Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Florida History: Wow! $100-a-plate political party fundraisers ...

1960 Presidential campaign

By Jane Feehan

With today’s presidential campaign fundraising dinners fetching up to $50,000 a plate, a glance at similar events during the 1960s shows the dramatic inflation rate of politics.  

President John F. Kennedy flew to Miami Beach March 9, 1962 to help raise funds for Sen. George Smathers who had just announced a bid for a second term.

Three thousand of South Florida’s Democratic Party showed up at the main ballroom of the Fountainebleau Hotel and paid $100 a plate to hear JFK. They were so wowed by the young president they did not mind  – or notice – that Frank Sinatra bowed out of an appearance because of laryngitis. JFK and Sinatra for $100 - what a bargain that would have been.

Two years earlier, the Democratic Party kickoff for the 1960 campaign drew 2,500 at $100 per person to the nation’s capitol.    (Video: http://tinyurl.com/9tzyrnq.) 

Plate prices remained the same during Kennedy's presidency. For the anniversary of his second year in office, 5,000 supporters were invited to Washington to see the president for $100 per person.  Enough  money was generated by the event to retire the Democratic Party’s debt for the first time since 1952.

Dinners continued to command the same ticket price. Kennedy flew to Ohio for Gov. Michael DiSalle’s 54th birthday – a non-presidential Democratic fundraising occasion with $100-a-plate invitations in 1962. 

Republicans also held fundraisers for $100 a plate. Rockefeller hosted one such event in Albany, NY in April, 1963, drawing hundreds. So, during the early 1960s, $100-a-plate fundraising dinners were the norm for both parties.

How times have changed ...

For Florida documents, including a program from a 1956 Broward County Democratic Fundraiser at the Beach Club, visit JFK Presidential Library and museum at:
Miami News, Mar. 11, 1962
Miami News, May 3, 1962
Miami News, Apr. 30, 1963

Tags: Political campaigns 1960s, fundraising dinners 1960s. Florida politics 1960s, Democratic Party 1960, Republican fundraisers 1963

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