The political fund-raising business is getting more sophisticated all the time.

The dinner-givers not only ask you to buy a table, they also now will give you a fancy title on their invitations, depending on how much you donate to the person running for office.

Last week Robin Killduff, in charge of the dinner honoring one of the major candidates, called and said, "If you buy a table and also contribute $250,000, you can become grand marshal of the dinner and get the number one parking place in the hotel basement."

"That's a little too rich for my blood," I said.

"One hundred thousand dollars will make you a Royal Knight of the Soft Dollar and entitle you not only to having your picture taken with the candidate, but also to all the chicken a la king you can eat."

"That sounds great, but even $100,000 is a bit more than I can afford."

"Okay. For $50,000 you can be a stealth bomber pilot. This means you may circulate around the ballroom and shake hands with friends at will, and you don't have to return to your seat until the speeches begin. If this is too much for you, we have a category for the chintzy givers. They are known as Founding Fathers. To become a Founding Father all you have to give is $25,000 and put another $25,000 in escrow in case the candidate loses."

I said, "What do I get for that?"

"A seat by the kitchen, a view of the candidate on the TV screen and tap water instead of bottled water. Admittedly, it's not the best seat in the house, but if we gave away the store for $25,000 we'd never be able to afford an election campaign. In politics, it is not what you eat but how much you give to eat that decides where in the room you will sit."

(c) 1999, Los Angeles Times Syndicate