There is no 18-foot champagne tower, covered up, as at the Tuesday evening fundraiser for President Obama at the 40/40 Club in Manhattan, although the uncorking of wine bottles can be heard. A hundred people paid $40,000 to hang with Obama and fundraiser hosts Beyonce and Jay-Z. A much smaller number paid $50,000 to meet in Boca Raton with Romney and hear him make a joke about how he could beat Obama more easily if his grandparents were Mexican. They laughed heartily.
Those price tags are not much less than what the average American family of four earns in a year. Yes, the donors are very rich people. Why is this what they choose to do with their money? What do they want?
Proximity to power, face time with the candidate, a chance to air their views, strut a little before the other people in the room and to brag plenty once they’ve left, say people who have hosted intimate fundraisers and raised piles of money for both Republicans and Democrats.
Romney knows exactly, and he gives it to them right up front.
“Because the table is small enough and the room is intimate enough, I’d like to spend our time responding to questions you have, listening to advice you might have,” Romney says on the video, released Monday by Mother Jones magazine.
Listening to advice you might have.
Flattery, attentiveness, pandering. A politician has to play to many crowds — the New Hampshire town hall, the VFW guys, the soccer moms. His or her rich donors are just one more audience.
Because the high-dollar, low-head-count fundraiser is closed to the press and held in a private home, it is invisible to the people who will ultimately decide the contest — that would be millions of voters. The unmistakable impression is that rich people get the real deal, the truth that the candidate won’t tell the public.
Fundraisers are closed to press and off-the-record not to protect the candidate from too-frank assessments. The candidate, after all, is presumed to be skilled enough at audience calibration to deliver to his crowd without damaging his campaign. These events are closed to protect the donors, who do not wish to blurt out their deepest fears and aspirations for public consumption, political fundraisers say.
“It’s done not so much for the candidate as much as it is for the guests. You want them to feel relaxed and be able to ask questions without feeling they are on the record,” said Robert Zimmerman, a member of several national finance committees for Democratic presidential campaigns. “Because a candidate is always on the record, especially for president.”