Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 22, 2008
By: Hilzoy

Shop On, Sarah Palin, Shop On!

Sarah Palin does her bit to boost sagging retail sales:

"The Republican National Committee appears to have spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August."

Just think: each and every one of those dollars will not be spent defending a contested Congressional seat. Sarah Palin: shop on!

She does seem to have a talent for getting other people to pay for things, though. And while I don't mind when she charges the RNC, I might be a bit annoyed if I were a citizen of Alaska:

"Gov. Sarah Palin charged the state for her children to travel with her, including to events where they were not invited, and later amended expense reports to specify that they were on official business.

The charges included costs for hotel and commercial flights for three daughters to join Palin to watch their father in a snowmobile race, and a trip to New York, where the governor attended a five-hour conference and stayed with 17-year-old Bristol for five days and four nights in a luxury hotel.

In all, Palin has charged the state $21,012 for her three daughters' 64 one-way and 12 round-trip commercial flights since she took office in December 2006. In some other cases, she has charged the state for hotel rooms for the girls.

Alaska law does not specifically address expenses for a governor's children. The law allows for payment of expenses for anyone conducting official state business.

As governor, Palin justified having the state pay for the travel of her daughters -- Bristol, 17; Willow, 14; and Piper, 7 -- by noting on travel forms that the girls had been invited to attend or participate in events on the governor's schedule.

But some organizers of these events said they were surprised when the Palin children showed up uninvited, or said they agreed to a request by the governor to allow the children to attend."

Where I come from, when you say that your kids were invited and they weren't, that's called "lying." And when you amend expense reports to say they were on official business when they weren't, that's called "falsifying documents." No doubt that's because I don't come from Real America, and haven't absorbed nearly enough of its timeless moral values.

I can't help remembering what Sarah Palin told us about her spending habits back in the day:

"I came to office promising major ethics reform, to end the culture of self-dealing. And today, that ethics reform is the law.

While I was at it, I got rid of a few things in the governor's office that I didn't believe our citizens should have to pay for.

That luxury jet was over the top. I put it on eBay.

I also drive myself to work.

And I thought we could muddle through without the governor's personal chef - although I've got to admit that sometimes my kids sure miss her."

But sticking the taxpayers with the tab for trips for her kids and luxury hotels -- giving that up was a bit too much to ask.

Hilzoy 12:51 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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It's not a real expense if it's not coming out of the Palin checking account. No biggie. It's just a re-distribution of wealth.

Besides, the VP candidate is entitled, simply because she is playing in the big leagues.

And hey, Obama is a socialist elitist!!

Posted by: jcricket on October 22, 2008 at 1:33 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Aussiesmurf on October 22, 2008 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

A lot of it is her Pentecostal background, with all the "name it and claim it" stuff.

Anyone who complains about the crass materialism of rap videos has never seen one of those "gospel of wealth" preachers on TV. I once watched a woman preaching on Trinity Broadcasting Network, and the theme of her entire sermon boiled down to the kinds of shoes she wore before and after God changed her life, the size and ostentatious splendor of her house, car, clothes, ad nauseam.

Pentecostalism is a ready-made religion for the Snopeses. Their creed can be summed up as "Holy Ghost give me bling bling."

Posted by: Kevin Carson on October 22, 2008 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

The McCain campaign is in a financial crisis. This is no time for Frosty to be experimenting with socialism.

Posted by: MD on October 22, 2008 at 2:09 AM | PERMALINK

Saks Fifth Avenue?

Has she ever shopped at Wal-Mart? (Has she ever HAD to shop at Wal-Mart?)

Posted by: Bruce A. on October 22, 2008 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

Let them wear Donna Karan.

Posted by: gregor on October 22, 2008 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

This whole thing is just the outside of enough for me! Especially the travel stuff. My husband and I both have logged years and years of State service as upper-level officials and I KNOW what the rules are. It's not uncommon to take a spouse or kids along on a trip to an interesting location like DC or New York or Philadelphia. But it is absolutely verboten to be charging the State for their travel! I can't believe Alaska is that much different than the lower 48. In Wyoming, we have had public officials fired for infractions much less egregious than this.

