People who pay the equivalent of a salary for a meal are different from you and me.
Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney held three posh fundraisers in the posher precincts of the New York resort community of the Hamptons on Sunday as part of the massive ongoing fundraising push that helped him pull in $106 million in June, with hopes to raise another $100 million each month from now until the election.
But when you're charging people $50,000 for lunch or dinner (or $75,000 per couple), you can't always expect them to sound in tune with the downtrodden American workers whose plight Romney has made a focal point of his campaign. Indeed, it's extraordinary that the displays of ostentatious wealth at political fundraisers come in for as little notice as they do, and to what an extent political donations are considered socially akin to charitable giving when they do not have any direct charitable impact.
Two stories that came out of the Romney fundraisers in fact suggest that that in a post-Citizens United world of largely unfettered campaign giving, the only brake on the power of the wealthy within the political system may turn out to be social. What if it were considered déclassé to give large sums to candidates or committees within a democracy, and especially in a nation where so many have other needs? Further close observation of the people who attend major-dollar fundraisers could begin to bring about such a possible future.
From the Los Angeles Times:
The line of Range Rovers, BMWs, Porsche roadsters and one gleaming cherry red Ferrari began queuing outside of Revlon Chairman Ronald Perelman's estate off Montauk Highway long before Romney arrived, as campaign aides and staffers in white polo shirts emblazoned with the logo of Perelman's property -- the Creeks -- checked off names under tight security.
A New York City donor a few cars back, who also would not give her name, said Romney needed to do a better job connecting. "I don't think the common person is getting it," she said from the passenger seat of a Range Rover stamped with East Hampton beach permits. "Nobody understands why Obama is hurting them.
"We've got the message," she added. "But my college kid, the baby sitters, the nails ladies -- everybody who's got the right to vote -- they don't understand what's going on. I just think if you're lower income -- one, you're not as educated, two, they don't understand how it works, they don't understand how the systems work, they don't understand the impact."
And from The New York Times:
A woman in a blue chiffon dress poked her head out of a black Range Rover here on Sunday afternoon and yelled to an aide to Mitt Romney. "Is there a V.I.P. entrance? We are V.I.P." ....
A few cars back, Ted Conklin, the owner of the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, long a favorite of the Hamptons' well-off and well-known, could barely contain his displeasure with Mr. Obama. "He is a socialist. His idea is find a problem that doesn't exist and get government to intervene," Mr. Conklin said from inside a gold Mercedes, as his wife, Carol Simmons, nodded in agreement.
Ms. Simmons paused to highlight what she said was her husband's generous spirit. "Tell them who's on your yacht this weekend! Tell him!"
Over Mr. Conklin's objections, Ms. Simmons disclosed that a major executive from Miramax was on Mr. Conklin's 75-foot yacht, because, she said, there were no rooms left at the hotel.
Update 12:51 p.m.: Of course Obama also holds high-dollar fundraisers, such as a $40,000-per plate one at George Clooney's residence in the spring, though notably the president draws considerably more small donors than does Romney (more than half of his donors vs. 9 percent of Romney's, according to a study early this year). But the main difference between Romney in the Hamptons and Obama in Hollywood is that the rich people who back Obama have yet to be quoted talking about how their servants are too ignorant to know how the economy works. Rather, they tend to be quoted being critical of the president himself. Also, everyone expects Hollywood fundraisers to be over the top; Hollywood's lavish lifestyles and movie stars' sense of entitlement have been amply documented through a wide array of popular magazines for nigh on eight decades. That's why some said it was a risk for Obama to reach out to that community this year. Romney's showing us such values are not just to be found in Hollywood: they are in the Hamptons, and Park City, and Aspen, too.