Romney makes rounds at donor retreat
June 23rd, 2012
08:54 PM ET
10 years ago

Romney makes rounds at donor retreat

Park City, Utah (CNN) – At a weekend retreat for deep-pocketed Mitt Romney donors, attendees marveled at the perfect weather, the Olympics-style entertainment, even the food.

But the real draw was rubbing elbows with telegenic Republican powerbrokers.

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Mitt Romney, his family and other high-flying Republican surrogates were so accessible during the three-day huddle session that one attendee boasted he had buttonholed a congressman in the bathroom.

Romney himself stopped in on panels, introduced the biggest-name speakers, and, joined by his sons, circulated at a Friday night buffet dinner where athletes rocketed down the ski jumps at the 2002 Olympic Park site for entertainment.

Roughly 700 Romney supporters donned lanyards and flagged down golf carts to shuttle between events at the Park City retreat, which offered panel discussions, speeches and a strategy briefing from Romney and his staff. Donors who contributed $50,000 or raised a substantial amount for the campaign were invited to the confab, which also featured a host of politicians mentioned as possible vice presidential picks.

One group not granted access to the event: a gaggle of reporters relegated to a public sidewalk across for the hotel. An array of donors – some of whom agreed to speak on the record, others who asked their names not be used – gave details of the activity behind closed doors.

Two donors called a Friday night Romney speech "inspiring" and emphasized the fact the presidential candidate had spoken without notes.

"Best speech he's ever given," a supporter from Los Angeles said, adding he was most impressed when Romney cited a study about married parents being better able to pull themselves out of poverty. "He was very natural, very comfortable."

Many Republicans pointed to a lunchtime speech by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as an unexpected highlight to the weekend. Rice spoke about foreign policy and "the state of the world," said Larry Conti, who said he was fascinated by politics and attended as the guest of an invited donor.

After speaking, Rice received "the longest standing O – it went on and on, it was probably a minute," he said.

Chuck Cobb, a former ambassador to Iceland, called Rice "spectacular."

"She's just a very bright, sophisticated, articulate lady," he said.

Another highlight: a 90-minute briefing from more than a dozen Romney advisers and staff on the campaign's inner workings, including insight from campaign manager Matt Rhoades, senior strategist Stuart Stevens, finance chairman Spencer Zwick and longtime adviser Beth Myers, who is heading up Romney's search for a vice presidential nominee.

Famously energetic surrogate Rep. Jason Chaffetz said the speakers detailed the 10 a.m. campaign conference call in which they discuss the day's messaging, news stories, polling and how "they develop that into a cohesive message."

"This was much more meaty than I thought it would be," Chaffetz said of the briefing. "I thought it would be a little bit more rah-rah. But they had a lot of the internal workings of Romneyworld and how they do things day to day."

Another source told CNN that campaign staffers said the two months since former Sen. Rick Santorum dropped out of the primary race were key to galvanizing the Republican base, and said they "gleefully" pointed to Romney's fundraising triumph over President Barack Obama's campaign in May.

Echoing other attendees, Chaffetz remarked upon the efficiency of the jam-packed weekend, where everything seemed to start on time.

"The Governor Romney machine is a well-oiled machine," the Utah congressman said. "If there's one thing he knows how to do, it's run an organization."

A stable of Republican officials, including Chaffetz, spoke during the retreat. Supporters heard from Sens. John McCain and John Thune, Reps. Paul Ryan and Connie Mack, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Michael Chertoff, and strategists Bill Kristol, Karl Rove and Mary Matalin.

Two attendees described Rove and Matalin as the funniest speakers, joking uproariously but not maliciously about the time Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a friend with bird-shot pellets on a hunting trip.

Ryan and Thune – both mentioned as potential VP contenders – joined Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone on a panel about innovation, several source said. Langone charged today's business climate was hostile to entrepreneurs and told the audience he wouldn't have been able to start his home improvement company in 2012.

Romney's sons and his wife, Ann, also made the rounds at the retreat. Brightly dressed women flocked to a neighboring hotel Saturday afternoon, where Ann Romney held a "Women For Romney Victory Tea."

A Democratic source gave CNN a photograph of a private jet owned by private equity firm Bain Capital parked outside the Park City airport. Romney's highly lucrative career at the helm of the company and its business practices have become a central issue in the campaign, with both sides claiming that record helps their case.

By and large, the focus of Romney and his staff was on turning around the economy, several donors said.

"This country is in a very difficult position internationally and domestically," said attorney Rodger Young.

And what one donor described as a "call to action" seemed to pay off.

"I'm gonna bundle every penny I can bundle," Young said of gathering contributions from other supporters.

- CNN's Kevin Bohn and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Mitt Romney • Utah
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Darryl

    All the money in the world doesn't change fact that when it comes down to it? The people have the last say.They decide who the POTUS is.

