WASHINGTON – There's a special reward for fund-raisers who collect at least $100,000 for the House Democratic committee: "exclusive access" to House leader Nancy Pelosi's (search) skybox at the Democratic National Convention (search).
For political action committees that give and raise at least the same amount this election cycle, the House Republican committee offers a "platinum" convention package that includes three hotel rooms, breakfast, convention credentials and tickets to hospitality suites and other events at the Republican National Convention (search).
The presidential nominating conventions — Democrats gather in Boston in late July, followed by the Republicans in New York City in August-September — offer nearly a week's worth of opportunities for lobbyists and other well-heeled types to mingle with members of Congress, state and local lawmakers and other government officials.
The parties are making sure their top supporters know they won't get lost in the crowd.
"Your donors have a big interest in the national conventions," said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "It's the biggest event every four years."
The NRCC also offers reduced convention and reception access to those who give or raise at least $30,000. PACs at that level get two tickets to the hospitality suite for one night on a first-come, first-served basis, for example.
The Republican and Democratic national committees and Senate fund-raising committees are also providing VIP convention passes to top donors and fund-raisers.
Other perks for those who raise at least $100,000 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee include a spot on its "National Finance Board," daily convention briefings, an invitation to an event with House Minority Leader Pelosi, D-Calif., at the Kennedy Presidential Library, VIP credentials and exclusive access to hospitality and viewing areas at Boston's Fleet Center.
While most delegates face the prospect of daily bus rides to the Fleet Center from motels in the suburbs, the DCCC's top fund-raisers are promised two rooms at a "premier DCCC hotel, located within walking distance" of the convention site.
The committee also rewards those who raise between $15,000 and $50,000, though the package does not include access to Pelosi's skybox.
Rep. Robert Matsui, a California Democrat and DCCC chairman, promoted the convention packages, including a concierge service to help them plan tourist activities, in a letter to prospective fund-raisers.
"You will enjoy political briefings, invitations to all of our exclusive events, and many opportunities to be with and speak to members of the Democratic leadership throughout the week," he wrote.
The party conventions are one aspect of election-year politics left largely untouched by a new campaign finance law.
Though corporate, union and unlimited donations to national party committees and presidential and congressional candidates are now banned, such contributors can still give unlimited amounts to local "host committees" that help with convention planning. They can also throw lavish champagne brunches and other receptions off convention grounds for convention attendees, including party leaders and candidates.
The party committees themselves can raise up to $25,000 a year from individuals and political action committees, which are financed by individual donors.
Paul Sanford, director of a watchdog program at the Center for Responsive Politics, said the law has led to some improvements.
"Instead of allowing an individual who wants to get access to the skybox to pay for it all themselves, they at least have to go find some other contributors who are willing to make contributions and sort of spread the generosity among multiple people," he said.
But Sanford said the convention perks show things haven't changed much.