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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi moves in a rarefied world of high society and high-level politics — and nothing underscores that fact quite like her plans for the August recess.
Pelosi will spend next weekend quietly tending to top party donors and political allies at a series of private events in Northern California.
The two-day “issues conference” starts next Friday night with a dinner for roughly 170 guests on the back lawn of Pelosi’s multimillion-dollar home in the fashionable Pacific Heights neighborhood in San Francisco.
The following day, Pelosi will shepherd her guests to a Napa Valley winery with buildings designed by world-famous architect Frank Gehry; the speaker and her husband, investor Paul Pelosi, own a nearby vineyard worth between $5 million and $25 million, according to her annual financial disclosure report.
There’s nothing unusual about leaders using recess to fund- and friend-raise. Before leaving town last week, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor raked in $1.1 million for fellow Republicans at a lobbyist-heavy fundraiser on Capitol Hill.
And Pelosi’s staff notes that her California session will involve more than just schmoozing with the wealthy and well-connected. The speaker will lead policy discussions on health care, energy reform and the economy, among other topics. Scheduled to speak are Obama adviser David Axelrod, CNN commentator and former Clinton adviser James Carville and Mark Zandi, an economic adviser to Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign who has been providing advice to the Obama White House.
More than a dozen other House Democrats will be in attendance, too, including Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, a key player on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee; Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller of California, Pelosi’s closest ally in the House; Xavier Becerra of California, vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus; and Joseph Crowley of New York and Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, two up-and-coming Democrats who have previously found themselves in Pelosi’s doghouse but are moving to get back into her good graces.
The weekend event is technically not a fundraiser. In the parlance of fundraising pros, it’s known as “donor maintenance,” a “thank you” from Pelosi to those who have given generously to her and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. To be invited, one must have raised money for the DCCC, been a longtime friend of Pelosi’s or contributed $30,4000 to the DCCC this cycle. The maximum an individual may give to a national party committee in any one year.
A donation to the DCCC of that size qualifies a donor to be part of the “Speaker’s Cabinet,” a fundraising program that gives supporters expanded access to Pelosi. In addition to the annual Napa weekend, Pelosi also will personally provide at least one more private briefing for these maxed-out donors.
According to campaign reports filed by the DCCC, at least 170 individuals, as well as a handful of Native American tribes, reached that maximum donation threshold as of June 30. San Francisco and Bay Area bigwigs are prominent among the collection of big DCCC supporters, including Ann Getty Earhart, an heiress to the Getty oil fortune; Elizabeth Fisher, whose in-laws founded The Gap, the retail clothing giant; and Eugene Eidenberg, a former Carter White House staffer who is now a San Francisco venture capitalist. Paul Pelosi owns up to $50,000 in stock in the investment firm that Eidenberg helped co-found, Granite Ventures, according to Pelosi’s annual disclosure report.