The Federal Election Commission prohibits campaign funds from being spent on items of personal use. Congressional candidate Samuel Wurzelbacher billed $634 for slacks, shirts, and shoes to campaign cash. A Wurzelbacher spokesman said a ruling had been requested from the election commission.
If Joe the Plumber wants to upgrade his wardrobe, he may have to do it with his own money.
Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher's second-quarter campaign committee report to the Federal Elections Commission disclosed that he spent $634 on new clothes at Jos. A. Bank in April and May.
The Republican candidate for Ohio's 9th Congressional District seat against incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) needed clothes more formal than the casual outfits he typically wears to attend certain kinds of campaign functions, a spokesman said.
But Federal Elections Commission regulations appear to forbid the expenditure.
The FEC prohibits campaign funds from being spent on items of personal use, which are defined as an obligation or expense that would exist irrespective of the candidate's campaign or duties as a federal officeholder.
"The campaign cannot pay for attire for political functions [for example, a new tuxedo or dress], but it can pay for clothing of de minimis value that is used in the campaign, such as T-shirts or caps imprinted with a campaign slogan," the agency's candidates' guide says.
Mr. Wurzelbacher of Springfield Township did not return phone calls seeking comment.
His spokesman, Phil Christofanelli, said the campaign has asked the FEC for a ruling, and will act accordingly.
"We're absolutely willing to comply with federal regulations. If they do decide it can't be bought out of the campaign account, we will be happy to reimburse [the campaign account]," Mr. Christofanelli said.
Mr. Christofanelli said Mr. Wurzelbacher bought three pairs of slacks, three dress shirts, and a pair of dress shoes, not the suit he originally said was bought.
"It was attire that he could wear on the campaign trail that was more professional than his working clothes. We had to get him some stuff for the campaign trail," Mr. Christofanelli said.
He said the purchases were made at the Jos. A. Bank store at Westfield Franklin Park.
He said Mr. Wurzelbacher didn't want to buy the clothes, but his campaign staff talked him into it. The campaign's position is that the clothing is not something Mr. Wurzelbacher would have bought if he were not a candidate, and it has made that case to the FEC.
"He prefers to wear his Carhartts or whatever, and believes if you're going to run for office you shouldn't put on airs," Mr. Christofanelli said. "That's our position to the FEC, but obviously they're the final arbiter."
The expenditure was included in Mr. Wurzelbacher's campaign finance report that was filed for the July 15 deadline.
FEC spokesman Judith Ingram said she could not say whether a complaint has been lodged against Mr. Wurzelbacher's expenditure.
Steve Fought, a spokesman for Miss Kaptur, said her campaign did not file a complaint.
Contact Tom Troy at email@example.com or 419-724-6058.