Romney campaign’s favorite hotel? Marriott, of course
Politics • Mormon-linked chain has netted more than $1M from campaign.
Published: September 11, 2012 03:26PM
Updated: December 25, 2012 11:31PM
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Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney boards his campaign plane for an event in Iowa on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 in Portsmouth, N.H. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Washington • After accepting the Republican presidential nomination, Mitt Romney headed back to his palatial suite a block away at the Tampa, Fla., Marriott Waterside Hotel.

The 719-room hotel was Team Romney’s home for the Republican National Convention and conveniently located across the street from the big show at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. And after all, Marriotts are, it appears, Romney’s favorite places to stay.

The candidate, who was named after Marriott founder J. Willard Marriott (Mitt’s first name is Willard), twice served on the board of the international hotel chain and shares the same Mormon faith as the Marriott family.

His campaign has spent $1.1 million with Marriotts across the country, according to federal records. The Marriott chain, including Residence Inn, Ritz-Carlton and Fairfield are, by far, the favorite of the Romney camp.

While the Romney campaign has raised more than $193 million in the effort to put him in the White House, the machine has also burned through $163 million in the process.

A good chunk of that cash funds the candidate’s army of staffers, helps air television ads and pays for solicitations to raise even more campaign money. The remainder covers travel for the candidate, his entourage and his large-scale operation flying from swing state to swing state and all the fundraisers in between.

Airline travel alone, on commercial and private jets, has rung up to nearly $8 million. Romney’s camp has racked up points on Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, American and U.S. Airways.

Avis Car Rental has earned more than $500,000 from Romney’s campaign account and American Express, which processes credit card donations, hauled in about $845,000 in bank fees, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Even though the Mormon candidate doesn’t consume coffee, his team has forked over $800 for its Starbucks fix.

Romney’s Boston headquarters also seems to favor Apple products with equipment and software purchases totaling $147,213 as of August.

But it’s the Marriott brand that has the devotion of the Romney folks. From Los Angeles to Boston and New York to Des Moines, Iowa, Romney’s campaign beds down where the Book of Mormon resides next to the Gideon Bible in bedside dressers.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who has traveled with the campaign as a surrogate, says he’s stayed in Hiltons, Best Westerns and Hampton Inns on his treks. And he doesn’t see the campaign making any push to focus on Marriott hotels.

“I don’t see him bending over backwards or spending more money to stay at Marriotts,” Chaffetz said, though he noted that there could be other reasons to choose that chain.

“They’re a consistent brand,” he said. “They’re found far and wide. You know what you’re going to get when you stay at a Marriott.”

On the other side, employees of Marriott seem to return the Romney love, donating about $108,000 to his campaign in the past two years.

Marriott CEO J.W. Marriott Jr. and his brother Richard Marriott have both contributed the maximum allowed to Romney’s campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and both have donated $1 million each to the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future.

When it comes to Utah, the Romney camp has spent $256,891 in the state, mostly on hotels, stage and audio equipment for fundraisers and travel for staff in one of the hotbeds of Romney’s support.

The campaign has also forked out nearly $13,000 to Leavitt Group Wings LLC for use of former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt’s family jet.

Romney’s investments in Utah are paying off handsomely, though, with his campaign reporting a fundraising haul of about $4.8 million so far from the state this cycle.

tburr@sltrib.com