and helplessness as a decent and sincere woman was savaged by a dangerously biased media.... As long as [this] continues, we'll be here to watch her back."

In Mansour's posts, Palin was "the good governor," her critics were "barmy fruitloops" and "worthless mushheads." In May 2009, she wrote about ethics complaints that had been dismissed against Palin: "That sound you heard was the lachrymose ululations of ankle-biters everywhere."

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, March 18, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 2 inches; 86 words Type of Material: Correction
Palin aide: An article in the March 17 Section A about Rebecca Mansour, an aide to Sarah Palin, said she grew up in Madison Heights, Mich. She grew up in Royal Oak, Mich., but attended high school in Madison Heights. It also said she was working as a Harvard fundraiser when she founded Conservatives4Palin in 2009, but Mansour says she had left the Harvard job earlier. In addition, Mansour says she was quoting Palin when she called Politico's staff "puppy-kicking chain smokers" and "anti-dentite porn producers."
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday, March 29, 2011 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 News Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Palin aide: An article in the March 17 Section A about Rebecca Mansour, a key aide to Sarah Palin, referred to Claire Crabtree as a former professor at University of Detroit Mercy. Crabtree, Mansour's former professor, still teaches there.

According to Federal Election Commission filings, Palin's political action committee pays Mansour's company, Aries Petra Consulting, about $8,000 a month for "grass-roots and communication consulting," "speechwriting" and "Internet messaging."

Though Mansour has been described as a volunteer for then-candidate Barack Obama, she said she was only curious and went with a "wacky, liberal" neighbor to training for precinct walking. "We had to go around in a circle and say what you are going to do for Dear Leader. I thought I had entered Jonestown," Mansour said. "It was so freaky it was hilarious."

Mansour, the youngest of seven children in what she described as "an intellectual Catholic family," grew up in Madison Heights, Mich., a Detroit suburb. "It was always stressed to me: God, family, education. If you have that, you are OK."

Both parents were first-generation Americans of Lebanese descent. Her father, Joseph, was a math professor and assistant business school dean at University of Detroit Mercy, a private Catholic school his children attended.

"I am only talking to you because I love my Dad," Mansour said during one telephone conversation. "That truly is my soft spot."

Her grandfather was a grocer in Detroit. "My dad would tell me stories about how at the end of every week, they would take the leftover produce and just leave it on the doorstep of a poor family in town," Mansour said. "My dad would ring the doorbell and run away, so it wouldn't affect their pride."

The Mansours were politically engaged Republicans who sometimes voted for Democrats, she said. "My father loved Ronald Reagan. In my family, it wasn't fun unless we were arguing about politics and religion."

Her father, a fan of Milton Friedman, taught her about economics.

"Free-market theory was dinner table conversation," Mansour said. "I would say, 'Dad, why?' And he would say, 'This is what happens when government takes over stuff. You have a lack of personal responsibility and the private sector being shoved out.' I saw it firsthand. Detroit was a failed Democrat experiment and hasn't been able to pull itself out."

When Mansour was 10, her father was shot four times on campus by two apparent drug addicts.

"It's astonishing that he survived," Mansour said, adding that her father quickly forgave his assailants. "He went to Mass every day, said his rosary every day. He really did live his faith."

Mansour, who majored in English and history and minored in philosophy, "was one of my favorite students ever," said former Detroit Mercy professor Claire Crabtree. "She was brilliant; she was a wonderful writer. We all just loved her. We thought she'd be writing screenplays, she was so funny."

Crabtree said Mansour, a class valedictorian, delivered a moving graduation speech in tribute to her ailing father. He died in 2002; her mother died 11 months later.

Mansour moved to Hollywood in 1997 to study screenwriting at the American Film Institute.

"She had an open, critical mind," recalled James Hosney, one of her AFI teachers. "She was always willing to give a movie a chance, even if she didn't like the subject matter. I would certainly not have pegged her as somebody who was really political."

Two years later, she graduated with a master of fine arts degree.

Her only produced script was her AFI master's thesis, a short film called "Something Between Us." Shot in Los Angeles' Larchmont Village, it was a story of two brothers in love with the same woman, said the film's producer, Chris Lenge, Mansour's then-roommate.

Like many others, Lenge said he was uncomfortable discussing Mansour. "I want to respect her privacy," he said. "I get the sense that she's content and happy she's contributing. I think she feels like she is good at this."

robin.abcarian@latimes.com

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