WASHINGTON - Turns out that Sarah Palin wasn't the only candidate with donor-financed duds.
At least five candidates, including one from South Jersey, used campaign money for clothing, according to a complaint that a watchdog group filed yesterday with the Federal Election Commission.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said the campaigns of Democratic Reps. Rob Andrews of New Jersey and Loretta Sanchez of California, Republican candidates Bill Dew of Utah and William Breazeale of North Carolina, and Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr each spent hundreds of dollars on clothing.
That spending, the group says, violates a ban on personal use of campaign money. Earlier, the group filed a complaint against the Republican National Committee for buying tens of thousands of dollars' worth of clothing for Palin, the Alaska governor who was the party's vice presidential nominee. The RNC and Palin have said that they did nothing wrong and that all the apparel and accessories were being returned.
CREW's review of campaign-finance reports found that Andrews' campaign purchased $954 in clothing after his luggage was lost.
An airline lost Andrews' bags in June 2007 while the Camden County Democrat was traveling to give a speech, spokesman Fran Tagmire said.
"Because he had to dress for his speech immediately, he had to purchase an entirely new set of clothes," Tagmire said in a statement. "The campaign credit card used to pay for the clothing was reimbursed in total by the airline, which wrote a check for $952.04 to the congressman on July 20, 2007. The congressman then endorsed the check over to the campaign account on July 20, 2007. Thus, the campaign incurred no expense for the clothing."
CREW also found Dew's campaign spending $1,089 on clothing for him at Men's Wearhouse; Sanchez's campaign spending about $189 on "meeting clothing" for Sanchez and $145 on clothing for an aide; and Breazeale's campaign purchasing $1,000 in clothing for Breazeale at a men's store in North Carolina. Barr aide Andrew MacPherson received a $500 clothing allowance from Barr's campaign, a filing with the FEC shows.
Dew said he was not aware he had spent campaign money on clothing until he was contacted by the Associated Press and checked with his family.
"I don't remember buying any clothing unless my daughter bought me some ties and charged it to the campaign," said Dew, a former home builder. "I used over $500,000 of my own money on this campaign. . . . I don't see anything wrong with using my own money to use on personal things." Dew also accepted contributions to his campaign.
A Barr spokesman said the campaign did nothing wrong. "It was an appropriate expense associated with the campaign," said Russ Verney, Barr's campaign manager.