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Bringing new meaning to "pay to play"

The New York Times reports: Lunch at the Plaza Hotel. Dinner at Le Cirque. Cocktails at the New York Stock Exchange. That's the least the Republican Party could do to welcome its top fund-raisers to the convention in New York this month. Right?

Yes, but there's just one catch. They have to pay for it.

These supporters - some of whom have raised $200,000 or more for President Bush or the party - are being charged a "convention fee'' this year of up to $4,500 per person for themselves and each guest, according to a Web page run by LogiCom Project Management, the company handling the events and travel arrangements.

That's just for starters. The fund-raisers will also pay for airfare, several nights in a hotel and optional events they might choose - like a fashion show at Barneys or the U.S. Open tennis tournament. The result is that a couple could easily run up a tab of well over $10,000. ...

Republican officials say the fees have risen this year - they topped out at $1,750 in 2000 - because of the new McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, which eliminated the unlimited so-called soft money contributions that used to make up a large part of the party's finances and were traditionally used to pay for convention events. Now operating on a leaner budget, the Republican Party chose to pass the costs on to those attending the convention rather than spend cash that could be used to support President Bush in the election. -- Republican Donors Paying to Play at the Convention (New York Times)