RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
So about that dinner tomorrow night in New York Ken just mentioned, the political pundits have made much of this unity dinner, mostly because some of Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's top financial people will break bread together. NPR's Peter Overby reports it could also just be a fancy meal with a big price tag.
PETER OVERBY: First you get drinks. It's sort of a cash bar, $1,000 to $10,000 per person. Then for $28,500 you get dinner. The tables will be set for 40 guests, including Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean and the guest of honor, former Vice President Al Gore, Oscar winner, Emmy winner, Nobel Peace Prize winner, party leader, and, most conspicuously, neutral observer in the non-quite endless dual between Obama and Clinton. The pop analysis has been that Father Al would bring the squabbling candidates together in peace so Democrats can get on with the general election campaign.
Ms. KALEE KREIDER (Spokeswoman for Al Gore): Honestly we're a little bewildered by all of the play.
OVERBY: That's Kalee Kreider, spokeswoman for Gore. She says the dinner was scheduled months ago, just one item on a list of things Gore does for the Democratic National Committee and the party's House and Senate campaign committees.
Ms. KREIDER: It just appears that folks have gotten very excited about it, but it's an event that's long been on his calendar.
OVERBY: The event took on the aura of a unity dinner because the host committee includes a mix of prominent New York area fundraisers for both Obama and Clinton. But some veteran Democratic money mavens point out that a unity dinner wouldn't look like this. Speaking anonymously to avoid offending either of the two campaigns, they say the dinner is too small without enough key players. And as one fundraiser noted, you can't hold a big political event in Manhattan on a Saturday night in the summer. Too many donors will be out of town.
But the DNC will get some money Saturday night and it needs every dollar it can grab. Obama and Clinton each has out-raised John McCain better than two to one. But the Democratic National Committee is in bad shape financially. In this two-year election cycle it's raised $78 million compared to $143 million for the Republican National Committee. The latest reports show the DNC with just over $4 million on hand. The RNC has nearly ten times that much. Both sides are using what are called joint fundraising committees, an arrangement between the presidential campaign and the national committee.
Ms. SHEILA KRUMHOLZ (Center for Responsive Politics): It's not technically an end-run around the law, but it does raise concerns.
OVERBY: Sheila Krumholz is director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors political money.
Ms. KRUMHOLZ: Joint fundraising committees help all the beneficiaries by tapping donors who've maxed out to one of the participants to get them to give as much as possible, and ultimately it will go to benefit the candidate they support.
OVERBY: Whatever gets raised Saturday night, Democrats can only hope the National Committee's bank account will swell once the Obama and Clinton fundraising teams turn their attention to it. But that's not happening yet.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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