Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

RNC shells out $150K for Palin fashion

By JEANNE CUMMINGS | 10/22/08 5:47 PM EDT Updated: 10/22/08 5:47 PM EDT

The Republican National Committee has 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.

The cash expenditures immediately raised questions among campaign finance experts about their legality under the Federal Election Commission's long-standing advisory opinions on using campaign cash to purchase items for personal use.

Politico asked the McCain campaign for comment on Monday, explicitly noting the $150,000 in expenses for department store shopping and makeup consultation that were incurred immediately after Palin’s announcement. Pre-September reports do not include similar costs.

Spokeswoman Maria Comella declined to answer specific questions about the expenditures, including whether it was necessary to spend that much and whether it amounted to one early investment in Palin or if shopping for the vice presidential nominee was ongoing.

“The campaign does not comment on strategic decisions regarding how financial resources available to the campaign are spent," she said.
But hours after the story was posted on Politico's website and legal issues were raised, the campaign issued a new statement.

"With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it’s remarkable that we’re spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses," said spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt. "It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."

The business of primping and dressing on the campaign trail has become fraught with political risk in recent years as voters increasingly see an elite Washington out of touch with their values and lifestyles.

In 2000, Democrat Al Gore took heat for changing his clothing hues. And in 2006, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) was ribbed for two hair styling sessions that cost about $3,000.

Then, there was Democrat John Edwards’ $400 hair cuts in 2007 and Republican McCain’s $520 black leather Ferragamo shoes this year.

A review of similar records for the campaign of Democrat Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee turned up no similar spending.

But all the spending by other candidates pales in comparison to the GOP outlay for the Alaska governor whose expensive, designer outfits have been the topic of fashion pages and magazines.

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What hasn’t been apparent is where the clothes came from – her closet back in Wasilla or from the campaign coffers in Washington.

The answer can be found inside the RNC’s September monthly financial disclosure report under “itemized coordinated expenditures.”

It’s a report that typically records expenses for direct mail, telephone calls and advertising. Those expenses do show up, but the report also has a new category of spending: “campaign accessories.”

September payments were also made to Barney’s New York ($789.72) and Bloomingdale’s New York ($5,102.71).

Macy’s in Minneapolis, another store fortunate enough to be situated in the Twin Cities that hosted last summer’s Republican National Convention, received three separate payments totaling $9,447.71.

The entries also show two purchases at Pacifier, a top-notch baby store, suggesting $196 was spent to accommodate the littlest Palin to join the campaign trail.

An additional $4,902.45 was spent in early September at Atelier, a high-class shopping destination for men.

Editors' note: In earlier versions, a purchase at Steinlauf & Stoller was inaccurately described as a baby item.

A Drag on the Ticket?

from Yahoo...

Old conventional political wisdom dictates that vice presidential picks don't change the outcome of a race. When Sarah Palin received larger fanfare than John McCain a month ago, the pundits cautioned, "people vote for President, not for Vice President."
Well, vice presidential candidates may not win elections, but this year it's looking increasingly likely that Sarah Palin may help lose one.

In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released last night, the number one concern about McCain was Palin's perceived lack of qualifications.

Today Show/NBC News graphic

This morning, NBC's Political Director Chuck Todd explained McCain's "Palin problem":
"Speaking of Palin, her numbers have plummeted in our poll. For the first time, she has a net-negative fav/unfav rating (38%-47%), the only principal [candidate] to carry that distinction. What's more, 55% think she's unqualified to serve as president if the need arises, which is a troublesome number given McCain's age. (Have worries about McCain's age risen because of Palin? Seems to be the case)."

Other polls reflect this perception problem for the McCain/Palin camp as well. Pew released its latest poll that echoes many of the NBC/WSJ's findings about voters' perceptions of Palin and their effect on McCain. Pew's headline doesn't mention Palin specifically -- "Growing Doubts About McCain's Judgment, Age and Campaign Conduct" -- but it has this telling observation in the write-up:
"Notably, opinions of Palin have a greater impact on voting intentions than do opinions of Joe Biden, Obama's running mate."

Then ABC pulls McCain's poll problems together with this nugget explaining its most recent poll: "Fallout continues from McCain's pick of Sarah Palin for vice president, with 52 percent saying it weakens their confidence in his judgment."

Obviously, the McCain people aren't loving this and Politico reports that the candidate himself says he's "amazed" by the reaction to his VP pick. Politico writes:
"She is a governor, the most popular governor in America," McCain said. "I think she is the most qualified of any that has run recently for vice president."

