The John McCain-Sarah Palin campaign is striking back at a report about money spent on Palin's appearance.
Politico reported that the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 to clothe and accessorize Palin since she was picked by McCain in late August. According to financial disclosure records, the bills include $75,063 at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis and $49,426 at Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York. The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.
Politico also reported that its review of similar records for the campaign of Democrat Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee turned up no similar spending.
"With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it’s remarkable that we’re spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses. It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign," Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said in a statement.
While the money comes from campaign donors, not from taxpayers, the clothing from high-end stores does seem to conflict with Palin's image as a Wal-Mart hockey mom. There was also quite a bit of buzz over Palin's designer rimless eyeglasses, whose popularity exploded.
And while male candidates have been criticized spending on their looks -- Democrat John Edwards’ $400 haircuts, for instance -- there does appear to be more attention paid to female candidates' appearance, both Hillary Clinton (her blouses and pantsuits) during the primaries, and now Palin, as the second woman to run on a major-party ticket.
Susan Scafidi, a Fordham Law professor who teaches fashion law, opined in a statement, “In our image-based society, the packaging of a candidate requires strategic spending on visuals, from stage makeup to backdrops to podiums at a flattering height -- and yes, costumes. As a result, it's difficult to argue that the RNC's purchase of clothing for Sarah Palin is an inappropriate expenditure on items for personal use, especially if they really do go to charity after the campaign. Still, given that neither party has given its male candidates a wardrobe makeover, the $150,000 spent at Saks and Neimans reinforces the unfortunate impression that Governor Palin is merely the conservatives' favorite dress-up doll.”
Meanwhile, in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that shows Democrat Barack Obama leading McCain 52 to 42 percent among registered voters nationwide, up from 49 to 43 percent two weeks ago, voters also named Palin's qualifications to be president as their top concern about McCain -- ahead of even continuing President Bush's policies.
Of respondents, 55 percent said she is not qualified to serve as president, and 47 percent have a negative opinion of her, up from 27 percent when she was first picked two months ago.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.