The Sarah Palin Clothing Scandal (What?)

I came downstairs this morning and flipped on the television while making coffee, flipped through MSNBC, Fox and CNN, and saw everyone talking about the same story. It seems that the RNC may have spent up to $150,000 on clothing and makeup for Governor Palin’s three months on the campaign trail. Regular readers of this space should be well-aware that I’ve not been a fan of Sarah Palin ever since John McCain’s announcement of her selection, but even I am left scratching my head here. Is this really a story in the political arena now?

People spend what they can afford to spend on clothing. Personally, I tend to wait for a good sale from Joseph A. Bank when you can get a very nice men’s suit for two hundred dollars. But that’s because I’m not exactly made of money. Were I some sort of high-powered CEO with a seven figure income, I’m sure that my suits would cost five grand and I’d have some Armani in the closet.

I have no idea what Sarah Palin spent on clothes when she was the Mayor of Wasilla, but now she is in the public spotlight and running for Vice President. She also strikes me as an attractive woman who cares about her appearance and probably likes to dress and look her best. The campaign obviously wants her to look her best for the media and is spending accordingly. They can afford to do it, so why wouldn’t they?

There are twelve days of campaigning left before we go to the polls. Surely there are better things for us to spend our time on.

  • T-Steel

    Jazz my good man.

    She’s the pitbull with lipstick. America’s hockey mom! The regular Jane! And she (with the McCain campaign’s blessing) spent $150K for her clothing!

    Blah blah blah…. YAWN!

    One thing that I’ve always realized since I was a teenager is that politicians ARE NOT regular Joe and Jane (especially at the Governor and other high office levels). The roll with the big dogs and will spend like the big dogs, especially in campaigns. So I guess we need to pull the clothing receipts for all the candidates so we can micro-analyzing them to a boring death.

  • Jazz

    Pretty much, T. I also found myself briefly wondering how much Obama spends on those suits? He’s a pretty sharp dresser. And? I mean, I get it how some people are trying to latch on to the “symbolism” and the optics of this thing. She’s the plain old hockey mom who should be shopping at Walmart, blah blah blah. No. She’s a seated governor who is running for Vice President of the United States and she’s on camera pretty much 18 hours a day. They’re not going to send her out there in sack cloth.

  • Michael Merritt

    I agree with you Jazz, but I can see the draw to such a story since so much was made of Edwards’ $400 haircut.

  • T-Steel

    And I didn’t care about Edwards’ haircut but some folks on the right made a big deal of it. Just like some on the left will make a big deal about Palin’s clothing bill.

  • jstuart1031

    Does she eat lobster and caviar at the Waldorf? How much are her haircuts, her Italian shoes?

    I mean, maybe it is a potent political argument to say our leaders – who have excellent health care, pensions, and personal protection details (in some cases) should dress modestly and shop frugally – how could that possibly hurt the “optics” of the issue? Judges wear robes; maybe we could have an official Congressional blazer, with a nifty patch on the pocket; women could wear that wool plaid skirt thing with the huge safety pin.

    Obviously you’re talking about the media more than the candidates, though I don’t think it’s outrageous to focus on this. If people like Palin because she’s “authentic,” then why the hell not have her shop at Wal-Mart and Value City? When I shop, price tags are more visible than the outfits themselves. Considering our elected leaders’ remunerative interests in their positions (both in the policy sense and the pay grade sense) – particularly with this VP candidate – is, I think, something that those of us who don’t have to worry about capital gains can understand and criticize in a rational manner, no matter how nuts the news gets.

    And, again, if it weren’t for all the taunts emerging from her campaign, some of this stuff would just get glossed over. But hey, live by the culture war, die by the culture war…

  • Gichin13

    I also am a big detractor of Palin, but this “story” seems a little silly. Of course they are going to dress up her image. I suppose it is more than a little politically tone deaf given our current economic situation, and it definitely runs counter to the regular gal meme they are spinning about Palin, but there are a lot more important topics that should be receiving the attention and focus. Like does Palin really not grasp the actually constitutional role of the VP?

  • kritt11

    The nonstory is about as relevant as John Edwards 400$ haircuts (which got a lot of mileage for a nonstory). It basically makes the point that the ordinary hockey mom shops at Walmart and JC Penney’s— and can’t pay $8,000 for a suit, It just attacks the myth that Sarah is one of US.

