Want to play nine holes of golf with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on an empty course?
It'll cost you $45,000.
Campaign donors will have to pay that much to be listed as a "premier event sponsor" at the fourth annual Bellone Invitational at Bethpage State Park on June 29. Bellone is running for re-election this fall.
An invitation to the Bellone fundraiser promises, for that kind of cash, that contributors will be "showcased from start to finish" as they play "nine holes of golf with Steve Bellone in the morning on an empty golf course."
Bellone spokesman Justin Meyers said the campaign in the past has offered a $45,000 top sponsorship, though without the exclusive twosome. Meyers could not say whether past fundraisers ever had attracted a $45,000 sponsor.
The Bellone campaign this year decided to rent two golf courses at the state park with an afternoon start time, rather than use one course with separate morning and afternoon shotgun starts. Since the campaign has to rent the course for the entire day, it created an opportunity for private face time with Bellone and a top donor before anyone gets on the course.
In 2013, donors who paid $1,000 were offered the chance to play a single hole with Bellone in what was labeled a "VIP afternoon." The $45,000 donation is just below the maximum four-year limit of $45,805 for a countywide race, according to county election officials.
Meyers noted that campaigns for many local, state and federal candidates have raised similar levels of cash from contributors. "It costs a tremendous amount, running in a place as large as Suffolk, which is as big as some states," said Meyers. "It is a very difficult task to campaign and get your message out to millions of people. You need significant dollars to reach all those folks."
Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy once offered breakfast to top donors who gave $25,000, but no one took him up on the offer. Former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi in 2008 offered "Cocktails for 10" for $25,000 "Hole in One" donors and $10,000 Eagle contributors. The biggest ticket at Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's golf outing is $10,000, said his spokesman, Brian Nevin -- and Mangano himself does not play golf at the outing. "The optics aren't great," conceded Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs. "But on the other side, candidates need to raise money to wage an expensive campaign. ... If Steve can get it, God bless him."
What happens if more than one donor wants to pay $45,000? Said Meyers, "If we get a flood of folks to pay $45,000 I'm sure the organization will work something out to make everyone happy."