One of the more interesting moments of the 2008 presidential campaign came when Politico revealed that the Republican National Committee had spent over $150,000 on clothes and accessories from luxury stores for Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin and her family. The high-end shopping spree conflicted with Palin’s image of a modest hockey mom. When confronted with the news, a campaign spokesperson replied, “It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign.”
But in an online-only companion piece to his big new profile of the former Alaska governor, Vanity Fair’s Michael Gross reports that internal emails and other records reveal that this claim and others about the fate of the clothes were false:
The records of those purchases also reveal that Palin’s later claims—that “we had three days of using clothes that the R.N.C. purchased” (at the Republican National Convention) and that she understood the clothes to have been “loaned to us during the convention”—were completely false. So was the spin of Palin’s campaign spokesperson, who stated on October 22 that “it was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign.” On October 23, in a previously unpublished e-mail (quoted below), Palin wrote that she had no idea the clothes would eventually need to be returned, and suggested that she believed the items were being given to her and her family as gifts.
There was at least one other incident in which the campaign misrepresented purchases for Palin. The day before daughter Bristol’s birthday, Palin aides exchanged emails about buying her a birthday present, with one saying they had “picked up a few dress options at saks during the event today.” That staffer charged $1,312.94 at Saks 5th Avenue in Cincinnati the same day. However, that charge was later mislabeled “as if it were made not for Bristol but for the candidate’s appearance on Saturday Night Live. (The memo line reads ‘Clothes-SNL.’).”
Yet, the spending continued. Throughout October, Palin staffers bought more than $9,000 worth of items for Palin and her family that “would seem to stretch the boundaries of what constitutes a legitimate campaign expense,” including a jersey for Palin’s daughter Piper, a $316.94 pair of Bose headphones, “Intimates” and “Workout Clothes,” and a “Jewelry case.”
At first, Palin was wary of accepting the new clothes, writing of a $3,500 jacket, “I don’t spend that much money on my clothes in a year.” However, Palin “grew accustomed to the privilege of a designer wardrobe—not only for herself but also for her family,” and tired to hold onto some of the items when the campaign eventually made good on its promise to donate them. When an aide came to Alaska to collect the wardrobe, she said, “all of a sudden, [Palin] couldn’t find stuff.” Indeed, as ThinkProgress has noted, Palin seems to appreciate the finer things, requiring that for speaking engagements, she be treated with chaffered SUVs, first class airfare or private jets, and “deluxe” hotel suites.