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Political Fundraisers: Fun Facts

What does a $30,000 lunch taste like?

As news reports about fundraising fly this presidential election season, just as in years past, the masses wonder what exactly goes into one of those big-ticket meals attended by titans of industry and celebrities alike.

“You would think for $30,000 a head, you’d get a proper meal,” dishes one Washington hostess who herself has raised millions of dollars for candidates, “but it’s often passed appetizers and a cheap bottle of wine.” The rationale heard: Any pricey extras—from a meal cooked by a celebrity chef to a musical performance—cut into a campaign’s bottom line.

It might not seem fair, but a donation is about more than a square meal; it’s about access. “People pay to get into Sarah Jessica Parker’s apartment or see David Koch’s art collection,” says a prominent lobbyist. “After all, if you want to run with the bulls, you’ve got to pay up.” Still, some fundraiser hosts find ways to dazzle. So what goes into that five-figure meal to benefit your candidate of choice? We break it down by the numbers.