The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Clinton thank-you event for top donors leaves some grumbling they didn’t make the cut

Former president Bill Clinton applauds as his wife, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, speaks in New York on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, a day after conceding the presidency to Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

NEW YORK — There are big political donors, and then there are really big donors.

Hillary Clinton's first major political event since her defeat last month will be a thank-you party for those really, really big donors — the people who brought in many hundreds of thousands of dollars for her unsuccessful Democratic presidential bid — Democrats familiar with the lavish event said Wednesday.

The Dec. 15 evening gala at the Plaza Hotel will be held in the iconic "grand ballroom," one of New York's most opulent spaces. It is also small by mega-party standards, holding a few hundred people. (The hotel's website notes the beaux-arts style ballroom was the site of author Truman Capote's famed "Black and White Ball" for 540 in 1966.)

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The columned 4,800-square-foot ballroom built in 1907 is apparently too small to accommodate the entire group of Clinton campaign "bundlers," or people who solicit and collect donations from others in keeping with federal limits on individual donations.

Invitations to the party went out last week, and the remaining staff of the Clinton campaign has been fielding complaints ever since from donors who were not included. Some donors were told that the size of the party was dictated by the space constraints of the ballroom, people familiar with the event said.

The event is billed as a chance for Clinton to personally thank her biggest supporters. The former candidate has made almost no appearances since the Nov. 8 election. She attended a dinner for the Children's Defense Fund last month, which included her first extensive public remarks since her concession speech.

Hillary Clinton was honored by the Children’s Defense Fund and made her first public appearance since the presidential election, where she lost to Donald Trump. (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post, Photo: Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

She also attended a goodbye party for campaign staff and participated in telephone conference calls for donors and volunteers in which she said the loss was deeply hurtful. During a Nov. 12 conference call  with donors, Clinton blamed a renewed FBI inquiry into her State Department email system for blunting Democratic momentum in the last week of the campaign. FBI Director James B. Comey's closure of the inquiry three days before the election helped boost turnout for Republican Donald Trump, Clinton said then.

Clinton blames FBI inquiry for stopping election momentum

Campaign spokemen did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the event and the donation requirements to attend.

Clinton's reliance on big donors was a central theme in her protracted primary battle against Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who accused her of being beholden to big money interests and too cozy with rich Wall Street and corporate types.

On the Nov. 12 call, campaign finance director Dennis Cheng told participants that top donors had brought in more than half the nearly $1 billion Clinton raised.

The Plaza's storied history includes a period of ownership by Trump, who had coveted the five-star historic property for years before buying it for more than $400 million in 1988. The businessman lost the hotel in bankruptcy several years later.