Dispatch October 2008

Sarah Palin’s Personal Shopper

Meet the Republican Party's fashion guru

Move over Carson Kressley. A new celebrity shopper has emerged!

The attention from Jeanne Cummings’s much-talked-about Politico story has naturally focused on the $150,000 in luxury clothing purchased for Sarah Palin at Neiman Marcus, Sak’s Fifth Avenue, and Barney’s. What hasn’t yet gotten any attention is who bought it for her. But buried in the same FEC disclosure form that revealed Palin’s taste for the fine life is the name of the man who appears to have been her personal shopper: Jeff Larson.

Under FEC regulations, the RNC must file what is called a “Schedule F form,” which lists “expenditures made by political committees or designated agents(s) on behalf of candidates for federal office.” This is presumably the same document from which Cummings drew for her story. Here’s a blow-up of the RNC’s most recent Schedule F. I’ve circled the controversial purchases—and the apparent purchaser—in red magic marker.

XXXX

Click here to view the full document

Along with the matching dates and dollar totals, note the “Transaction ID Number,” which clearly connects the questionable expenditures with reimbursement payments made to Larson. (To totally wonk out for a second, the “m” stands for “memo,” which is included to provide an additional explanation of the transaction—basically, it links a disbursement with whatever was purchased.)

Does the name Jeff Larson sound familiar? It should. Larson is the Karl Rove protégé who’s a principal in the robocalling firm of FLS Connect (the “FLS” stands for Tony Feather, Jeff Larson, and Tom Synhorst*, all veteran Republican political operatives). Larson’s firm is the same one that launched the scurrilous robocalls against John McCain in 2000, and that McCain has now hired to make robocalls connecting Barack Obama to Bill Ayers. He’s also well known in Minnesota for leasing his basement apartment at a steeply discounted rate to embattled Republican Senator Norm Coleman. Evidently, Larson also has quite the eye for women’s fashion. Even hateful liberals would have to admit that Palin dresses awfully nicely.

Bravo's Carson Kressley and the GOP's Jeff Larson

What’s so incompetent about this from a political tradecraft perspective is that both parties ordinarily take the easy precaution of making sure such embarrassing material isn’t obvious to reporters, which they do by routing the payment through a law firm or consultant. Here they neglected to do so. Larson may not be able to look forward to a lucrative contract with a McCain administration. But who knows? He may land his own show on Bravo.

*Although Synhorst founded the firm, he is no longer actively involved.

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Joshua Green is an Atlantic senior editor.

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