  • DLS

    Well, there will be predictable lib-Dem squawking that this “proves” that the GOP, all Republicans, are out of touch with ordinary society. Clothing costing as much as a home! Imelda Marcos would have been a Republican, too, no doubt, if she lived here.

  • Ricorun

    Well, $150,000 for clothes and makeup in 3 months (which works out to almost $1,700/day) does contradict the “Joe Six-Pack” image she tries to cultivate. So, like Edward’s pricey haircut while cultivating a similarly populist image, there’s a certain hypocrisy in it. Also, she didn’t spend the money, the McCain campaign did. And since McCain’s campaign is publicly funded, ultimately we the taxpayers are the ones footing the bill.

  • JSpencer

    $150,000.00 is a ridiculous amount of money for a clothing allowance any way you slice it, which might not be such an issue IF (as kritt suggests) the spender didn’t claim to be in touch with and speak for the average Joe – who probably spends less than 1% of that on clothing in any given year. Just more hypocrisy – which will bother some more than others.

  • Hisui

    Sounds like a way for her to get more publicity and networks to have something to talk about.
    There’s a counter punch, when McCain pulls the “1 million for everyday in the senate” Biden can say Palin “spends 1,000(+) for every day as VP candidate”

    This might hit more home with the women voting area. Playing on jealousy; this woman can afford to spend thousands on a new wardrobe, while they have to save just to buy one new blouse to wear to work, or can’t afford new clothes because they have to dress their growing children.

  • kritt11

    What did she do buy 20 of those red suits that she’s constantly seen in???8)

  • lotusflwr

    Just more evidence for me that John McCain and Sarah Palin will spend plenty of money to put lipstick on a pig, whether that be Palin herself, Iraq, the economy or whatever other liberties they care to take. Bleh.

    Don’t even get me started on Palin being reimbursed per diem in Alaska for sleeping at her own residence or bringing her gaggle of children with her on official state functions and having the state of Alaska foot the bill, claiming it’s “official business”.

  • BJ Bjornson

    Appearance is of course the key here. In this case, the appearance of “I’m just a simple ol’ middle-class hockey mom from a small town in ‘real’ America, not at all like those elitist East Coast snobs”, who just splurged more in a month than 80-90% of Americans make in a year for clothes shopping at places like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Markus, and, as noted above, the taxpayers are helping to pick up the tab, (which just happens to come on the heels of a report that Palin was billing the State of Alaska for considerable travel expenses for her daughters, which follows other stories regarding her creative per diem charges and so forth).

    Part of it is the hypocrisy of playing the simple smalltown gal while wearing the latest designer fashions, and the other is feeding into the perception that she’s more than willing to let other pick up the tab for her lifestyle. (Whatever else you can say about McCain $520 loafers and whatever Obama pays for his suits, all indications are that they pay to dress themselves.)

    Is it really that big a deal? All I can say is, ask John Edwards. Even after his infidelity came out, I think it’s a safe bet that if you mentioned him to most Americans, the first thing that will pop into their mind is, “$400 haircuts”. There is apparently a very thin line between, “wanting to look one’s best”, and “vainglorious pretty boy snob that only pretends to understand our problems”.

    Clearly a bigger deal than it should be, and I doubt it will make any difference at this late date in the campaign, but you can bet that if she does decide to run for national office again in four years, this kind of thing will come back to haunt her.

  • kritt11

    What about Palin’s stated mission of coming to Washington to slash all of that wasteful spending??? \

    Btwn her clothing budget (which is enough to fund a small nonprofit for a year!) the money Alaskan taxpayers spent on her per diem when she was at HOME, and the money Alaskan taxpayers spent sending her kids to events that they were not invited to, its easy to find some wasteful spending.

    I wish someone would tell Gov. Palin- frugality begins at home.

  • Lit3Bolt

    Jazz, it’s not a non-story. Taken with all of Gov. Palin’s “expenses” in her home state of Alaska, they add up to a deeply disturbing picture of a politician milking her position and budget for all it’s worth. She’s literally robbing taxpayers for things she should pay herself, and all you can do is yawn?

    If HRC had done this, you would have taken up arms, and you know it. So stop the “Cap’n Ed is my friend so I’m now a Republican apologist” act.

