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Romney hosts big donors, political stars at Park City

Published June 22, 2012 10:06 am

Politics • Surrounded by noted Republicans, candidate will connect with biggest backers.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Mitt Romney's most important financial backers are trekking to Park City for a weekend of personal attention and consultation — not just from Romney, but also from Republican stars that include top candidates to be his vice presidential running mate, former secretaries of state and big-name strategists.

"Governor Romney is committed to make sure the people who are supporting his campaign are connected to it, and that he is listening to them, and they feel like they are involved," said Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright. He is not a spokesman for the Romney campaign, but said such personal care of donors is typical of any candidate or party.

Events for the Friday-through-Sunday campaign at Deer Valley Resort are closed to the news media, and the Romney campaign said it has no comment about them. But some local donors and sources outlined some of the expected speakers and activities.

Speakers include some politicians considered top contenders to become Romney's running mate: U.S. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

Also, expected is Karl Rove — the one-time Utahn who was the top political strategist for George W. Bush — and Mary Matalin, a campaign leader for George H.W. Bush.

Former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker III are coming. Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, whom Romney put in charge of planning his transition into the White House if he wins, will also attend and speak, as will former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

National media have also said that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the party's 2008 presidential nominee, is scheduled to attend, along with conservative commentators Bill Kristol and Fred Barnes.

A dinner is scheduled Friday evening, followed by a breakfast briefing Saturday morning and a series of meetings later Saturday. On Sunday, attendees may participate in a golf outing at the Red Ledges course.

The event is open to donors who gave the campaign at least $50,000, or raised at least $250,000. Donors who bundle more than $250,000 are called "stars" or "stripes." About 100 such donors are expected at the First National Romney Victory Leadership Retreat.

"Some people think the high-end donors get this trip, but it's really about Romney wanting to connect with people who are helping him be successful. Being a presidential candidate is expensive. I think we know President [Barack] Obama will raise and spend $1 billion," Wright said. "It's just a recognition event for them to feel connected to the candidate and campaign."

He added, "There will be some national Republicans, senators, congressmen and governors here to meet on different issues facing our country and solutions. And there will be some discussion about the strategy that Romney will take as he heads down the stretch to beat President Obama."

Romney was in Utah two weeks ago for fundraising events. At that time, he held a VIP reception at The Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City for those who gave more than $10,000 to the campaign, followed by a general reception for donors of $2,500. He held a dinner later at the Davis County home of Scott Keller for Utah supporters who raised more than $50,000.

The return to Park City this weekend is a bit of a homecoming for Romney, who lived in Park City when he headed the 2002 Winter Olympics. Romney previously owned a Deer Valley home — a 9,500-square-foot, wood-beamed ski villa — but sold the property for several million dollars in 2009.

Robert Gehrke contributed to this report.