Political Party Time

Party Time's Year in Review Extravaganza

Behold, Partiers: the ultimate political treasure map.

Over the past year, politicians have unearthed valuable bounties at each of the X's here - in other words, each dot on this map represents at least one 2012 fundraiser contained in our Party Time database of invites. We've collected and logged almost 2,700 funders since January, and we haven't even come close to tracking the total amount hosted (help us by sending your invites here!). This graphic exhibits just a fraction of the political fundraisers hosted, many of which were sponsored by lobbyists or special interests. It can be shocking to see how much money is actually raised - and possibly being used to influence your elected officials. In case you didn't figure it out already, the blue dots above mark the sites of Democratic events; red stand for Republican. The yellow didn't fall into our usual neat categories. Click on each dot for the low-down on what happened there.
MORE:Watch Sunlight's political weather report.

From the usual early morning breakfasts at Johnny's Half Shell or VIP Receptions at Charlie Palmer's; to the unorthodox on-stage recliners at a Pearl Jam concert; to the truly exotic London reception at the members only Mark's Club and private dinner at Jay-Z's Manhattan night club, it has all added up to one crazy, record-breaking year of fundraising. In this special edition round-up, we're looking at the top locations for fundraising, the events with the highest price tag, and even traveling overseas to explore which fundraisers stood out from the pack.

The Hosts with the Most
It's no surprise that the 2012 President of Party Time is Barack Obama. In mid-October, the Fundraising Fanatic surpassed the $1 billion mark - yes, that's with a "B" - for his 2012 re-election campaign, largely thanks to partying. In 2012, Obama and his joint fundraising committee, the Obama Victory Fund, were the beneficiary of over 290 events. It's a rate of almost one fundraiser per day!

You might be feeling bad for our number two fundraiser of the year, Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, but don't; according to that article above, Romney is also approaching $1 billion - again, with a "B." In fundraising events this year, the Romney Victory Fund has been the beneficiary of about 180 events - still a hundred less than the O-force. And keep in mind these totals are only from invites within the Party Time database - many more parties popped without us ever knowing. How many times do we have to tell you to keep us in the loop?

Both senatorial party committees firmly established themselves in the politics of partying. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee maintained a slight edge this year, throwing about 30 fundraisers to add to their coffers in support of blue candidates. Not far behind was the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the beneficiary of 21 parties for the Republican team.

The biggest party animals in the Senate included both Mass. candidates Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren, who have benefited from 27 and 18 fundraisers each. Both politicians need the cash, though, as the race has been the most expensive in the country - it was recently reported that $68 million has been spent so far.

Partying down the House are Reps. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.,and Rick Berg, R-N.D. Both are vying for promotion, hoping to win tight races for Senate seats in their respective states. Flake has held a total of 24 parties in 2012, hoping to earn some green to battle against his surging Democratic opponent Richard Carmona. Meanwhile, the incumbent Berg also finds himself warding off a rapidly approaching newcomer, Democrat Heidi Heitkamp. To support his increased campaign efforts, Berg has benefited from 19 events this year.

DC - The District of Cash
Looking at the map, you'll see the biggest cluster of fundraising dots around - where else? - Washington, DC. Take a peek at that solid ring right around the Capitol building - there are hundreds located just a few blocks from Congress. Inside the Beltway is by far the most popular city to host events, Party Time shows, totaling about 1128 fundraisers this year. This is largely due to hotspots surrounding Capitol Hill. Johnny's Half Shell, a swanky seafood restaurant (with not-so-great reviews) was last year's premier fundraising locale, catering to over 90 events. This is no surprise to us though, as Johnny's has a PT history stretching back over 40 pages. The venue with the second-highest fundraising total was Charlie Palmer Steak, another ritzy restaurant with a great view of the Capitol, hosting almost 50 fundraisers. Follow that with the posh Capitol Hill Club (49 events), the National Republican Senatorial Committee (47 events), and Bistro Bis (38 events) and you've rounded up the top five fundraising venues of the past year - all in D.C., and all on Capitol Hill.