"I'm amazed. I'm amazed. Which is better? Serve 35 years in the United States Senate and say you've got to divide Iraq into three different countries, or be governor of a state and a reformer and give people their tax dollars back and bring about reform in the way that your state does business? Which is better?"

Palin buzz -- good and bad -- has lit up the Internet over the past 24 hours. Our friends at Yahoo! Buzz have the details.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Powell endorses Obama, calls Palin pick a disappointment

Monday, October 20, 2008 5:58 AM EDT
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Colin Powell, a Republican who was President Bush’s first secretary of state, endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president Sunday and criticized the tone of Republican John McCain’s campaign.

The former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said either candidate, both of them senators, is qualified to be commander in chief.

But he said Obama is better suited to handle the nation’s economic problems, as well as help improve its standing in the world.

“It isn’t easy for me to disappoint Sen. McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that,” Powell, interviewed on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said of his longtime friend, the Arizona senator.

But, he added: “I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that’s why I’m supporting Barack Obama, not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Sen. John McCain.”

Powell’s endorsement has been much anticipated because he is a Republican with impressive foreign policy credentials, a subject on which Obama, a first-term senator from Illinois, is weak. Powell is a Republican centrist who is popular among moderate voters.

At the same time, Powell is a black man and Obama would be the nation’s first black president. Powell said he was cognizant of the racial aspect of his endorsement, but said that was not the dominant factor in his decision. If it was, he said, he would have made the endorsement months ago.

Powell expressed disappointment in the negative tone of McCain’s campaign, his choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a running mate and McCain’s and Palin’s decision to focus in the closing weeks of the contest on Obama’s ties to 1960s-era radical William Ayers.

McCain seemed dismissive of Powell’s endorsement, saying he had support from four other former secretaries of state, all veterans of Republican administrations: Henry Kissinger, James A. Baker III, Lawrence Eagleburger and Alexander Haig.

“Well, I’ve always admired and respected Gen. Powell. We’re longtime friends. This doesn’t come as a surprise,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Sarah Palin's college years left no lasting impression

Sarah Palin, then Sarah Heath, left, with classmate Stacia Crocker at a dorm party at the University of Idaho.

In the five years of her collegiate career, spanning four universities in three states, Palin left behind few traces. Not many professors or students even remember her.
By Robin Abcarian
October 21, 2008

Reported from Moscow, Idaho -- What can we learn about our political stars from impressions they made in college?

Sen. John McCain is remembered as a passionate contrarian who won the hearts of his classmates at the Naval Academy. Sen. Barack Obama, who attended Occidental College, Columbia University and Harvard Law School, is remembered as a daunting scholar and calming influence. Sen. Joe Biden, who had a brush with plagiarism at Syracuse University College of Law, is remembered fondly by professors who found him charming.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, however, is barely remembered at all.

In the five years of her collegiate career, spanning four universities in three states, Palin left behind few traces.

"Looking at this dynamic personality now, it mystifies me that I wouldn't remember her," said Jim Fisher, Palin's journalism instructor at the University of Idaho, where she graduated with a bachelor of science degree in journalism in 1987.

Palin, he said, took his public affairs reporting class, an upper-division course limited to 15 students. "It's the funniest damn thing," Fisher said. "No one can recall her."

"I don't remember her," said Roy Atwood, Palin's academic advisor at the university.

Indeed, interviews with a dozen professors yielded not a single snippet of a memory.

Most were perplexed and frustrated that they could offer no insight into a woman who has become their most famous former student. Only a few classmates recalled her, and those with the strongest memories were people she had grown up with in Alaska.

Some of her college anonymity is understandable. "She enrolled in and finished my class, American government, but I have had 12,000 students in my career, and maybe remember 400," said political scientist Tony Stewart, now retired from North Idaho College, which the future vice presidential candidate attended in 1983. Palin, he added, was not among them.

The former classmates who do recall her paint a portrait of a young woman who, like many freshmen, went from hometown stardom to college obscurity.

Friends described her as a serious, unassuming student who showed only brief flashes of the outsized political personality that would one day emerge.

"She wasn't out to get attention," said Michelle Carney Overstreet, a hometown friend and classmate at the University of Idaho. "She kept to herself."

At home, she was known as Sarah Barracuda, the ferocious point guard who led her high school team to a state basketball championship her senior year. But the standout athlete never joined a college team.

As soon as she graduated from Wasilla High School in 1982, she set her sights on leaving Alaska.

"Everybody who grew up in that town at that time was looking for a way out," said Overstreet, one of the few college classmates who had anything like a real memory of Palin. "We wanted to be more and do more."