  • timr

    Since Jazz did in fact brush over the fact that it was the RNC who paid for her, and her husband and her childrens clothing I am not surprised at the comments about “why is this a story. “Now for the rest of the story. It was the RNC who paid the bills.(can not emphasize this enough) This according to their latest campaign expense report.-is buying clothes for her, her husband and at least 2 of her kids even legal? How it that a campaign expense? Of course I think that staying in $700 a nite hotels is very excessive- The story is not how much money she spent on clothes or how much her husband spent, that SHE pays for(also note that she has billed the state of Alaska for lots of things that she shouldn’t have and that she likes to spend time in really expensive hotels)of course her total wealth puts her in the millionaire class, but if one of the ways she got there was by putting her personal expenses on either the state or the RNC. The story is that the RNC spent the money on her clothes. Now me, I consider the fact that the RNC spent all this money over $150,000- on her clothes-Neiman Marcus no less-to be a valid story. Now if it had been her money there would be no story.(she can afford it, her families total income is well over $250,000 a year) Note to Jazz. Why not give equal weight to all the facts in the story rather than just the part(the part about the RNC paying the bills was mentioned as a drive by) that makes it look like this is another example of the MSM picking on Palin. She is by no means, altho she pretends to be, one of the “working class” who only make about $40K a year-she spent over 3.5 years income of “joe sixpack” just on clothes, that she is not paying for. So, say I give a couple of hundred bucks to the RNC to help get McCain elected, I would be very pissed and would never give any more money to the RNC because they spent $150,000 in a little over a week on clothing for Palin and her family. What, she is so poor that she can’t buy her own clothes? Besides, as she has said over and over, she shops in WalMart and Target. From where I sit, Neiman Marcus is just a little bit above that class of stores. So, has she been lying about where she shops as well?

  • Jill Miller Zimon

    Jazz FYI Marc Ambinder poststhe USC that distinguishes prohibited from permitted uses of contributions – he bolds the part that says clothing isn’t permitted because it’s converted:

    (b) Prohibited use
    (1) In general
    A contribution or donation described in subsection (a) of this section shall not be converted by any person to personal use.
    (2) Conversion
    For the purposes of paragraph (1), a contribution or donation shall be considered to be converted to personal use if the contribution or amount is used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign or individual’s duties as a holder of Federal office, including–
    (A) a home mortgage, rent, or utility payment;
    (B) a clothing purchase;
    (C) a noncampaign-related automobile expense;
    (D) a country club membership;
    (E) a vacation or other noncampaign-related trip;
    (F) a household food item;
    (G) a tuition payment;
    (H) admission to a sporting event, concert, theater, or other form of entertainment not associated with an election campaign; and
    (I) dues, fees, and other payments to a health club or recreational facility.

    So – the discussion about whether it’s ok or not should probably move on from that. IMO.

  • catfiend

    Baring legal issues which may yet crop up I don’t really think that this is something to which the Democrats should pay much attention. Republicans, on the other hand, should be furious! I don’t know how he arrived at his result but Marc Ambinder mentioned that $150,000 would buy a good _week_ of television time in Colorado. Yes, it’s RNC money so the adds would need to mention more than just McCain/Palin but it’s still money that they don’t have available to try to fight Obama’s money advantage.

  • ChrisWWW

    If it’s illegal, then I guess they should face legal consequences. Otherwise, this is only useful in so far that it exposes the right’s hypocrisy in their stance toward John Edwards and his haircuts.

    Does anyone really believe that Republicans are the party of working people anymore? Their candidate can’t manage to say Middle Class in any of the debates. He’s more worried about smearing Obama than speaking to the worries of working people. He has 7+ houses and yet tries to claim Obama is the elitist, and his “hockey mom” running mate makes over $200k a year, and is now decked out in clothes worth more than most people will make before taxes in 3 years.

  • kritt11

    Chris- they havent’ been the party of the working man for as long as I can remember. Even the Reagan Democrats were hoodwinked when the Gipper instituted his trickle-down economics and fought to curtail the strength of unions. What the GOP does is portray educated, smart Democrats like Obama as elitist, and themselves as part of the Nascar crowd.

    Bush did a masterful job of this– learning from his congressional defeat in the ’80’s to remake himself as a gun-carrying, truck-driving, brush-clearing cowboy. He came up with a roster of wedge issues that helped hims connect with evangelicals so that they wouldn’t look too closely at his economic policies which unerringly favored the haves -over the have-nots, and corporations over consumers.

  • ChrisWWW

    True enough.

    I guess my point is now they can’t even manage to win the game of perceptions.

  • janinedm

    I’m with you Lit3Bolt. Moreover, Hillary Clinton put money into her campaign, not the other way around.

