Here in southwestern Vermont, there is a rumor that, in early October, Hillary Clinton will be at the private home of Charles Tatum, in the Northeast Kingdom. Upon researching land records, there is no home listed to a Charles Tatum – it must be listed under an LLC, as are many residences of wealthy individuals.
The purpose of the former Secretary of State's visit is to be present at a fundraiser to take place at the Tatums' estate, which is quite palatial and out public view. Much of Mrs. Clinton's appearances since her nomination have been at private homes with hardly any public appearances and few, if any, press conferences.
Conducting the planning for the private event are representatives from the Vermont Democratic Party, and their job has not been made easy. It turns out that the advance planning personnel from the Clinton presidential election team have very firm policies as to who will be invited and at what admission fee.
If Clinton's visit to the Northeast Kingdom is anything like what has taken place in the past, there are specific fees charged to the invited guests, which are non-negotiable. The list is comparable to a cafeteria menu: Photo with the candidate; a hand shake with the candidate; family photo with the candidate; sitting next to the candidate at dinner, in the garden, or on a porch; asking the candidate a question; and a photo with some of the members of the Clinton entourage are just a few. There are at least a dozen or more such items and the related costs are over and above the basic entry fee.
The fear that the Vermont Democratic Party folks have is that, in Vermont, especially in the Northeast Kingdom, the fees that the Clinton team expects to be able to charge are not commensurate with Vermont values.
As a source of campaign funds, private fundraising events are critical to the Clinton campaign. According to Amy Chozick and Johathan Martin's article in the September 4, 2016 New York Times, "Mrs. Clinton raked in roughly $50 million at 22 fund raising events." The article went on to note that the entry fee at an event in Sagaponack, N.Y (in the Hamptons) was $250,000 per individual. At another event in August, in Sag Harbor, NY, a photo with Mrs. Clinton for anyone under 16 years of age came at a price of $2,700, with a family photo costing a cool $10,000.
Suggestions for fees might be put forward by the Vermont Democratic Party Committee. They wish to make the event more a sense of place and have proposed that a photo with the candidate on a snowmobile would cost $500 and $750 if Mrs. Clinton is sitting on the tailgate of a pickup truck. A photo of Mrs. Clinton with a guest next to one of the Tatum's prized Holstein cows would be priced at $1,000. However, more costly, would be a photo of the candidate milking a Holstein – $5,000 is the suggested cost.
Still unresolved is just how much should be charged for the basic entry fee. The local thinking is that it can't be $250,000, but closer to $20,000. Ultimately, Dennis Cheng, who heads up Clinton's campaign finance team, will have to become involved. It is rumored that if he can bring some other "star attractions," such as former president Bill Clinton, Steven Spielberg, and Cher, there is the possibility that guests would be willing to pay $100,000.
Some members of the VDP would not be at all surprised if Mr. Cheng is working to get Bernie Sanders to the fundraising and to say a few words (if that is at all possible). If Cheng can pull this off, surely the entry fee will come closer to $200,000.
We will just have to wait and see if there is any truth to the rumor.
— Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington
The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bennington Banner.