ORMOND BEACH, Fla. – Presidential candidate John McCain isn’t happy about having to explain why the Republican Party has had to buy running mate Sarah Palin $150,000 in clothes, hair styling and accessories.
McCain was asked several questions on Thursday about the shopping spree — and he answered each one more or less the same way: Palin needed clothes and they’ll be donated to charity.
“She needed clothes at the time. They’ll be donated at end of this campaign. They’ll be donated to charity,” McCain told reporters on his campaign bus between Florida rallies.
Asked for details on how they’ll be donated, McCain said, “It works by her getting some clothes when she was made the nominee of the party and it will be donated back to charity.”
Asked if he was surprised at the amount spent, McCain said, “It works that the clothes will be donated to charity. Nothing surprises me.”
McCain offered no further comment, except to say that the Republican National Committee doesn’t buy his clothes.
News of the purchases, largely from upscale Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, contrasts with the image Palin has crafted as a typical hockey mom.
Also on Thursday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a private watchdog group in Washington, filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Palin, the Republican National Committee and several political operatives alleging that the purchase of clothing for Palin and her family violates Federal Election Campaign Act.
The law prohibits a candidate for federal office from converting campaign funds to personal use. CREW notes that FEC regulations make clear the prohibition applies to clothing but also provide that donations by candidates to charity are not for personal use. CREW argued this exception might apply to Palin’s clothes but doesn’t appear to apply to clothes for her family.
Asked Wednesday who had paid for the suit he was wearing, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden told WSLS-TV in Roanoke, Va.: “I pay for my suits. I pay for all of my own clothing.”
McCain also said that Barack Obama’s money advantage is probably why one Florida poll shows the Democrat doing well in the state. A Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showed Obama up 5 percentage points overall in Florida, which went Republican in the last two presidential elections.
They spent more, that’s the element,” McCain said. “If it’s true — organization. But we’ve energized volunteers, we’ll get our vote out.”
He then criticized Obama for not accepting public campaign financing after initially indicating he would. That means he can raise and spend as much as he can, and he’s doing so at a clip of about $5 million a day. McCain did accept public financing and can no longer raise money. Obama began October with $134 million in the bank, compared to $47 million for McCain. However, McCain also is getting help from the Republican National Committee, which has far outraised its Democratic counterpart.
“He told the American people something that was patently false and then he’s raised a whole lot of money and the implications of that for future presidential elections should be very disturbing to every American. One thing we’ve shown in history — you get unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns, you get corruption and you get scandals,” McCain said.
At one point in the interview, McCain grew frustrated with a Tampa television reporter during her questions on immigration issues. McCain twice said illegal immigrants who have committed crimes would be rounded up. Katie Coronado of WFLA-TV asked if that meant using raids to round up immigrants.
“What did I just say that had any connotation of raids?” McCain said, raising his voice with impatience. “Let me try one more time.”
He again explained the idea of forcing illegal immigrants out of the country by issuing ID cards and fining employers who hire illegals. He then softened his tone.
“I apologize,” he said to Coronado. “I understand how important an issue it is. I didn’t mean to be flip.”