Washington has also been home to some of the most expensive fundraisers around. The costliest headliner for 2012 turned out to be a Native American Leadership Council Meeting with Barack Obama. Anyone want to guess the price per individual? $30,000? $40,000? Even $50,000? You'd be close. An individual entry for the roundtable with Mr. President was a prodigious $60,000. Don't worry though, bringing a partner brought big savings - only $100,000 per couple! Another Obama event held by hedge fund manager Scott. A. Nathan, billed as a "Campaign Conversation with Barack Obama," had a single price point - $40,000.

And that's not to say Congress didn't party hard either. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee hosted several receptions with a maximum price of $30,800, including one on Jan. 25 featuring Chuck Schumer and others. And Republicans weren't missing out - a reception at the Capitol Hill Club with House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor ran PACs $40,000 to "Host." The District may have been the overwhelming favorite for fundraisers, but several other cities held massive amounts of cash-generating, campaign-sustaining events.

Charlotte and Tampa - The Convention Bump
You may notice unusually large clusters around Charlotte, N.C. and Tampa, Fla., two cities not known for being particularly political. But one factor swelled their totals through the roof - conventions. The Charlotte DNC in early September and Tampa RNC in late August propelled the cities to numbers two and three, respectively, on Party Time's list of top fundraising cities in 2012.

The DNC produced the single largest data-entry pandemonium at Sunlight, with members of all of our departments pitching in to log invitations. And with good reason; Sept. 4 and 5 were actually the most prolific days of fundraising all year, accounting for 125 and 124 parties, respectively, nearly all of which attributed to the DNC. In total, there were 362 recorded convention fundraisers in those four days (Sept. 3-6). Compare this to the 423 fundraisers Charlotte held all of 2012 and the DNC produced over 85% of all political parties there.

The RNC was no killjoy either, also resulting in top-10 caliber fundraising days. The Tampa area was inundated with parties of all kinds, producing over 180 logged events throughout the convention (Aug. 27-30). In fact, the city played host to 209 fundraisers this past year, meaning RNC events took up 87% of Tampa's total fundraisers. In an interesting twist, however, President and overall fundraising boss Barack Obama held the most expensive event on our list: A bash at Cigar City with an exclusive Photoline Reception just one month afterwards on Sept. 20. To be an event co-host drained your bank account a colossal $75,800 per person. At least you got a photo with the prez!

The Best of the Rest
With the multitude of fundraisers contained in Party Time, we thought it best to just give you the run down of the rest of our top ten fundraising cities, including some of the highlights along the way. Enjoy the ride!

Number 4: New York City - 69 Parties

  • This $50,000 per plate dinner in the penthouse of The Pierre Hotel proved to be the most expensive fundraiser in the Big Apple in 2012. If you want to know how nice The Pierre is, they have a section on their website entitled "Which Heads of State Have Dined Here."

  • The royalty of politics and hip-hop collided on Sept. 18 when Jay-Z and Beyonce hosted a fundraiser for Obama at the 40/40 Club in Manhattan. A lucky schoolteacher from Pennsylvania won a contest to join the dinner, which ran donors (and losers) $40,000 to attend.

  • This next event isn't necessarily a fundraiser, but an interesting event nonetheless. Romney invited his top bundlers to the Waldorf Astoria for a weekend full of events, like a discussion with Paul Ryan, campaign updates with Team Mitt, and even a performance by comedian Dennis Miller. One part of the weekend certainly raised some cash though - a "speed call-a-thon" on behalf of the bundlers, who were expected to rake in $2 million in just 45 minutes. Sounds like a fundraiser to me!

Number 5: San Francisco - 36 Parties

  • An invite that PT intercepted initially through email, this Obama Victory Fund party was one of the most star-studded of the year. Food prepared by Alice Waters and Tyler Florence, and a guest list that included John Legend, Alex Smith of the San Francisco 49ers and Obama himself. A plate of that delicious food would come with a $20,000 bill - a bargain according to the Obama Victory Fund!

  • Mitt Romney wouldn't be outdone, however. His luncheon with Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State George Schultz was $50,000 per plate!

Number 6: Chicago - 25 Parties

  • Chi-town may not be in a swing-state, but Obama sure made some lucrative stops in his hometown this year. His 51st birthday bash, which the Obamas hosted in their own home, ran guests a cool $40,000. Now that's a party to crash.

