Bob McDonnell's Wife Takes a Cue from Sarah Palin

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's reliance on political money to outfit his family with a lavish lifestyle is once again facing some major scrutiny. McDonnell's wife used campaign funds to keep herself outfitted in expensive clothing while the couple's on the campaign trail. 

The Washington Post reports Maureen McDonnell used a Opportunity Virginia PAC credit card (since revoked) to spend $9,800 on expensive clothing from stores like Nordstrom, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor and Ann Taylor at a time when the couple's penchant for using political money to facilitate a comfy lifestyle is under an big microscope. Of course, like the suspect $15,000 worth of clothes from Bergdorf Goodman she received from a donor, these purchases were all in the interest of keeping up with her duties as Virginia's first lady

Maureen McDonnell complained to officials at Opportunity Virginia PAC that she didn’t have the wardrobe or resources necessary for her new role as first lady, according to a person familiar with the PAC’s operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity to maintain a relationship with the McDonnells.

Does this all sound vaguely familiar? That's because Sarah Palin did the exact same thing during her campaign as John McCain's vice president. It seemed Gov. McDonnell had buried his troubles once and for all when he repaid over $100,000 in loans and gifts he received from a key campaign fundraiser last week. But this new shopping spree revelation -- along with gifts like the use of a private jet, covering the catering at McDonnell's daughter's wedding, and a $15,000 Bergdorf Goodman shopping spree for McDonnell's wife from campaign donors -- will put the spotlight back on McDonnell's financial behavior. 

But have no fear, McDonnell has no plans to keep any of the clothing. A spokesperson said the family was planning to donate the used clothing to charity once her husband is out of office

Rich Galen, a private spokesman for the governor and first lady on matters related to the investigations, said that Maureen McDonnell was borrowing the clothes, which would be donated to charity after Bob McDonnell completes his term in January. The PAC also said that the items will be returned to the committee and then donated to charity.

What happens to Maureen McDonnell's closet if her husband doesn't serve his full term remains unclear. 

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A Virginia State Board of Elections spokesperson explained to the Post how McDonnell's shopping spree is within the law. "If they wanted to use the money to send their kids to college, they could probably do that," Nikki Sheridan said. "There is no restriction on clothing, grooming or legal fees unless you’re shutting down your PAC." The gifts McDonnell received from a donor were legal under Virginia's notoriously lax ethics laws, too. That said, it's still rare for anyone to bend the clothing rules as much as Maureen McDonnell has. Perhaps that's why some of the purchases were masked as "travel expenses" or "event expenses" on financial reports. 

Correction: an earlier version of this report said McDonnell was running for reelection. This is not true and we regret the error. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.