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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A lesson in acce$$ at the Vinoy



It wasn't Newt U, but fundraisers got a lesson in cause and effect today.

Three different levels were treated to various perks at the Renaissance Vinoy hotel in St. Petersburg.

More than 600 people who have raised $15,000 or more gathered in the Palm Court Ballroom where Condoleeza Rice spoke briefly and gave each person a copy of her memoir, No Higher Honor.

Meanwhile a smaller crowd who have raised $1 million or more gathered in the Grand Ballroom where they visited with Gov. Mitt and Ann Romney. The GOP presidential nominee shook every hand in the room.

As the luncheons dispersed young staffers steered hundreds of people to busses back to their hotels. But those at the "stars and stripes" level were discreetly directed down a hall, through a metal detector and into a small meeting room under the hotel's lobby.

A group of four men gathered in a corner and spoke in low tones about "the list." Finally one approached a staffer then returned triumphantly.

"We're in," he said. "Go get ties," he added to the two who had gone to the luncheon without them. Then scoffed: "Amateurs. President Bush (43) never walked into the oval without a tie."

The guests at the Vinoy today looked little like the hundreds of delegates stretched across Pinellas and Hillsborough counties. Instead of draping themselves in red, white and blue scarves, hats, and T-shirts, the dominant colors for these fashionable women were beige, black and orange. In place of the fanny packs and crocheted flag purses popular with delegates, were Tory Burch and Chanel leather handle purses with gold hardware.

Some of the "stars and stripes" folks weren't sure what was awaiting them through the metal detector and behind door number 2. Then word spread that they would meet vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

"Now what do I call Paul," one man mused. "Senator? Representative?"

"Congressman," he was told.

Soon enough the wait was over and more than 100 fundraisers and spouses went into the secure room for a quick photo opportunity with Ryan.

Today's lesson?

A picture's worth 1,000 words and a minimum of $250,000.

----Katherine Snow Smith

[Last modified: Thursday, August 30, 2012 4:25pm]


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