As far as the fashion-related expenses go, it appears that the RNC thought the Palins were so far beyond the Pale (sorry) in their presentation that immediate sartorial rehabilitation was necessary. But Saks? Nieman Marcus, for heaven's sake? What's wrong with Macy's or Dillard's or something like? That's what passes for upscale in middle America. And nearly $5000 to outfit Todd (and presumably Levi as well)? Did they think voters would be coming up to finger the material before rendering a verdict on their acceptability?

If ever there was a party of elitism, it is the Republicans. Oddly enough, the sum they have spent on kitting out this family amounts to somewhere between 5 and 10 times as much as the annual income of the average low-information voter. Of course, these voters probably can't do the math to figure that out. (I hope I'm wrong.)

Posted by: WyomingDem on October 22, 2008 at 2:45 AM | PERMALINK

Rachel Maddow mentioned both of these items on her show - one of the quick in-between the commercials hits. I had emailed her the links an hour before (the wardrobe story was hot off the wire when I sent it) - no idea if she got them from me or someone else, but whatever the case, I'm glad she mentioned them. Palin was also skewered by both Maddow and Olbermann for her "VP duties" boo-boo.

Palin's "ethics" are NOT what I expect from a public servant. It's clear she has taken advantage of her position, both as mayor and as governor. Maverick, my a*s, she's just a common, corrupt politician.

Posted by: Not Caribou Barbie on October 22, 2008 at 2:57 AM | PERMALINK

It really is too bad that the Palins have abused the Alaskan treasury relative to the kids' travel, cuz eventually, the kids are going to have to hear about the abuse....and it probably will be from their peers and not their parents. Which means, that it will be an ugly exchange between schoolmates.

Sarah and Todd: Why do you put kids in this position? Their classmates will be telling them that they are leeches on the system!

I guess this is why there is home schooling.

Posted by: jcricket on October 22, 2008 at 3:09 AM | PERMALINK

Boy, that Pentecostal sure'll cost y'all.

Posted by: Kenji on October 22, 2008 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK

If the Alaskan government sends cash payments to its citizens, the level of public sensitivity about the budgets of public officials may be lower than in a state with tighter finances. That was one of the first and biggest weaknesses of S Palin as a candidate for national office, of course; she hasn't experienced the need to make hard choices and sell them to a reluctant public.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape on October 22, 2008 at 4:15 AM | PERMALINK

To Jassalasca Jape:

Your point is well taken. In Wyoming, we have experienced energy-related booms and busts. (Currently, we are a boom.) When the money is flush, it's easier to exempt, ignore, and forgive a few bucks here and there. However, ethics, morals, and common decency are not functions of the availability of State revenue. I know very well that part of Wyoming's recent revenue influx (from coal, natural gas, and oil) comes at the expense of consumers in other states. Likewise, Sarah Palin knows (okay: SHOULD know) that part of her state's surplus revenue comes at the expense of consumers in the Lower 48. Logically, then, the Alaska general fund that paid for the Palin family's personal junkets was not only paid for by the residents of Alaska, but by those of us who purchased Alaskan oil and contributed to the oil company profits that were taxed by the State of Alaska and and ultimately passed on to us.

So, babies, you and I and everyone else in this country paid for Sarah Palin to schlepp her family around the country at so-called "State" expense.

I know how this works. It makes me sick just thinking about it. I'm going to go and yak now.

Posted by: WyomingDem on October 22, 2008 at 4:40 AM | PERMALINK

After the story about John Edwards' $400 haircut broke, Wolf Blitzer brought it up- note, that's not "responded to guest's bringing it up"- eleven times in fourteen days. I'm guessing the number of times he'll mention this is about, oh, zero.

Posted by: MikeN on October 22, 2008 at 4:56 AM | PERMALINK

Hockey mom goes to town! See this great cartoon at the Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 3 blog...

