Coming soon, the Sarah Palin reality show, complete with conspicuous consumption!
The big media should be excellent at covering this sort of frippery. It combines their favorite subjects: money and stuff any middle schooler can understand.
Problem is, the New York Times is having trouble matching up amounts in campaign finance reports to actual expenditures. Ah, if only the world were so simple (ha) in the post-reform world of McCain-Feingold.
Here's a slightly educated guess: I think the Republicans may be allocating expenditures into multiple accounts. Until you have all the reports, you won't be able to match individual expenses. The McCain campaign not only took public financing. It's also raising piles of money under other guises. For example, the reporters should take a look into the John McCain General Election Compliance Fund, which sends out little notes like this:
What is the John McCain General Election Compliance FundIn other words, anything we can slip onto this budget we won't have to pay out of our $85 million budget. Maybe they're not stretching to rationalize Palin's wardrobe as a compliance expense, but I'm sure there are other specialized funds (the McCain Leadership Committee or the RNC Major Donor Leadership Program) that they can tap for Caribou Barbie's Washington makeover.
Contributions to the John McCain 2008 General Election Compliance Fund will be used solely for legal and accounting services to ensure compliance with federal law and not for campaign activities. Compliance Fund contributions may be used to pay for:
If these costs were not paid form the Compliance Fund, John McCain 2008 must use limited funds from the general-election campaign account for all of these expenses. Compliance Fund contributions are useful because they preserve 100% of campaign funds for media, mail, phones, and get-out-the-vote programs.
- Broadcast advertising (up to 5 percent);
- National and State office "overhead" expenses (payroll, utilities, etc.);
- Computer/website equipment and maintenance;
- Voting recounts; and
- Other federal election law legal and accounting services
So maybe they've spent even more than $150,000. Or maybe their shoppers are adding a percentage to pay for their wasted time.
Update (10/25): More speculation - with some sourcing - about untraceable campaign money.