Exclusive: Secret Menu Details Perks, Access for Elite Romney Donors
ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Hours before Gov. Mitt Romney accepts the Republican nomination for President in Tampa, he will have a two-hour lunch with some of his most elite donors -- the group known as the Romney Victory Council. The lunch is part of a whirlwind schedule laid out for Romney's most elite fundraisers, a copy of which was obtained by ABC News.
Marked "Confidential," the schedule offers a rare inside look at how the Republican National Convention is playing out for those who have raised and donated the most to see Romney elected.
Council members will have breakfast with Condoleezza Rice this morning and cocktails with the Republican leaders of the Congress this evening. They will be toasted at an "appreciation reception" with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell aboard the Cracker Bay Yacht. They will enjoy a special audience with Ann Romney on Thursday, and a political briefing from the candidate's senior political staff.
Much is made of the convention spending by lobbyists and special interests looking to use golf outings and concerts to lubricate their relationships with high-ranking politicians. But the nurturing of major donors has become an equally important staple of the political conventions -- though on a scale that appears to grow with each campaign cycle, according to Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig.
"It is part of a system, an economy of influence," Lessig told ABC News. "And if you don't play in that economy, you don't have the access and influence you need."
In a presidential campaign where the contenders will combine to raise well over $1 billion, the techniques for rewarding top donors with titles and attention have been carefully honed -- with the rewarding of special monikers, briefings from campaign insiders, and exclusive retreats all part of every campaign's playbook.
While Romney's campaign has said little about the campaign's fundraising program, the Wall Street Journal reported last week that Council members have committed to raise $1 million, while others, such as "Stars," have raised at least $250,000 and "Stripes," have raised at least $500,000.
President Obama's campaign has a similar program. A National Finance Committee of Obama's top bundlers -- those who raise at least $500,000 for his campaign -- attends quarterly meetings to hear from top campaign officials, including a two-day session held in Chicago in June.
In Tampa, top Romney supporters have been treated like high rollers in Las Vegas. Much of that occurs in hidden rooms on high floors of luxury hotels and in luxury boxes inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum, the building where the convention itself is being held.
For the Victory Council, that means enjoying the festive floor sessions from the "Road to Victory Suite." For members of another tier of his supporters, the "Founding Partners," there is "The Green Room."
For other top donors, also behind velvet curtains, is the private retreat that the Romney campaign is calling "The Lounge." Top donors receive a special red credential tag to enter, and can lounge on big leather chairs inside. Two full bars are serving beverages for GOP leadership events that occur at all hours.
Charles R. Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, said the environment is conducive to the networking that has become the lifeblood of national political conventions.
"The conventions are a chance for their donors to hobnob directly with the lawmakers, Congress and obviously the Presidential candidates and the future cabinet, perhaps, of the United States," Lewis said. "It is a schmooze fest involving the wealthiest interests in the United States that want to be close to power."
On Thursday, the ultimate schmoozing will occur at the Victory Council lunch, held at an area resort. There the elite donors will have lunch with Romney, his Vice Presidential pick, Paul Ryan, Ann Romney, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. After lunch, they will be given the chance to pose for photos with Ryan.
Busses will then shuttle the special group to the Convention, where they will have a reception with Gov. McDonnell and "the Romney sons." All that will build to the convention's most anticipated moment. From the Road to Victory Suite, they will watch Romney accept his party's nomination.
And when they depart Tampa at the week's end, they will carry gifts of appreciation, including such high-end mementos as brass clocks for their mantels and wooden captain's chairs with personalized brass plaques imprinted with Mitt Romney's signature.
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