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Fundraising for Democratic convention continues amid coronavirus

Bo Erickson, Ellee Watson and Jenna Gibson

In the latest indication the Democratic National Committee is moving ahead with plans to hold its nominating convention in August in Milwaukee, organizers continue to hit up major party fundraisers for big bucks with promises of special access.

In an email obtained by CBS News from multiple donors, national finance chair Chris Korge informed the mostly wealthy Democratic donors on Tuesday morning that "in light of the unprecedented health crisis facing our country," the party was forced to pursue alternative plans for the convention, pushing the convention from July to the week of August 17.  

But at the same time, some Democratic operatives tell CBS News organizers are being encouraged to slow down a bit on fundraising in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

As concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic may be closing down businesses and leaving millions of Americans unemployed, the DNC is moving forward with financing for the expensive summer convention. 

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Korge told high-dollar Democratic donors in the email that the new fundraising deadline for special convention packages is April 30.

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DNC

A colorful graphic of the fundraising options was sent to the political elite as well, featuring Wisconsin-themed "packages" that range in donation levels for the DNC from $50,000 to $1 million.

"The Brew City Package" offers the most elite access for fundraisers, for those who can raise a minimum of $1 million or give $355,000 to the DNC. This will get the fundraiser or donor "booking for one VIP room and one Premium room within the DNC Room Block" at a hotel, VIP credentials and VIP box seats for the convention, and access to the DNC Hospitality Suite.

Next up is "The Good Land Package" for those raising a minimum of $500,000 or giving $250,000 to the committee. This is worth two "Premium rooms" in the DNC Room Block instead. 

"The Lake Michigan Package" is for donors raising a minimum of $250,000 or donating $142,000. There's a "Wisconsin Package," with a minimum of $150,000 raised or $71,000 donated. The entry tier is "The Menomonee Valley Package," for donors giving $50,000 to the committee.

"Our DNC convention packages are available on a first come, first-served basis and are very limited," Korge wrote in the email.

Asked to comment on this latest fundraising appeal, the DNC sent an old statement from the convention's CEO. "Ensuring the safety of the convention's host community and all convention-goers is the top priority of the Democratic National Convention Committee," Joe Solmonese said in the statement from April 5, "We have said all along that our team is exploring a range of contingency options to ensure we can deliver a successful convention without unnecessary risk to public health."

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, options for holding a virtual convention this summer have been floated by party elite and are being discussed in Democratic circles.

But a DNC leadership source told CBS News on Tuesday evening there's "no definitive move toward a virtual convention, but all options are on the table — to be safe." 

"The convention will be a reflection of the times," the leadership source said. "If the economy is tanking, the convention will not be four days full of parties."

Joe Biden, who leads in delegates, told ABC News on Sunday the party "may have to do a virtual convention."

"I think we should be thinking about that right now," Biden said, "The idea of holding the convention is going to be necessary. We may not be able to put 10, 20, 30,000 people in one place."

High-level Democratic donors are also discussing options for a virtual convention including a slate of Zoom calls or separate smaller messaging events. 

Several states have already decided to switch to virtual conventions, including Minnesota, Texas, New Hampshire and North Carolina, to elect delegates to send to the still-planned national convention. 

Ed O'Keefe contributed to this report. 

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