A year away from GOP convention, hosts face $55 million challenge
TAMPA — To land a really big catch, sometimes you want a really big boat.
Take the Cracker Bay, a gleaming white yacht half the length of a football field. Owned by Gary Morse, developer of the Villages, it has an impressive art collection and can seat 30 for dinner.
In June, the Cracker Bay tied up at the Tampa Convention Center so the 2012 Tampa Bay Host Committee could go fishing for some of the $55 million it's raising for next year's Republican National Convention.
Two shipboard events drew a political who's who wearing everything from Tommy Bahama shirts to coats and ties. The pinot grigio was perfectly chilled, and the hors d'oeuvres included a fresh tomato appetizer, hearty mini pizzas and intricate salmon morsels.
"It was hard to believe it was on water," said host committee member Maryann Ferenc, who owns the Tampa restaurant Mise en Place.
However relaxing the atmosphere, the goal couldn't have been more challenging — raise an average of a million dollars a week, for a year. And do it in a lousy economy, in a community with few major corporations and little experience on vast fundraising projects.
Sunday, with the convention exactly a year away, the host committee has raised about $15 million, some in cash, some in donations mainly of telecommunications and technology.
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