Sarah Palin’s Expensive Clothes

Sarah Palin, in a red leather jacket, waves as she steps on stage before a crowd at a baseball field in Grand Junction, Colo., on Monday.

Sarah Palin, in a red leather jacket, waves as she steps on stage before a crowd at a baseball field in Grand Junction, Colo., on Monday.

We’ve had John Edwards’ haircuts, John McCain’s shoes, Michelle Obama’s snacks (a story that turned out to be untrue), and now, Sarah Palin’s wardrobe.

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.  The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

Jim Treacher thinks all these stories are a distraction from the real issues.  And, of course, they are.  But these are the sort of stories that seem to resonate with voters.

Matt Yglesias wonders why these expenditures are legal, noting “this seems to open the door to candidates using party committee money as a personal slush fund.”  Kevin Drum snarks that, “I’m sure that after the campaign is over the RNC plans to donate the clothing to homeless shelters in small towns around the country where they don’t have stores like Saks or Barney’s.” Really, this is no worse than Al Gore spending tens of thousands having Naomi Wolfe tell him to wear “earth tones.”

Why, precisely, it costs that kind of money to outfit Sarah Palin in a different red outfit every day, I haven’t a clue.   Presumably, it’s more expensive to dress a woman — McCain and Obama are pretty much required to wear only dark suits and solid white or blue shirts — but this is expensive.  Not to mention the fact that down-to-earth hockey moms — and pit bulls, for that matter — don’t shop at Saks and Neiman Marcus.  Then again, they’re not typically plucked out of virtual obscurity and thrust into the national spotlight right before a national political convention, either.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, US Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Sarah Palin?s Expensive Clothes: We?ve had John Edwards? haircuts, John McCain?.. http://tinyurl.com/5hzoev

  2. DL says:

    Were she the Democrat’s female the cries of discrimination against women would echo across the nation and elitist liberals would snarl through their perfect teeth, at how conservatives are cruel males who cling to their guns and wear camo, and only like fat McDonald’s eating, beer drinking, redneck wives.
    Nothing is beyond comprehension when it comes to the Godless Saul Alinsky, win and say anything to do it, mindset of today’s corrupted liberals. That they lie constantly is not a revelation, but that they do it so without shame and so openly with the approval of the masses, is an indicator of the total corruption of American culture and morality. This elevation and acceptance of deception, is merely a window to the end times of American greatness and it will be suicide that does us in -not any invading force.

  3. sam says:

    Heh, DL, you’re a hoot.

  4. rodney dill says:

    The press needs to cover something, and Obama and Biden seem to be hiding from direct press contact.

  5. Bithead says:

    Why, precisely, it costs that kind of money to outfit Sarah Palin in a different red outfit every day, I haven’t a clue. Presumably, it’s more expensive to dress a woman — McCain and Obama are pretty much required to wear only dark suits and solid white or blue shirts — but this is expensive. Not to mention the fact that down-to-earth hockey moms — and pit bulls, for that matter — don’t shop at Saks and Neiman Marcus. Then again, they’re not typically plucked out of virtual obscurity and thrust into the national spotlight right before a national political convention, either.

    Well, exacty, James… and what the bleep she’d be doing with that kind of clothing outside that situation seems an open question as well. As such, this seems to me to be quite logically, a campaign related expense. Frankly, I think it’d be hard to argue otherwise, using logic. Then again, this kind of thing always seems to ride on the emotional, doesn’t it?

    Secondly… look; A hundred and fifty large does not exactly make Sarah Palin into Imelda Marcos, by any stretch, which seems to be the cast behind a lot of blogging on this topic this morning from the lefties, such as Drum. Sorry, it just doesnt.

    Hmmmm…OTOH, consider BO’s suits… who paid for THEM, I wonder? Funny how we don’t see much in the press about that. Or, blogging for that matter. Are we talking about sexism, here, or simply opportunism on the part of the Democrats?

    Aren’t the people who are now complaining about the ‘excessive’ nature of Palin’s outfitting, the ones who just a few short months ago were complaining about her clothing chocies? Can we just make the assumption from now on that the Democrats are going to bitch about anything anyone opposing them does or says, regardless of the senselessness of it, and move forward from there?

    As for it costing more to dress like a woman, one could always ask John Edwards about his $400 haircuts.

    As it happens, Drum’s supposition on the stuff being auctioned off isn’t far wrong; that’s the plan, as I gather it. So much for the illusions of “Personal use” again.

    Wanna talk excessive? let’s discuss $400 and change for two lobters, Champaigne and Iranian caviar at the Waldorf, shall we?