    June 23, 2012 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  2. kakaraka

    A group of millionaires and billionaires conspiring to buy election with money and private jets. Romney and his friends are Out of touch.

    June 23, 2012 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  3. n

    Take a good look America, the gathering of all the key players coming together to finalize "The Plot to Seize the White House" Are we going to let them? I will be standing at the door, when they come trying to break in, how about you? My hand will be on the button labeled President Barack Obama. Lets stand ready, back to back, because they will be coming from all sides but that's ok, because we out number them 99 to 1.

    June 23, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  4. Reggie from LA

    Does he mean married couples can pull themselves up out of poverty because they are both working? Or did he mean that one can compensate for the other when one of their jobs gets outsourced abroad. I guess when your look at it numerically, I guess there's some ironic basis for that, but do we marry for financial stability? That's kind of a sad thought although there's definitely our share of gold diggers out there. That is the best definition of "welfare queen". It is so numbing that we can watch this corporate power grab happen, boldly, in broad daylight, then vote in it's favor.

    June 23, 2012 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  5. enuff

    Why is Romney so secretive that he refuses to let reporters cover his grand events? The meeting with CEOs, his meeting with Santorum, his little party in Park City... Of which, I wonder how many people could he have fed with the money he blew on his elite friends. Oh, I forgot. we don't need to worry about the poor.

    June 23, 2012 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  6. don in albuquerque

    Simply amazing that anyone making under one hundred grand a year would vote for this "waste of food." Hope you enjoy the soup kitchens America, and seeing your grand parents living in tent cities. But please go right ahead. But please read "The Fall of the Roman Empire" first. That is if you can read.

    June 23, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  7. King

    donors like china and India will be upon the scene as they anticipate glory day for their country, if Romney wins and start giving tax breaks to his big corporate donors to bring American jobs to their country.

    June 23, 2012 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  8. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Mitt the panhandler? Huh... I knew he was unemployed but this is a bit unseemly...

    June 23, 2012 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  9. Jackie Reding

    What ever happened to just making good decisions on the part of our presidental hopefuls. It is so wrong to spend money that could be used to help the citizens of the United States. These people go without, as they have nothing. Our leaders have plenty, but do they share? Sounds like no!

    June 23, 2012 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  10. k

    How about a cook out pot luck for the 99%? Will never happen!
    OBAMA 2012

    June 23, 2012 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  11. Walt Jenny

    Looks all nice, neat and cozy. I'm sure it was well-oiled. But these Wall Street-calibre events usually are. That doesn't mean they're good at running the government, or improving the economy. Look at what has happened in the past five years – JPMorgan Chase making "a mistake" and losing $2 billion? Our biggest banks at near-junk bond status? I'm sure the caviar arrives on time and at the proper temperature, but that doesn't solve our problems as part of a global economy.

    June 23, 2012 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  12. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The people at the top don't understand the needs of those that don't have that kind of money. I wish there was less of a need to raise money for running for elected office.

    June 23, 2012 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  13. Cayman Islands

    There they are. The room full of people who are the only real constituents of mighty mitt. A conference room is large enough to hold the millionaires and billionaires who are the actual support base and who expect they can puchase our White House for their puppet.

    June 23, 2012 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  14. Cayman Islands

    And if you have any doubt about what
    "turning around the economy? means, it means taking money out of your pocket, taking your child or grandchild's education, and giving it all to the very very wealthy handful who are allowed into a mighty mitt fundraiser for the right price.

    June 23, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  15. Sydnium S. Washington

    I think it's getting more boring when June 26 primaries and the general election is not yet around. Pass?

    June 23, 2012 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  16. Rasmussen rasmessed up again.

    If you donated at least 50 thousand bucks, you are a star bellied sneech. If you donated less than that, you are a blank bellied sneech.

    June 24, 2012 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  17. Indy

    Olympic style entertainment ? You mean Mitts used Government money again, then quickly called for smaller Government ?

    June 24, 2012 12:42 am at 12:42 am |
  18. miles

    The leaders of the coup, if properly investigated the same people that lead the suit in the Supreme Court allowing all this money into these races are at this conference! This is the 1st time that a canidae has refused to release the name of his donors.When the names are revealed this will be the case. Why else for the secrecey? Because the links can be made!!

    June 24, 2012 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  19. Donkey Party

    Anything that any of the attendees said should be disregarded since no press was allowed near the event.

    June 24, 2012 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  20. Roy

    Ask Romney if he is willing to donate all of his $250 million to help to pay off USA debt but he can keep his $10 million so in that way we can see if he truly cares about our country.

    June 24, 2012 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  21. Olive

    As the wild fires in Utah burn around him:>|

    June 24, 2012 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  22. Voltaire

    Money will buy ads but not love or votes. Alexithymic Mitt is not loved.

    June 24, 2012 07:58 am at 7:58 am |