Political Donors Get Private Briefings
By Sharon Theimer
Associated Press Writer
Saturday, March 2, 2002; 1:08 PM
WASHINGTON –– For $1,000, a Republican donor can get a private briefing on homeland security from the House intelligence committee chairman and a spot in the " Speaker's Circle. "
Being in the circle, however, does not guarantee a meeting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. Instead, circle members will get to meet with House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, during a gathering March 13-14.
Democrats have their own perks for political donors heading into the crucial midterm elections where control of Congress is at stake.
Supporters who contribute $115,000 or more are promised two dinners with the top House Democrat, Richard Gephardt of Missouri, and two exclusive retreats with Gephardt and Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who is leading the fund raising for House Democrats.
" These are political briefings that serve as opportunities for our most loyal and enthusiastic supporters to get updates about our candidates and campaigns, " said Kim Rubey, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The potential passage of new fund-raising restrictions makes it even more important for party committees to find new ways to get – and keep – donors involved, said Steve Schmidt, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
One technique is offering access and awards. The NRCC, for example, will honor 500 " Republicans of the Year " at its mid-March event.
Donors who pay $1,000 to join the Speaker's Circle or buy a $250 ticket can attend the gathering, which includes a special briefing on domestic security by Rep. Porter Goss, a Florida Republican and chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence.
They also get to talk policy with Nick Calio, President Bush's liaison to Congress; House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas, R-Fla.; and Assistant Commerce Secretary Maria Cino.
" At the end of the day our goal is twofold: It is to elect as many Republican candidates to the House of Representatives and two, to promote Republican ideas through political campaigns, " Schmidt said. " These events dual our ability do that. "
Each House party committee offers benefits tiered to various levels of giving.
In addition to meetings with Gephardt and Lowey, top DCCC donors get a twice-monthly conference call with the pair and faxed updates twice a week from House Democratic leaders.
Those who give $100,000 annually to belong to the NRCC's " Business Leadership Trust " get a Super Bowl package for two and invitations to golf tournaments, resort retreats and luncheons with congressional leaders.
The group is " geared toward those in the business community who enjoy smaller, more personal events with congressional leadership that are conducive to frank conversation, " its description says.
At least two " Republicans of the Year " will not be able to take advantage.
The NRCC rescinded the honor from former Virginia businessman Mark Grethen after learning last month that he is in prison for sex crimes against children.
And Friday, the committee said it was pulling the award from Chris Hill of Sarasota, Fla., after finding out the businessman was facing federal drug paraphernalia charges.
" As soon as we learned what had happened, his invitation went up in smoke, " NRCC spokesman Carl Forti said.
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