Major Democratic Donors Get Special Treatment

Much of the action at this week's Democratic National Convention — what should be a symbol of American democracy — is really a private affair, reserved for the Democrats' biggest donors and fund-raisers.

The convention's A-list enjoyed invitation-only dessert at midnight Monday night in the rotunda of the state Capitol, cocktails at a trendy restaurant with former President Clinton and Vice President Gore, and private sky-boxes overlooking the convention floor.

Outsiders were not welcome.

Said one guard to an ABC News crew: "Guys, it's closed. It's closed. All these events are closed to you. No media. Turn off that camera."

The Democrats continue to reward multi-millionaires and corporate lobbyists who, despite campaign reform laws, continue to raise and funnel big money to the party.

"Considering that we enacted historic [McCain-Feingold] campaign finance reform just two years ago, it's as though that didn't happen and has absolutely nothing to do with what we see in these conventions, because it looks like déjà vu all over again," said Chuck Lewis, founder of The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, watchdog organization.

Luxurious Headquarters

The headquarters for the Democratic Party finance committee has temporary housing at Boston's Four Seasons, the city's most expensive hotel.

The party's big contributors gather every morning on the hotel's second floor to collect the most sought-after credentials and tickets in the city.

Barry Kasar has pledged to raise $250,000 for the party, and he is generously rewarded for his efforts.

"This is for the cocktail part, this is for [a reception with] Ben Affleck, this is for the suite at the convention," Kasar said, showing off his highly coveted tickets.

Recent campaign reform was designed to limit how much any one person can give, permitting a $2,000 donation to an individual candidate or $25,000 to a political party.

But many find an easy way around the restriction, and it's right around the corner on the second floor of the Four Seasons — a newly established political group called ACT, on which there are no limits because it is supposedly independent of the Democrats.

At least 20 Democratic donors have given ACT more than a $1 million, which it can use in the coming election campaign.

The ACT hospitality lounge this morning was full of Democratic donors, and there appears to be a close relationship between the people running ACT and the Democrat finance committee.

ACT officials were not happy to have ABC News cameras inside their lounge and actually took down the ACT sign outside their door.

Later, hotel security threatened to make arrests if ABC News crews continued to take pictures inside.

"This is the new soft money," Lewis said. "They're supposed to be 'independent.' No one really thinks for a moment they're all that independent."

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