House and Senate Spend Tens of Thousands on Men’s Suits

August 11, 2016

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By HANNAH HILL

suits

Your legislature employs some well-dressed security guards.

The South Carolina General Assembly spends thousands of dollars on men’s suits, a review by The Nerve has found. Since 2007, over $94,000 of public money has been spent at several high-end clothing stores, including Cahaly’s Custom Clothing, Bill Owings Custom Clothing, Joseph A. Banks, and Lourie and Sons Fine Men’s Clothing.

Since 2007, the first reported year, the Senate has spent a total of $42,103 at these stores, and the House has spent a total of $52,576. In 2015-2016 alone, the Senate spent $7,139 at Cahaly’s, and the House spent $5,198 at Joseph A. Banks.

For reference, the least expensive suit advertised online by Cahaly’s is a seersucker suit for $795, an item available as part of the store’s summer special. Depending on the package, you can spend nearly $9,000 for two suits, two shirts, and two ties.

Asked for comment, the Senate Clerk, Jeff Gossett, explained that “those expenditures were for our Senate Security personnel. Like all other public entities that employ law enforcement, we require a standard of clothing (i.e., uniforms) and purchase those for them.”

House Clerk Charles Reid made a similar explanation, adding only that an agreement between the House and Joseph A. Banks allows the House to get these items at half price.

Many areas of state government impose standards of dress, and some – law enforcement, for example – require uniforms. But these other agencies expect workers simply to adhere to the dress codes and do not purchase the clothing for them. And the suits purchased for House and Senate employees are not uniforms: They would not distinguish the wearer from, say, a lobbyist or a lawmaker.

Why House and Senate security officers aren’t made to buy their own suits is unclear. (In 2010 The Nerve reported that both Senate sergeant-at-arms James Melton and House sergeant-at-arms Mitchell Dorman made over $80,000 each, but current legislative staff salaries are not available on The State’s Salary Database.)

One thing is clear, though: Whoever causes a disturbance in either chamber will be escorted out by a sharp-dressed man.

Hannah Hill is a policy analyst at the South Carolina Policy Council, The Nerve‘s parent organization.