The Nation: Of Fat Cats and Other Angels

JUST $500 used to be enough to buy an ambassadorship. Now it can't even get you a seat in the front row." When Comedian Bob Hope drops that line on the political banquet circuit, it is always good for a few chuckles, especially from that shadowy elite whose six-figure donations keep America's political campaign machinery operating. Call them fat cats, angels, big-money men—by any name, they are all but indispensable to a serious candidate for the presidency.

In his preconvention campaign in 1968, Richard Nixon spent an estimated $10 million, even though he faced...

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