Keeping Sarah's Party Dress

Election laws are dumber than you thought

Whew!  Sarah Palin won't have to trade her fashionable black -- and sometimes red -- outfits for prison stripes after all!

Okay, that was never a likelihood, but the Federal Election Commission's recent decision that there was nothing improper about Sarah Palin's $150,000 wardrobe upgrade -- plus another $4,000 on make-up -- puts to a rightful close to a rather silly episode from last fall's election season:

The answer can be found inside the RNC’s September monthly financial disclosure report under “itemized coordinated expenditures.”

It’s a report that typically records expenses for direct mail, telephone calls and advertising. Those expenses do show up, but the report also has a new category of spending: “campaign accessories.”

September payments were also made to Barney’s New York ($789.72) and Bloomingdale’s New York ($5,102.71).

Macy’s in Minneapolis, another store fortunate enough to be situated in the Twin Cities that hosted last summer’s Republican National Convention, received three separate payments totaling $9,447.71.

The entries also show two purchases at Pacifier, a top-notch baby store, suggesting $196 was spent to accommodate the littlest Palin to join the campaign trail.

An additional $4,902.45 was spent in early September at Atelier, a high-class shopping destination for men.

Sure, spending that much money on clothing might raise a few eyebrows, because the shopping was done at such relatively high-level places like Saks and Niemann Marcus (or "Needless Mark-up" as the kids called it when I was in college). 

The Republican National Committee paid for Palin's style upgrade. The only ones who have any right to get upset are RNC donors -- who might have preferred their dollars being spent elsewhere.  In the meantime, it's not as if Palin or the Committee kept the clothes. The booty has -- reportedly -- been donated to charity, though the party isn't actually required to do so, according to the FEC. 

The whole mini-controversy turns out to be something of a tempest in a teapot -- or a closet. When millions are spent on advertising in every presidential campaign, does it matter that a few thousand are also spent to make the candidate actually look good in some of those ads?  Of course not. And, for that matter, it costs a bit to have a Teleprompter at candidate and presidential events, too. Barack Obama is smart without the prompter, but the device makes him sound a bit smoother -- just as a clothing upgrade and a new bob makes a Sarah Palin look better for her close-up.  And you can bet that the time that the FEC had to spend on studying this issue probably cost more in public dollars than the clothes actually cost in private donations to the RNC.  

Just like liberals say that the decision about a woman's pregnancy should be between her, her doctor and her clergy, so, too should a female candidate's decision about her clothing attire be between her, her campaign manager/consultant -- and her donors. 

Robert A. George is a New York writer. He blogs at Ragged Thots.

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