Posted by: fdeblauwe on October 22, 2008 at 5:02 AM | PERMALINK

Spend $4,716.49 on hair and makeup in September? You betcha! That's almost 12 times John Edwards' $400 chop jobs. They must have flown in one of those non-real-American New York or Los Angeles hair stylists. Perhaps Frederic Fekkai? And I'm sure Fekkai makes more than $250K a year. So can't you just see the McCain "Fred the barber" ad already? NOTE TO MCCAIN CAMPAIGN: DON'T BOTHER - ALL THE BEST HAIR STYLISTS ARE DEMOCRATS.

I wonder if the Fox News/RNC scream machine will devote 1/12 the time on Palin's doo as it did on John Edwards'?


Posted by: Bob on October 22, 2008 at 5:33 AM | PERMALINK

I look forward with an anticipation that borders on wickedness the required-by-law reporting of these gifts on Sarah Palin's Federal Income Tax filings---coming to a theater near you on April 15, 2009

Posted by: Steve W. on October 22, 2008 at 6:11 AM | PERMALINK

You have this all wrong! This is all about the cultural enrichment of Alaska. Sarah is just a martyr for the cause. Now Alaskans will not have stand in line to view culture in the form of Ms. Trump. They can witness real culture live in the form of Ms. Palin. LIVE! Meet the "reformed" Sarah!

Posted by: lou on October 22, 2008 at 6:43 AM | PERMALINK

The shopping. That doesn't surprise me, and I shudder to think what that brood looked like befor the Sakks and Neiman make over. If the RNC wants to spend the money "putting lipstick on a pig(s)" thats up to them. Even in the expensive wardrobes they still come across as rubes.

The Alaskan antics is a bigger concern. She swept into office as a "reformer." Yet, all she really did was cannibalize her own party and play the same fast and loose ethics game as the rest of them. she's a fraud and not a very bright one.

I still say at approx. 11pm November 4th, the big shots in the Republican Party will turn on her and blame her for their disaster. She'll high-tail it back north and find hersellf with alot of questions to answer up there. Politically, she's finished the moment the election is called.

Palin family: enjoy the next two weeks.

Posted by: Saint Zak on October 22, 2008 at 6:44 AM | PERMALINK

But at least the head of the ticket is a man of solid, comfortable $500 shoes. Though I suspect Obama's and Biden's wardrobes don't come off the rack from J.C. Penny's either.

Posted by: demisod on October 22, 2008 at 6:52 AM | PERMALINK

The most telling part of the article about Sarah and her travels was this:

The Palins began charging the state for commercial flights after the governor kept a 2006 campaign promise to sell a jet bought by her predecessor.

Palin put the jet up for sale on eBay, a move she later trumpeted in her star-making speech at the Republican National Convention, and it was ultimately sold by the state at a loss.

That left only one high-performance aircraft deemed safe enough for her to use — a 1980 twin-engine King Air assigned to the public safety agency but, according to flight logs, out of service for maintenance and repairs about a third of the time Palin has been governor.

Posted by: on October 22, 2008 at 7:11 AM | PERMALINK

Just think, if they didn't outfit her in clothes from Saks and Nieman Marcus we could have seen her deliver her convention speech in bike shorts, an extra large Eagles "Hell Freezes Over" concert t shirt and jelly sandals.

Posted by: Saint Zak on October 22, 2008 at 7:18 AM | PERMALINK

What intrigues me is the nearly 10,000.00 that John McCain spent on make up last month.

Posted by: JS on October 22, 2008 at 7:54 AM | PERMALINK

Another issue that has been lost somewhat is the fact that a lot of these expenses are taxable income to the Palins. When their tax returns were released, I took a gander to see whether there were any 1099-Gs attached (payments from the government). There were not.

In other words, the main reason that travel reimbursements to children and husbands are not allowed is because they are considered taxable income, subject to withholding, etc.

If this were the proverbial Joe Sixpack family, they would have the IRS all over them. Let's just see if the Bush IRS does anything about this.

