For some of the GOP's biggest donors, the highlight of the Republican National Convention's opening night wasn't the speeches, but glittering diamonds.
As Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani were addressing the RNC on Monday night, the millionaires who give the most to the Republican Party and politicians were being treated to a private shopping party in their honor at Cartier, the famed Fifth Avenue jeweler.
"I very much believe in the Republican Party and re-electing President Bush," said Audrey Gruss, a guest at the party and a Republican Regent, meaning she has brought the party at least $250,000.
The Republicans have a full schedule of exclusive events this week — including an outing at the Trump National Golf Course in Westchester County, north of the city — designed to pamper their most generous supporters. The Democrats hosted a slate of similar events at their July convention in Boston.
A Select Guest List
These special events are for the VIP fund-raisers of both political parties. The Republicans call them Regents, Rangers and Super Rangers, depending on how much money they have raised.
"And if you're included you feel pretty great. If you're not included, join the rest of America," said Chuck Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog organization.
Super Rangers raise a minimum of $300,000 in contributions, while the Rangers bring in at least $200,000.
It is a side of the convention the average delegate will never see.
On Sunday night, at the fashionable Le Cirque in midtown Manhattan, guests had their choice of caviar, lobster and foie gras.
Later that night at Lincoln Center, top Republican donors were treated to a dinner with Cabinet secretaries and a private concert.
"If you give me money, you know, maybe I can get you a ticket," Stanley Davis "David" Phillips, a Super Ranger from North Carolina, told ABC News outside Lincoln Center.
Power and Money
Among the people who received these coveted tickets were two of the single biggest contributors to Republicans and their causes.
Alex Spanos and his wife, Faye, have together contributed approximately $5.78 million, according to a review of election records by ABC News. Spanos is a major California real estate developer who needs government approval for his big projects.
"We can't give enough," Alex Spanos said. "We just give as much as we can."
Roland Arnall, along with his wife, Dawn, have together donated approximately $6.1 million, according to a review of election records by ABC News. The owner of a financial company that has fought legislation tightening controls on loans to low-income customers, Arnall declined to answer questions about why he contributed so much money.
The Arnalls and other wealthy Americans, Republican and Democrat, have been able to easily get around new campaign reform laws, steering their money through supposedly independent groups.
"It's totally out of control," Lewis said. "This is power and money together in a very obscene way."
ABC News' David Scott, Vic Walter, Jill Rackmill, Maddy Sauer, Simon Surowicz, and Jessica Wang contributed to this report.