Designer Obama gear raises eyebrows and legal questions

Kalyn McMackin Contributor
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Super PACs are out. Obama totes and nail polish are in — and maybe Federal Election Commission investigations.

In an attempt to raise money for his re-election campaign, the Obama administration hosted “Runway to Win,” a Tuesday night fashion show featuring more than two dozen famous designers.

“Attendees can purchase a tote bag designed by Derek Lam for $75. A collectible makeup bag created by Richard Blanch with nail polish in Red-y To Win Red, Victory White and Bo Blue is going for $40. And a silk scarf featuring Mr. Obama’s likeness by Thakoon Panichgul is $95. Profits from the sales will go to Mr. Obama’s campaign chest,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

“President Obama will need to sell a lot of scarves and make-up to try and cover up the three years of his failed economic policies,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. “While his campaign is trying to put chic back in Chicago, 12 million Americans are out of work, struggling to get by because of Obama’s weak economic leadership.”

Although Republicans disagree with the campaign effort, Obama hopes that the plain canvas bags and polyester-blend T-shirts will raise not only funds, but his fashion credibility.

But RNC spokesman Sean Spicer told the newspaper that the stunt “raises serious questions about whether corporate money, property and employees were improperly used in the design and production of these items without reimbursement.”

The Federal Election Commission generally considers donated items “in-kind” contributions, a category whose legal definition has expanded over the years. It now includes “hard” costs like travel, materials and other expenses — but not an artist’s freely donated time.

The Wall Street Journal stepped out of its typically staid posture to take a swipe at the project, created by Vogue icon Anna Wintour. The “pedestrian campaign gear,” the paper said, “bolster[s] the claim that the designers didn’t put much time into their effort.”

“Plain canvas bags and unisex, polyester-blend T-shirts bear each designer’s take on Mr. Obama and his campaign’s ubiquitous red, white and blue sunrise logo.”

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