Palin's parents -- a high school science teacher and school secretary -- could not afford the college tours so common today. Their four children were expected to, and did, work their way through college.

"We didn't have the luxury of spending a week driving around visiting universities to see what they're like," said Kim "Tilly" Ketchum, a high school friend. "We were looking at pictures of campuses."

Palin and Ketchum picked the University of Hawaii at Hilo from a brochure.

Only after arriving in Hawaii did they realize that Hilo had rainfall approaching 100 inches a year. "The rain," Ketchum said, "was disturbing."

They attended orientation but never even enrolled.

The Wasilla girls soon moved to sunny Honolulu and enrolled in Hawaii Pacific University, a small private liberal arts school. They lived in an apartment in the Waikiki Banyan and took a bus to school.

Palin, a school spokeswoman said, attended full time as a business student.

The girls studied on the beach, tried surfing and pulled straight A's, Ketchum said. "We took the basic classes -- chemistry and biology, this and that."

But there was a problem. "When you're used to having some cooler weather, you get tired of the heat," Ketchum said. "We went one semester there before we realized we needed to go someplace else."

They transferred to tiny North Idaho College, on the shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene. Palin's older brother, Chuck Jr., had gone there before transferring to their father's alma mater, the University of Idaho in Moscow.

At North Idaho, Palin and Ketchum found what they had missed in Honolulu. They lived on campus before moving to separate apartments their second semester. "It was all very quaint," Ketchum said. "You kind of felt safe."

Ketchum could remember only one out-of-character incident.

"Someone pulled the fire alarm next to my door," she said. "We all were told there is an invisible dye that squirts onto your hand when you pull the alarm and you're not going to be able to hide. And Sarah looked at her hands, and said, 'Oh my God, look!' And she went and confessed."

Ketchum discovered there that Palin was a natural in front of a camera, a quality that helped her land her first post-college job as a weekend sports reporter at an Anchorage television station. For a journalism class, they videotaped themselves giving a 30-minute speech for classmates to critique.

"She didn't have the kind of fear most kids would have had," Ketchum said. "I could barely handle it."

In 1984, after two semesters at North Idaho, Palin transferred to the University of Idaho. There, she continued her low-key life. A visit to the University of Idaho library here yielded little more than a senior photo of Palin from the yearbook. Though she majored in journalism, her name appears nowhere in the archives of the campus newspaper, the Argonaut.

During summers, Palin worked in an Italian restaurant and a seafood cannery and fished for salmon with high school boyfriend Todd Palin on his boat. While still enrolled in the University of Idaho in fall 1985, she moved home for a semester, taking classes at nearby Matanuska-Susitna College to save money.

Tuition at the university ranged from $485 a semester to $520 by the time Palin graduated. Generous educational loans from the state of Alaska helped her pay her way. So did beauty pageants.

"I razzed Sarah about it at the time," her brother said. "But she looked at me straight-faced and said, 'Hey, this is going to help pay for my college education.' "

Maryline Blackburn, who beat Palin for Miss Alaska in June 1984, said Palin, who competed as Miss Wasilla, earned at least $1,250 when she placed third and was named Miss Congeniality. The following year, Palin competed as Miss Big Lake and did not place, said Blackburn, a professional singer in Georgia.

"Everybody liked her, but I could tell she was very calculating," Blackburn said. "We were all very secretive about our talents and how we were going to present ourselves. She was always asking questions, figuring out what she needed to do to get ahead."

Stacia Crocker Hagerty, 42, lived on the same dorm floor as Palin and considered her a good friend. Still, the Coeur d'Alene lawyer and real estate agent said she had only a few random memories of Palin and a couple of snapshots -- including one at a 1986 "kegger" in which they sport big hair and wide belts over untucked blouses.

Palin was a calming presence who offered to pray for her when Hagerty had boyfriend troubles. "She was so 'steady Eddie,' so rock solid," Hagerty said. "She didn't make a big deal out of things like other people did. She talked about politics and history and what was going on in the world. I was like, whatever, I don't care about that stuff."

Until 1987, the Idaho drinking age was 19, and the university had a reputation as a top party school. Hagerty said Palin "was upbeat and fun but not a heavy partyer."

When she ran for Alaska governor in 2006, Palin admitted that she had smoked marijuana, but Hagerty said she never saw her friend do drugs.

Hagerty said Palin was good friends with Jill Loranger, their resident advisor for two years.

When reached at her home in Hailey, Idaho, Jill Loranger Clark was mystified.

"I can honestly tell you I have no idea who she was," said Clark, a middle school teacher. "If she had been a big party animal, I would have remembered her."