Dinner with Ted and Heidi Cruz? Yes, for $500K

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WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is asking top allies to collect at least $500,000 each from their circle of friends and colleagues and is promising those elite fundraisers coveted access.

The Texas Republican’s finance team says the best fundraisers will be invited to a donor retreat and a quarterly dinner at the home of Ted and Heidi Cruz. Those supporters will be called the campaign’s founders.

Other levels inside Cruz’s campaign hierarchy include statesmen ($250,000), generals ($100,000) and federalists ($50,000), according to a fundraising document obtained by The Associated Press. Rick Tyler, a spokesman for Cruz’s campaign, declined to comment.

With each escalating pledge to raise cash comes more perks, including access to the candidate and his inner circle of advisers. For instance, the top fundraisers are promised access to a donor retreat, dinner with the Cruz family and the title of national finance co-chairman.

For the lowest bracket, donors can become members of the state-level finance committee and attend a Cruz-sponsored reception at the Republican National Committee’s nominating convention in Cleveland.

Those roles reflect the tremendous influence of bundlers — fundraisers who collect campaign checks from their friends, neighbors and relatives, and deliver them to campaign headquarters in bulk or bundles of cash.

Individuals can give $2,700 to a candidate during the primary and another $2,700 for the general election. That means the most aggressive bundlers will need almost 100 deep-pocketed donors to meet the fundraising thresholds by Election Day 2016.

Raising cash this way is nothing new.

In 2000, then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush designated fundraisers who collected $100,000 as his campaign’s Pioneers. In 2004, he upped the ante; his top tier was $200,000 and called Rangers.

Top Hillary Rodham Clinton fundraisers during her 2008 campaign pledged to raise $100,000 and were designated Hillraisers. And in 2012, Barack Obama’s re-election bid listed his top tier as those who collected $500,000 or more, but they did not receive public nicknames.

Cruz, the first to enter the race for the GOP nomination, has been aggressively laying the groundwork to pay for his presidential campaign. In the first eight days as a candidate, Cruz raised $4 million.

PHILIP ELLIOTT, Associated Press

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