    Hmmm. That brings up a question: How does one auction off a used lobster?

  6. The Other Ed says:

    Ho c’mon bithead, $75,000 at Nieman-Marcus does sorta blow to hell that Hockey Mom, Joe Six-Pack image.

    And if you read the Politico story, you’d see that these expenses are not standard campaign expenses.

  7. sam says:

    Wanna talk excessive? let’s discuss $400 and change for two lobters, Champaigne and Iranian caviar at the Waldorf, shall we?

    Hmmm. That brings up a question: How does one auction off a used lobster?

    Bit, Bit, keep up man, keep up:

    Michelle Obama Eats Well

    UPDATE (10/22): The Post has published a retraction: “THE source who told us last week about Michelle Obama getting lobster and caviar delivered to her room at the Waldorf-Astoria must have been under the influence of a mind-altering drug. She was not even staying at the Waldorf. We regret the mistake, and our former source is going to regret it, too.”

  8. Anon says:

    Bithead, the Michelle Obama story has been retracted.

    Anyway, I’m curious about how one spends $150K on clothes at any department store. That would buy a lot of outfits at typical department store prices, even upscale department stores.

  9. Michael says:

    Sarah Palin’s Expensive Clothes

    I wonder why you didn’t title this “Sarah Palin Dresses Well”, to continue your theme of “John McCain Wears Nice Shoes” and “Michelle Obama Eats Well”. It’s almost like you think this is more of an actual issue that those other stories.

    Why, precisely, it costs that kind of money to outfit Sarah Palin in a different red outfit every day, I haven’t a clue. Presumably, it’s more expensive to dress a woman — McCain and Obama are pretty much required to wear only dark suits and solid white or blue shirts — but this is expensive.

    It’s likely less expensive than a B-list celebrity making the same number of media appearances as Palin has. Heck, it’s probably less than is spent on a national news anchor woman’s cloths, hair and makeup for a similar time period.

    Not to mention the fact that down-to-earth hockey moms — and pit bulls, for that matter — don’t shop at Saks and Neiman Marcus.

    No, but political candidates for the highest offices in the land certainly do.

  10. Bithead says:

    And if you read the Politico story, you’d see that these expenses are not standard campaign expenses.

    Mostly, because women haven’t been involved in this level of campaiging before.

    Bithead, the Michelle Obama story has been retracted.

    An amazing number of anti-Obama stories tend to get treated that way, once the Obama camp starts screaming. Ask the boys over at WMAQ and at KDKA ( http://freevoiceonline.wordpress.com/2008/10/18/talk-show-host-silenced-for-bias-against-obama/ ) for examples. If their lawyer will even allow them to talk, anymore.

  11. Michael says:

    Wanna talk excessive? let’s discuss $400 and change for two lobters, Champaigne and Iranian caviar at the Waldorf, shall we?

    Hmmm. That brings up a question: How does one auction off a used lobster?

    Okay, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you posted his before you knew about the retraction. But from now on you have no excuse.

    As a slight side note, why would anybody order lobster at a fancy restaurant? It’s not like there’s a lot that goes into preparing lobster, you don’t need a gourmet chef to chuck the little guys into a pot of boiling water, or to melt some butter in a little cup for you.

  12. The Other Ed says:

    C’mon Michael, the story is that POLITICAL DONORS are paying for Palin’s clothes. This is not a standard campaign expediture, Obama and Biden are paying for their clothes themselves. Using donor money for this is unethical.

    Not to mention that there are a lot of GOP candidates who could have used $150K worth of RNC ads this year.

  13. DC Loser says:

    What I want to know is how you can spend $150k on clothes and still look so ordinary? I dress professionally but am very frugal, shopping only during sales and at discount places like TJ Maxx and Costco. I like quality stuff, but live on a discount budget, unlike the Palins.

  14. Michael says:

    C’mon Michael, the story is that POLITICAL DONORS are paying for Palin’s clothes. This is not a standard campaign expediture, Obama and Biden are paying for their clothes themselves. Using donor money for this is unethical.

    I don’t know if Obama/Biden use campaign money for wardrobe and makeup or not, do you have a reference about that? I also don’t see how it’s unethical. People donate money to the RNC so they can market Republican candidates. Things like wardrobe, hair and makeup expenses are a part of marketing a person.

  15. Michael says:

    What I want to know is how you can spend $150k on clothes and still look so ordinary?

    It costs more to look ordinary in the lime light, than to look ordinary in the sunlight, or gaudy in the lime light.

  16. sam says:

    How far we’ve come from:

    I should say this, that Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat, and I always tell her she’d look good in anything.