Posted by: DBaker on October 22, 2008 at 8:32 AM | PERMALINK

This is where Palin's inexperience really kills McCain. Someone with more experience would know the optics of this are just awful, especially since the campaign looks to be going all in on an Appalachia strategy.

Posted by: paul on October 22, 2008 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

sarah's still performing her patriotic duty post 9/11 and getting out there and shopping. perhaps she thinks she can singlehandedly fix the economy this way -- it would be within her purview.

Posted by: entheo on October 22, 2008 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Sarah Palin claims that all of her kids' travel was on state business. That the children were specifically asked to appear with her at state fairs and other events.

Even if this explanation is true, and there is a serious question in my mind whether it is appropriate policy to treat appearances by family members at public events as official state business. It would be very informative to know whether previous Alaska state governors or current and recent governors from other states have done this.

Posted by: tanstaafl on October 22, 2008 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

People just don't get it. The McCain campaign didn't spend money on clothes, they INVESTED in appreciable assets! Once Sarah is elected, they plan to auction the clothes at a net profit ("as worn by the great Maverick, Sarah Palin")!

Just have to apply those free market economics, that's all. :)

Posted by: bdop4 on October 22, 2008 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

Another issue that has been lost somewhat is the fact that a lot of these expenses are taxable income to the Palins. When their tax returns were released, I took a gander to see whether there were any 1099-Gs attached (payments from the government).

It wouldn't be on a 1099-G I believe; she's an employee of the state government and it should have been included in her W2, possibly with some breakout in the text box if required by IRS regs. That's what companies will do for taxable benefits like moving costs above the IRS deductible.

Posted by: ericblair on October 22, 2008 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

If the Alaskan government sends cash payments to its citizens, the level of public sensitivity about the budgets of public officials may be lower than in a state with tighter finances.

Oh, you haven't been paying attention to Alaska budgetary debates. Her travel with her children will not go down well up here. It has to be deeply embarassing to the state GOP. They are largely a bunch of budget hawks. They only go crazy with Federal dollars.

Posted by: AK Liberal on October 22, 2008 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

Compared to the other reprehensible things Republicans do, this is small beer. But, it does confirm Palin as someone whose sense of entitlement knows no bounds, and as someone who sees no boundaries between the personal and the professional parts of her life. By all accounts, she's another narcissist, petty, vindictive, shallow, obsessed with appearances, and so convinced of her own righteousness that the truth is whatever she says it is.

Posted by: jrw on October 22, 2008 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I'm so curious in this Pentacostal/blingbling connection! Why does Pentacostalism have a special relationship to the notion that faith in god will promote your material fortunes?

I would like to confide the clotheshorse reaction to Palin's crimes. I condemn it, of course, but I am envious. Beautiful clothes are such an attraction when everything else in life is so miserable. Palin is shopping like any other movie star, and this seems to be her destiny. I still want her shoes from the GOP convention.

Does this make Michelle from Minnesota love her a little less?

Posted by: on October 22, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

$75,000 at Needless Markup!!! Rinse, lather and repeat: so much for the claim that Palin's "one of us."

On the bright side, the McCain campaign's finally come up with a plan to stimulate the economy (send Sarah and the brood shopping) and also to take care of the homeless (donate the clothing to charity afterwards). Yes, just what Goodwill needs: $75,000 worth of over-priced clothing.

I guess the price of an old-fashioned Republican cloth coat has gone up . . . .

Posted by: retr2327 on October 22, 2008 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Someone should check to see if she charges the state for mileage to drive herself to work. In any case, if she were willing to recognize Juneau as the capital of Alaska, she could take a healthy 3-minute walk from the Governor's Mansion to the Capitol and cut her fuel bill and her carbon emissions. Unfortunately, she seems to exhale pure methane herself.

Posted by: Ghillie on October 22, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kids had to make an appearance at the events so she could get away with charging for their hotel stays plus food, transportation and sightseeing. Palin says one thing while doing the opposite because she's always gotten away with it by smiling and winking. Some of us aren't so easily duped.

Posted by: joey on October 22, 2008 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK



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