The Federal Election Commission today threw out a watchdog group's complaint against Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, the Republican National Committee, and several political operatives associated with the RNC, alleging that they improperly spent $150,000 on clothing for Palin and her family.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics cited news reports that clothing and accessories purchases for Palin and her family included $49,425 spent at Saks Fifth Avenue and $75,062 at Neiman Marcus. The group said the shopping excursions violate campaign finance law because the law specifically prohibits a candidate for federal office from converting campaign funds to personal use, including clothing.
But the law has a loophole for money raised, not by individual candidates, but by political parties. The FEC ruled that the clothing purchases were permitted as “coordinated party expenditures.”
"In effect, the FEC is claiming its hands were tied and it could not penalize the RNC or Governor Palin," CREW said today.
"This means that the FEC will allow political parties to buy candidates whatever they want at whatever cost, and that the candidates and their families may keep these purchases. Despite the fact that Governor Palin and the RNC claimed the clothing would be donated to charity, it is not clear this ever happened, and in any event, according to the FEC, the law does not require it. Notably, this past March the FEC asked Congress to enact legislation to extend the personal use prohibition to all political committees, including party committees and leadership PACs. Unsurprisingly, Congress has yet to act."
Still, Palin's wardrobe malfunction did help cost her in popularity after an initial burst of enthusiasm, especially from the Republican rank-and-file. The Alaska governor is still in the conversation, however, for 2012.
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 email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.