  • But Republicans also picked up some change in this Democratic stronghold. That is, if you define "change" as a $75,800 Reception and Dinner with the VP at the swanky Palmer House Hilton.

Number 7: Los Angeles - 25 Parties

  • This one is special - the most lucrative fundraiser of all Party Time! On May 10, George Clooney opened his doors for an Obama fundraiser that included actress/model Stacy Keibler, DreamWorks studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, designer Diane Von Furstenberg, Barbra Streisand and her actor husband James Brolin. The price was $35,800, but Obama hauled in a record-shattering $15 million dollars! We here are PT are still in awe of such miraculous fundraising.

Number 8: Boston - 23 Parties

  • Bean Town was bountiful for both candidates in 2012. But Obama takes the cake here; his wicked cool $40,000 Campaign Roundtable at the home of Boston advertising legend Jack Connors carried the highest price tag in the city.

Number 9: St. Petersburg - 21 Parties

  • Situated right next to Tampa, St. Petersburg definitely received a boost of fundraisers from the RNC happening just a few miles away. In fact, almost all of the events occurring there in 2012 happened in late-August, right when the convention took place.

Number 10: Denver - 16 Parties

  • A swing-state capital, the Mile High City sure got some extra special attention from the candidates this year. But the biggest event was again captured by Obama when he benefited from a reception hosted by the Futuro Fund, a Latino group that backs the President. The event co-host sponsorship included a greeting with Obama, photo reception and premium seating for the general reception - but cost $40,000.

International Intrigue
If you think the parties are limited to the U.S., think again. In 2012, no one is safe from the effects of American political fundraising. Check the list below to check out this year's more exotic fundraisers - with some international intrigue.

The United Kingdom - 4 Parties

  • London was the site of all four of the U.K.'s events, including a $40,000 dinner for Obama hosted by fashion designer Anna Wintour along with Gwyneth Paltrow and Tom Ford. Romney countered this with an even steeper $75,000 (that's about 50,000 quid, mate) private dinner with financiers from the banking industry. Thank the Queen for us!

France - 4 Parties

  • Much like the U.K., all of France's fundraisers were centrally located in its own capital city, Paris. But, interestingly enough, all of the events benefited Obama. Maybe it's because France is in love with the President - over 72% of its people favor him for a second term - and disillusioned with Romney.

Switzerland - 3 Parties

  • The neutral nation broke from its reputation by only hosting Obama fundraisers in 2012. Most notably, while the RNC was happening across the Atlantic, Obama's favorite Hollywood pal jetted to Geneva for a $30,000/couple dinner.

Jerusalem, Israel/Shanghai, China/Cairo, Egypt/Stockholm, Sweden - 1 Party

  • Stretching from Western Europe to the Far East, the presidential hopefuls threw parties across the world. Obama took advantage of his international appeal with several receptions in Sweden, Egypt, and China. Only one of these was thrown for Romney; a $50,000/couple event in Jerusalem that some called a "love fest," yet left others outraged by his remarks on Palestinian culture. But at least it raised over $1 million, thanks in part to conservative mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Of course, all the donors at those overseas fundraisers were American citizens -- or should have been.

Bonus PT Fundraiser of the Year
We here at Party Time see a lot of events happening across the country every single day. But there is one party that stands out from the rest - Montana Sen. Jon Tester's "Best Seats in the World" sweepstakes. Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament is a longtime friend of Tester’s, and the two paired up to offer supporters some extra special tickets to the band’s concert at Missoula. It’s a bold claim, but here’s what it entailed – grand prize winners got sit in recliners on-stage during a Sept. 30 performance, VIP passes backstage, admission to pre-show events with the band and Tester, and hotel and airfare expenses. OK, so those definitely live up to the hype. And although the contest is long over, PT salutes the winner - with that killer beard and mustache combo, Steve from Billings definitely deserves it.

So there you have it. The entire fundraising year (mostly) covered in a single post. We have seen parties in 47 states (sorry West Virginia, Mississippi and South Dakota--but have reminded you lately what to do if we missed parties in you state?) and even around the world, hosted by thousands of people of all different political backgrounds. Now we just have to wait for Election Day to see if all those parties contributed to a successful campaign, or if all that champagne was popped in vain.

Until next time, Partiers!