John McCain: "The use of campaign funds for items which most Americans would consider to be strictly personal reasons, in my view, erodes public confidence and erodes it significantly..."
Jim Kuhnhenn of AP:
GOP spent $150,000 in donations on Palin's look: WASHINGTON (AP) -- When the Republican Party decided to coordinate expenses with John McCain's presidential campaign, who knew it would be color coordinated. The Republican National Committee spent about $150,000 on clothing, hair styling, makeup and other "campaign accessories" in September for the McCain campaign after Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin joined the ticket as his running mate. The RNC now says the clothes belong to the party committee while the McCain campaign says the clothing will go to a "charitable purpose" after the campaign.
The expenses include $75,062 spent at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis and $41,850 in St. Louis in early September. The committee also reported spending $4,100 for makeup and hair consulting. The expenses were first reported by Politico.com. The RNC also spent $4,902 at Atelier, a stylish men's clothing store in New York. Other purchases included a $92 romper and matching hat with ears for Palin's baby, Trig, at Pacifier, a baby store in Minneapolis....
Most of the expenses were initially incurred by Jeff Larson, a Republican consultant who was the chief executive of the host committee for the Republican National Convention in early September. Federal Election Commission records show that the RNC reimbursed Larson for the expenses -- a total of $132,457. Larson is a partner with FLS Connect, a firm that has been retained by the McCain campaign and the RNC to undertake a phone calling campaign on behalf of McCain. Media reports have linked the firm to negative calls.... Larson's previous company worked for George W. Bush's 2000 campaign, conducting phone calls in South Carolina opposing McCain....
The RNC is allowed to spend up to $19 million in "coordinated expenses" with the campaign.... The clothing and styling was part of that, but most was spent on postage for campaign mailings.
So why did the RNC and not McCain's committee pay for the accessories?
The 2002 campaign finance law that bears McCain's name specifically barred any funds that "are donated for the purpose of supporting the activities of a federal or state office holder" from being used for personal expenses including clothing. A quirk in the law does not specifically mention party committees, however.... Lawrence M. Noble, former general counsel at the FEC.... "If it is covered (as a personal use expense), the argument that we were going to give it to a charity doesn't help," he added.
Fifteen years ago, McCain himself complained that restrictions on political contributions for personal use at that time were too broad and he wrote an amendment to tighten the law. "The use of campaign funds for items which most Americans would consider to be strictly personal reasons, in my view, erodes public confidence and erodes it significantly," he said on the Senate floor in May 1993.