  17. Billy says:

    Once again, the difference here is hypocracy. You don’t get to go around spouting folksy platitudes about Joe Sixpack and Hockey moms while taking 150 G’s from the RNC for designer clothes.

    Even if Michelle Obama did eat lobster (which she has undoubtedly done, whether or not in this instance), she’s a Harvard law grad who worked at Sidley Austin. She can undoubtedly afford it, and hasn’t made pretensions that she didn’t have lobster- and Nieman Marcus-type money. Not to mention she’s not a candidate for anything.

    That said, I could care less about who spends how much on clothes. It’s Palin’s faux populism that is the story.

  18. Anderson says:

    Thing is, the woman’s been governor for a year or two, and presumably had a presentable wardrobe to start with. But maybe GOP donors are happy to see their money spent this way.

    This is exactly the wrong sort of story to come up with at this point in the campaign. If they were going to spend like this on Palin (and her props, er, family members), they should’ve done so up front so that the news came out at the time the purchases were made.

    It would be nice to see donations start pouring into the RNC … donations of Saks gift cards. And maybe some clothes. Anything to keep their candidates dressed for success.

  19. markm says:

    Presumably, it’s more expensive to dress a woman

    …presumably????….

  20. Jim Treacher says:

    Matt Yglesias wonders why these expenditures are legal, noting “this seems to open the door to candidates using party committee money as a personal slush fund.”

    Jim Henson’s Pundit Baby should ask Good Will and Doodad Pro about that.

    That said, I could care less about who spends how much on clothes. It’s Palin’s faux populism that is the story.

    Maybe she should have told a plumber he needs to spread the wealth around, and then stood by watching as the national press savaged the guy.

  21. Billy says:

    Maybe she should have told a plumber he needs to spread the wealth around, and then stood by watching as the national press savaged the guy.

    Better that than by throwing him to the wolves by making him, unasked, the centerpiece of a national campaign without vetting him.

    Who do you think is responsible if the media ruins Joe the Plumber’s life over this? The guy with one house who answered his question, or the guy with seven who co-opted his image to appeal to the proles?

  22. Jim Treacher says:

    Better that than by throwing him to the wolves by making him, unasked, the centerpiece of a national campaign without vetting him.

    Vetting a plumber! You guys are hilarious.

    Who do you think is responsible if the media ruins Joe the Plumber’s life over this?

    Uh, the media. Try a tough one.

  23. G.A.Phillips says:

    Jim Treacher,
    billy is, I am said to say, not trying to be funny.

  24. anjin-san says:

    How do you spend 150k on clothing in that short a period of time? Well, do the math. Comes out to about 3K a day. Now, you would think, using 3k as a baseline, that you could at very least buy half as many outfits and wear them each twice.

    Not our Sarah, apparently nothing will do for her but first class all the way.

    I like to dress well, but 150k probably exceeds my clothing budget for the rest of my life. Hockey Mom my ass. Wonder how the donors suckers feel…

    Now there is also the issue of putting her family up at the Essex House (Nice!) and sending the bill to the taxpayers. Must of been tied into reform somehow.

    An old boss of mine referred to it as getting hooked on opium. OPM…. Other People’s Money

  25. Bob says:

    Okay, a $150k seems a triffle rich. Hillary spent lots less for her pantsuits and look how well that worked for her. What I want to know is if the DNC is paying for Joe’s (the VP candidate) shoes and how much is being spent? He keeps taking a bite out of the pair he’s wearing.

  26. Billy says:

    Uh, the media. Try a tough one.

    So, to be crystal clear, are you saying that Obama is not responsible for what happens to Joe the Plumber?

  27. G.A.Phillips says:

    Thing is, the woman’s been governor for a year or two, and presumably had a presentable wardrobe to start with. But maybe GOP donors are happy to see their money spent this way.

    Ya you and your party got us beet on campaign finance conservative spending this go around Anderson, crap, one cigarette one vote, well done.

  28. Jim Treacher says:

    So, to be crystal clear, are you saying that Obama is not responsible for what happens to Joe the Plumber?

    Obama’s responsible for standing by idly while the media, who are covering for his socialist answer to a capitalist question, tear Joe’s life apart for the crime of witnessing Obama’s humiliation. (At least with Palin, Obama made a perfunctory “Hey, guys, leave ‘er alone.”) Beyond that, I’m sure Obama has his usual plausible deniability.

    Aren’t you curious about Obama’s opinion of the media frenzy surrounding Joe? Or do you think Joe deserves it?