  • Anna

    I have to admit the first thought that entered my mind reading this was the scene in the movie Evita when Eva Peron has her fashion spree.

    I do find it notable that this seems to have ticked off a number of Republicans. They don’t just contribute directly to McCain’s campaign but also to the RNC and I bet they’re saying to themselves “So THAT’S where my money went?!”

  • kritt11

    Good point, Chris- that’s true. It will be interesting to see what appeal the party will use in 2012 if they lose big on Nov 4th?

    It would be nice to have a choice again. I can’t vote for them now in all good conscience- even tho I admire many in the party– I don’t like what they stand for or the practical results of their policies.

  • Jill Miller Zimon

    OK – Update on the law! Ben Smith has a post that says that a lawyer in this area says that because the purchases are from the RNC the rules do not apply. Are these rules part of the McCain Feingold reforms? :) just asking – I have no idea.

  • mlhradio

    One more reason this story stings Palin so much is that it is in sharp contrast to the dress Michelle Obama wore on The View that got so much attention this summer ( – off-the-rack for $148.

    No, it’s not a major story. But this does play against everything she stands for, and it’s just one more thing for anti-Palin folks (including myself) to talk about. Death of a thousand cuts.

  • kritt11

    mlhradio- I agree. On another board posters were bringing up the Clintons and John Edwards. They are not running. I hope you don’t mind I copied your link.

  • WhatDoUThink

    Sara must have a bunch of red, black, pink suits and white blouses because that is all she has been wearing. Let’s see the Ombama bill for their clothes. Atleast Sara recylces. Michelle has yet to wear the same thing twice. Thank god we dont have to see the purple grape dress again!

  • pacatrue

    catfiend and anna summed up my feelings well. This should primarily be a problem for Republican donors. Let’s see… I’m a Republican earning $30,000 a year and I could give $20 for a new outfit for Palin or put it in the college fund….

  • kritt11

    What do you think

    I think your comment is pretty petty. Who cares how many suits Palin owns or whether M. Obama wears the same thing twice. If Palin spends $8,000 per suit, and Michelle spends $147 for a dress- Michelle could buy 70 of them and still not spend as much!

  • lakeinok

    How pitiful “Sara Jane Clothes Horse” is. Sara and John need to visit middle America and check out how many folks live in trailers that are half fallen down, leaky roofs, inadequate heat, etc., etc. These folks and their children are so poor, and even with help of the State, still have nothing. Sara should be ashamed of herself at the least and so should Cindy…flaunting around in all her jewels and expensive clothes. Who are these two females trying to impress? Go away John, Cindy, Sara and her dude. Not to worry, not a chance our US citizens are dumb enough to vote for them.

  • DLS

    Well, I do admit to not including something here I included on other threads, that maybe Palin is using Nancy Reagan’s fine china (the object of wrath once Reagan took office) and how does she get from one place to another these days, if not on a Gulfstream V or the equivalent?

    . . .

    [preparing to use my saber comme l’ epee’ d’Artagnan ]

    “I’m a Republican earning $30,000 a year and I could give $20 for a new outfit for Palin or put it in the college fund….”

    I suspect a number of them are among those small donors to the Obama campaign.


  • DdW

    Of course there are more important issues to talk about than Palin’s $150,000 wardrobe…like the disastrous economy, and people losing their homes and their jobs and their livelyhood, and their very dignity.

    Under such circumstances a $150,000 wardrobe for a politician who touts she feels the pain of Joe the Plumber and of Middle America, IS a very big issue, for it reveals the sheer hypocrisy and “out-of-touchness” of those who allege they are just Walmart hockeymoms.

    Dorian de Wind

  • nathan2

    This would only violate FEC regulations if Palin intended on keeping the clothes — which she doesn’t. The RNC has made clear that the outfits will go to charitable donations, and one might imagine that they could generate some hefty bids if placed for auction after the election. She won’t keep any of it, unless she buys it back from the RNC.So it sounds like she is helping the economy by shopping and helping many non-profits, who having difficulties fundraising right now, with donations of all the clothes with this $150,000.

  • Odinkitty

    I find the shopping spree a hypocracy but I see her Wal-Mart trip to buy “people’s choice” diapers an even bigger disgusting example of being disingenuine. Do you REALLY think she used those diapers on her son or really had to go out and buy diapers?? Gimme a break!! Amazingly, people actually bought it and thought she was just like them..lmao. God pray for this country!