If you have $40,000 to spend, President Barack Obama's campaign has a deal for you.
Write a big check, and you'll get you a picture with the president and a chance to swap political strategy with him all while enjoying a gourmet meal at the lavish home of a Hollywood celebrity or Wall Street tycoon. And if you get the campaign even more money, you might just end up with a plum post as a U.S. ambassador or an invitation to an exclusive White House state dinner, reports The Associated Press.
Obama not your preference? No problem. Mitt Romney is offering donors perks that include everything from a private dinner with him to seats at the fall debates.
Welcome to the world of high-dollar presidential campaign fundraising.
Five months before the November election, both candidates are stacking their schedules with big-money fundraising events from coast to coast as they look to stockpile cash for the height of the campaign. On Wednesday, Romney was courting donors in Texas while Obama was holding four fundraisers in California that were expected to yield at least $4.6 million.
Access to the most exclusive Obama events usually sets donors back a cool $40,000. That means the upper limits of campaign fundraising are reserved for a privileged few, given that the median household income in the U.S. was $49,445 in 2010, according to the Census Bureau.
Some donors who paid the pricey tab for access to Obama fundraisers this year have been seated at exclusive dinners at the Los Angeles home of actor George Clooney or the New York townhouse of billionaire hedge-fund owner Marc Lasry. Next week, actress Sarah Jessica Parker will host a fundraiser with the president and Michelle Obama at her Manhattan home.
The president typically kicks off the high-dollar events with a version of his standard campaign speech. But the big perk for donors is the private question-and-answer session that follows. Sometimes the president grabs a microphone and fields questions from the centre of the room; other times, he hops from table to table to hold small group discussions with his top fundraisers.
And of course, there's a chance to take a picture with the president.
While the press corps travelling with Obama usually is present for his opening remarks, the campaign kicks reporters out of the room before he starts taking questions.
Republicans have hammered him for attending glitzy, celebrity-filled fundraisers while the economy is still struggling to fully rebound from recession. But the White House says wealthy donors are not the core of Obama's support.
"President Obama has vast numbers of small donors who support his campaign," spokesman, Jay Carney said Wednesday. "The fact that the president enjoys that kind of support speaks to what his policies are. He's out there fighting for the middle class."
The Obama campaign has held dozens of fundraising events where tickets run less than $40,000. But smaller donations come with fewer perks and far less direct engagement with the president.
In San Francisco on Wednesday, a $5,000 contribution bought an opportunity to hear Obama speak at a 250-person luncheon. But a $35,800 ticket gave 25 donors the chance to talk politics with the president at a private round-table event.