As this campaign finance cycle comes to a close, presidential candidates are required by FEC rules to disclose their budgets and spending, and nearly every candidate’s expensive will generate their own headline. Yesterday, it was the unexpected closing of Newt Gingrich‘s Tiffany’s credit line. Today, it’s something that, with traction, could do harm to a campaign of legitimate viability: Rep. Michele Bachmann‘s, as the disclosures show a surge in hair and makeup spending unprecedented in her career.
According to Mother Jones, Rep. Bachmann paid thousands of dollars to a stylist listed as working with Fox News and the Gingriches, something those who have worked with her politically previously found surprising:
According to Bachmann’s latest campaign finance filings, her campaign spent nearly $4,700 on hair and makeup in the weeks after she entered the presidential race on June 13. Records show her campaign made three payments of $1,715, $250, and $2,704 to a Maryland-based stylist named Tamara Robertson. Robertson’s LinkedIn profile says she works as a makeup artist at Fox News in the DC area. She’s also listed in the “Make-up” section of the credits for the Citizens United-produced film A City Upon a Hill, hosted by Newt and Callista Gingrich—a pair who’ve raised eyebrows with their own spending. […]
In February, the Minneapolis City Pages quoted a celebrity stylist named Natalie Hale saying that Bachmann paid her $225 for three different makeup sessions during the 2010 campaign. Hale added, however, that Bachmann tried to avoid paying for such services when possible. “I know for a fact if Michele has to pay for makeup she will usually instead do it herself,” Hale said.
It isn’t the first time a politician faces scrutiny for aesthetic dedication: John Edwards‘ famously received $400 haircuts and Sarah Palin found herself in trouble after the RNC’s clothing bills for her were released in 2008. It is an attack that, in the right context, has proven to work. What Rep. Bachmann’s detractors will find difficult in using it, however, is precisely that it is so uncharacteristic– that she did not exhibit vain or impulsive behavior in her past, so to highlight expenses that pale in comparison to other, wealthier politicians may backfire.
Not to mention that, as a female candidate with a serious shot at the White House, gender politics comes into play. The whole thing poses a chicken or egg question as to the aesthetics of female candidates: did women up the ante on what they should look like in politics themselves, or is that a mantle foisted upon them by exterior pressures? It seems Rep. Bachmann had previously not felt any urges to spend on such things in these amounts, despite winning several elections and being one of the elite in the U.S. Congress. She has more money to burn now for the campaign, certainly, as donations come in from around the nation, but those around her could very well argue that had she wanted to indulge in such a manner before, she would have just gotten herself a credit card. Those delving into the inside baseball of all this may blame strategist Ed Rollins or others in the campaign for convincing her that it was necessary.
All the speculation, however, presupposes that voters will have an interest in the story. Opponents have opened up far more politically relevant war fronts with this candidate at the moment, from her comments on homosexuality to her routine migraines, than most others, and whether this one is a war front worth pursuing will determine how much voters will hear about it in the future– not the level of outrage appropriate for the spending.
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