  29. Billy says:

    Jim, if that’s how you feel, please answer my original question again:

    Who do you think is responsible if the media ruins Joe the Plumber’s life over this? The guy with one house who answered his question, or the guy with seven who co-opted his image to appeal to the proles?

    Otherwise I’ll let your laughable inability to reconcile the obvious irreconcilable inconsistencies in your position speak for itself.

  30. Jim Treacher says:

    Jim, if that’s how you feel, please answer my original question again:

    No, you jump through my hoops.

    Otherwise I’ll let your laughable inability to reconcile the obvious irreconcilable inconsistencies in your position speak for itself.

    Well, I would certainly hope so.

    So your angle is that they’re going after Joe because McCain mentioned him in the debate? Wow, McCain must be more powerful than we thought, huh? Leading the media around like that.

  31. I don’t know if this sort of story resonates with voters or not but it unquestionably sends tingles up the leg of people like Young Mr. Yglesias with embarrassing predictability. What a hack.

  32. sam says:

    Aren’t you curious about Obama’s opinion of the media frenzy surrounding Joe? Or do you think Joe deserves it?

    I just watched one of McCain’s campaign speeches in New Hampshire this morning. Joe is still figuring prominantly, so I guess John doesn’t want Joe to go away. And:

    [The McCain] campaign also released a new television ad in which various people label themselves “Joe the Plumber” and accuse Obama of wanting to raise their taxes.

    I’d take your criticism more seriously if McCain and Co. weren’t trotting Joe out at every opportunity.

  33. Jim Treacher says:

    I just watched one of McCain’s campaign speeches in New Hampshire this morning. Joe is still figuring prominantly, so I guess John doesn’t want Joe to go away.

    You think he’s blackmailing Joe or something? Maybe he’s threatening to tell people Joe doesn’t have a plumbing license, even though he doesn’t need one to do the kind of work he does, and even though it doesn’t have anything to do with anything.

    Of course you want Joe to go away. He reminds people of the political party, and its proxies, who tried to destroy him just for asking a question that a politician wasn’t adequately prepared to answer dishonestly. I don’t imagine Joe minds getting some payback for their attacks on him.

    I’d take your criticism more seriously if McCain and Co. weren’t trotting Joe out at every opportunity.

    A fascinating glimpse at what passes for your thought process.

  34. sam says:

    A fascinating glimpse at what passes for your thought process.

    Stop it, the sarcasm is too, too wounding. As for Joe going away, hell no. I want him out there 7×24. With Joe and “The vice-president runs the Senate” Sarah, the decent into buffoonery is only accelerated.

  35. Jim Treacher says:

    Stop it, the sarcasm is too, too wounding.

    Which is not contagious, apparently.

    As for Joe going away, hell no. I want him out there 7×24.

    That’s the way. Stiff upper lip.

  36. Michael says:

    Can we please, as a nation, stop making Joe the god damn Plumber the deciding factor of our national economic policy or the poster child of campaign and media ethics? There are 305,473,111 other people in this country, lets as how they are effected by a candidates policies.

  37. G.A.Phillips says:

    Can we please, as a nation, stop making Joe the god damn Plumber the deciding factor of our national economic policy or the poster child of campaign and media ethics? There are 305,473,111 other people in this country, lets as how they are effected by a candidates policies.

    lol, ya thats why he is the perfect poster child, he all ready did and found out, he asked for us and finally got the truth from both The Zero and his brown shirt media.

    Whats with the Rev. Write language M? Fear and Loathing?

  38. Michael says:

    lol, ya thats why he is the perfect poster child, he all ready did and found out, he asked for us and finally got the truth from both The Zero and his brown shirt media.

    The truth was that Joe the Plumber actually gets a reduction in taxes under Obama’s plan, even Joe the Plumber admits to that now.

    Whats with the Rev. Write language M? Fear and Loathing?

    I don’t use profanity for emotional reasons, I use it purely for dramatic reasons, and “Joe the god damn Plumber” flows nicely.

  39. tom p says:

    At the beginning of the media feeding frenzy over the carcass of what used to “Joe the Plumber”s blissfully anonymous life, I really felt sorry for him. But then I read where he flew to NY to do several TV shows… You think maybe he has already gotten his payback? How long before the book deal comes thru?

    Gee, I wish Sarah Palin would come down to my neck of the “real America” so I can ask her a tough question or 2, than I could cash in too.

  40. G.A.Phillips says:

    The truth was that Joe the Plumber actually gets a reduction in taxes under Obama’s plan, even Joe the Plumber admits to that now.

    lol, thats funny, dint see that.

