Fallout from Trump canceling Jacksonville convention events: GOP mega-donor perks vanish

The Chicago Sun-Times obtains the perk packages for the GOP and Democratic conventions, August events vastly retooled because of the pandemic.

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When President Donald Trump scratched the Jacksonville convention events, the top donors lost their deluxe perk packages.

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Before the COVID-19 surge in Florida forced President Donald Trump to scratch his in-person presidential convention in Jacksonville, the top perk package for high-end Republican donors — who would stay at swank resorts and get VIP access to Trump cabinet members— was priced at $1,161,200 per couple.

The Democrats, taking the pandemic threat more seriously earlier, told people not to come to Milwaukee at the end of June. The Democratic perk package consists of all-virtual events and tops out with donors asked to give $250,000 or to raise at least $500,000.

The Chicago Sun-Times obtained the perk packages for the GOP and Democratic conventions, August events vastly retooled because of the pandemic.

The Democrats are planning four nights of programming Aug. 17-20 with Joe Biden accepting the nomination in Milwaukee without an audience of delegates.

With coronavirus infections soaring in Florida, Trump on last Thursday canceled the four-night Jacksonville part of the convention. The president moved most of the events from Charlotte, N.C., to escape mandates to wear masks or social distance.

The business of nominating a president will take place in Charlotte starting Aug. 21 with a very small number of officials. How the rest of the week will unfold is still being decided. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence told ABC11, a Raleigh-Durham station, Trump will accept his nomination in Charlotte.

Pre-COVID-19, both parties used conventions to lure or reward mega-donors, who would have concierge fundraisers assigned to them to make sure they would have access to the best hotels, parties, briefings and floor credentials.

There is a pay-to-play aspect to this since the jumbo contributors get plenty of opportunities to have contact with elected and appointed officials.


It’s not clear yet if the Republicans will come up with some sort of replacement perk package for all the in-person activities and parties they were planning to take place at the Omni Amelia Island Resort and the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, north of Jacksonville.

Part of the allure of the packages was the ability for face-time at events with — according to a convention donor memo — Trump and Pence plus administration honchos Interior Secretary David Bernhardt; Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette; SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza; Housing Secretary Ben Carson; Education Secretary Betsy DeVos; Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross; Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma; and top White House officials Kellyanne Conway, Larry Kudlow and Trump’s daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared.

The very top tier level was the “Presidential Trust,” with the $1,161,200 contribution needed to qualify.

That package was to include priority hotel booking; “premier access” to convention sessions; private hospitality lounges; “exclusive” behind the scenes tours; “VIP concierge service for the entire convention week.”

Lesser versions of the perks could be had at lower contribution levels: the “Vice Presidential Trust” at $580,600 per couple to the “Chairman’s Circle” for $250,000 donors.

People who raise money from others — called “bundlers” — can also get perks, for example, if someone raised $500,000 from “15 or more unique contributions,” they would have been eligible for Amelia Island perks even if they personally never donated a dime.


At conventions past, the elite Democratic donors and bundlers would be offered packages giving them VIP access to hotels, parties and influential appointed and elected officials.

The 2020 Democratic convention will be known as the no-frills COVID-19 gathering with stripped down virtual donor packages. A recent fundraising note said, “We are excited to share our Biden Team packages for the virtual Democratic National Convention taking place August 17th - 20th.”

People giving $250,000 or raising at least $500,000 qualify for the “Presidential” level, and those perks include a “premium convention welcome kit;” something called a “taste of the trail;” a “VIP convention preview; afternoon briefings and other convention week daytime content; a VIP primetime convention pass” and a “convention post-gavel celebration.”

The “Vice-presidential” tier calls for a contribution of $100,000 or raising $250,000. That package includes “afternoon briefings and other convention week daytime content; a “preferred” — in contrast to the higher level “premium” —convention welcome kit plus the other items.

The “Senatorial” level calls for a contribution of $50,000 or raising $100,000 with a lesser convention welcome kit and non-VIP afternoon briefings and celebrations.

Details are still to come on what the special content will be in the VIP virtual events.

Meanwhile, despite the pandemic, Trump’s team is still doing in-person fundraising events with the president while the Biden fundraisers are virtual. On Wednesday, Trump, in Texas, headlined a fundraiser at the Odessa Marriott, where, the pool report noted most of the attendees were not wearing masks.

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