The Republican Party has screwed up big time! In a burst of activity designed to conserve funds for the campaign of attacks against John F. Kerry, conventioneers are being charged to attend their convention!
Lunch at the Plaza Hotel. Dinner at Le Cirque. Cocktails at the New York Stock Exchange. That's the least the Republican Party could do to welcome its top fund-raisers to the convention in New York this month. Right? Yes, but there's just one catch. They have to pay for it.
The fund-raisers will also pay for airfare, several nights in a hotel and optional events they might choose - like a fashion show at Barneys or the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The result is that a couple could easily run up a tab of well over $10,000. "A lot of us looked at that thing and said, whoa!'' said Bruce Bialosky of California, who raised $100,000 to become a Pioneer fund-raiser. He estimates that the convention will cost him and his family $15,000. "A lot of people just can't afford that.''
Welcome to reality.
While Democratic fund-raisers got into parties free during their national convention in Boston, some Republicans - even the most well off - are experiencing sticker shock. A few said they called campaign officials to complain. Others are looking into leaving their spouses behind, sharing hotel rooms or taking other measures to cut costs. Almost all said they have heard grumbling from their friends in fund-raising circles.
"The price of playing the game has risen dramatically,'' said Fred Zeidman, a Texas fund-raiser who has brought in at least $200,000. "I don't think anybody is happy about writing the check. But it's a cost of doing business.''
The Bush campaign is famously frugal, sometimes serving hot dogs and other plain fare at fund-raising events. As Shawn Steel, a California fund-raiser who has brought in $200,000 together with his wife, joked, "These are about the stingiest bunch of guys I've ever seen.''
To some, the pricing structure itself may seem unfair because the biggest fund-raisers, instead of being rewarded for their success, are expected to fork over even more money to attend the events.
I thought the Republicans were against progressive taxation!
Supporters - some of whom have raised $200,000 or more for President Bush or the party -- are being charged a "convention fee'' this year of up to $4,500 per person for themselves and each guest, according to a Web page run by LogiCom Project Management, the company handling the events and travel arrangements.
Republican officials say the fees have risen this year - they topped out at $1,750 in 2000 - because of the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which eliminated the unlimited so-called soft money contributions that used to make up a large part of the party's finances and were traditionally used to pay for convention events. Now operating on a leaner budget, the Republican Party chose to pass the costs on to those attending the convention rather than spend cash that could be used to support President Bush in the election. "We want to use our hard money resources in the smartest way possible,'' said Christine Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee.
But some Republicans say the fun of a convention is mixing with fellow fund-raisers, many of whom are friends from other states they have been working with for months, whether it is in the convention hall, in hotel hospitality suites or at parties given especially for them.
So it was for Mr. Bialosky, who found economical airfares, opted for cheaper accommodations and chose a cheaper package of events in order to trim costs so he could attend with his wife and his two teenage children. "I really wanted to be a Pioneer or a Ranger; that's what I worked my butt off to do,'' Mr. Bialosky said. "I don't have an endless pot of money to commit to political events. But I didn't want to go there and not participate in the Pioneer and Ranger stuff. That felt horrible.''
If you think it's bad now, wait until the next convention, Mr. Bialowsky!
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