    I don’t use profanity for emotional reasons, I use it purely for dramatic reasons, and “Joe the god damn Plumber” flows nicely.

    ya just never heard you go there and have not chatted with you for a while, hope your doing o.k.

  41. Bithead says:

    I’d take your criticism more seriously if McCain and Co. weren’t trotting Joe out at every opportunity.

    Well, now why would they do that? Because the personalization Joe brings to the issues, tend to connect with the voters, perhaps, thereby making the Democrats nervous? And clearly, JOe is a sore spot, for them, else why wuld they be shooting at that circle on his back, hmmm?

  42. Steve Verdon says:

    Not to mention the fact that down-to-earth hockey moms — and pit bulls, for that matter — don’t shop at Saks and Neiman Marcus.

    Of course not, my pit bull’s chest is way too deep for just about any type of clothes. It is kind of too bad too in that pit bulls aren’t noted for having a thick coat of fur.

  43. Billy says:

    So your angle is that they’re going after Joe because McCain mentioned him in the debate?

    Yes. You know why? Because it’s a fact.

    If McCain didn’t want Joe to be raked over the coals, he should never have brought the guy into the national spotlight. If he didn’t understand that, then he truly lacks the judgment that it takes to be a local reporter, let alone president of the United States.

  44. Independent, not undecided says:

    I have to admit, I don’t really care about Sarah Palin’s pricy duds in the least… (and as non-issues go, it’s far more innocuous than Obama’s not-very-close ties with Ayers that we’ve gotten to hear about ad nauseum since what now feels like the dawn of time), but I am very concerned that she *still* doesn’t seem to know what the Vice President does.

  45. rodney dill says:

    but I am very concerned that she *still* doesn’t seem to know what the Vice President does.

    I am very concerned that Obama *still* doesn’t know what the President does. (other than run for office, and make promises he has no intention of keeping)

  46. Pug says:

    …but I am very concerned that she *still* doesn’t seem to know what the Vice President does.

    But she does know. The Vice-President in “in charge” of the Senate. Runs the whole show, know what I mean?

  47. Grewgills says:

    None of the stories on candidates clothes, personal hygiene, and diet should be getting near as much attention as they have. That said, it is fun to watch people’s arguments on the relative merit of these stories flip with the political affiliation of the target.

    In this instance Bit wins the award for the quickest and biggest flip from Michelle’s apparently non-existent luxury meal to Sarah’s clothing bill. Way to go Bit! You win!

  48. Dantheman says:

    Grewgills,

    “None of the stories on candidates clothes, personal hygiene, and diet should be getting near as much attention as they have. That said, it is fun to watch people’s arguments on the relative merit of these stories flip with the political affiliation of the target.”

    Right on. Because we know how many of the same persons saying this is meaningless thought that John Edwards’ $400 haircuts were a sign of his unworthiness. And vice versa.

  49. Crust says:

    Really, this is no worse than Al Gore spending tens of thousands having Naomi Wolfe tell him to wear “earth tones.”

    Of course the RNC really did spend $150K on clothes for the Palins. On the other hand, the Wolfe earth tones story is as bogus as the Michelle Obama lobster and caviar story (no one ever claimed direct knowledge that this happened; both Wolfe and Gore denied it; Gore had worn a mix of earth tone and non-earth tone suits throughout the campaign anyway; Bob Somerby’s archives have all the details).

  50. Bandit says:

    This is like super important but Obama’s bff Bill Ayers is a distraction.

  51. Jim Treacher says:

    Yes. You know why? Because it’s a fact.

    If McCain didn’t want Joe to be raked over the coals, he should never have brought the guy into the national spotlight. If he didn’t understand that, then he truly lacks the judgment that it takes to be a local reporter, let alone president of the United States.

    So now McCain is responsible for the irresponsibility of the press? Come on. If Obama is such a shoe-in, why do you sound so desperate?

    You’re just angry because it blew up in their faces, and McCain’s rubbing it in while at the same time helping Joe restore his good name. Well, Obama’s definitely going to win anyway according to you guys, so you have nothing to worry about.

  52. Billy says:

    Jim, I’m not remotely angry or worried. I just thought the flagrant double-standard to which you and the dead-enders with whom you run hold the opposition should be demonstrated.

    Thanks for your assistance.

  53. Bithead says:

    I just thought the flagrant double-standard to which you and the dead-enders with whom you run hold the opposition should be demonstrated.

    OK… When do you plan to do that, then?

  54. Jim Treacher says:

    Jim, I’m not remotely angry or worried.

    Of course you’re not, honey.