Romney's biggest backers to gather at Deer Valley retreat
Politics • Exclusive events will reward big donors with access to candidate.
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Mitt Romney will be in Utah on Friday for a series of fundraisers for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

But the real money behind the Romney campaign will be in Utah two weeks later, for an exclusive day-long retreat in Deer Valley.

The event will bring together Romney's biggest donors and fundraisers from around the country, letting them rub elbows with their candidate in what is being billed as the "First National Romney Victory Leadership Retreat" according to invitations sent to a highly select group of supporters this week.

The Romney campaign did not respond to inquiries Wednesday about how many were invited to the Deer Valley getaway or what the campaign hoped to gain from the event. The invitations were sent to those who are the Romney campaign's most active fundraisers or have given $50,000 or more to the cause.

"It's a reward, particularly for people who have contributed and encouraged others to contribute," said Matthew Burbank, a political science professor at the University of Utah.

In contrast with normal fundraisers, where $1,500 or $2,000 gets a supporter into a dinner with several hundred others, Burbank said, in this instance giving $50,000 to $100,000 gets a backer into a room with the candidate and a much smaller group.

"Having access to the candidate and his top advisers is something they can talk about … and encourage others to contribute," Burbank said. "That's the main benefit and certainly it's also a time to start thinking seriously about the general election campaign and what it will mean in terms of fundraising."

Meantime, Romney will be in Salt Lake City on Friday for events at the Grand America Hotel and another exclusive event at a private home in nearby Davis County.

It will be Romney's first visit to Utah since mid-February, when he was in town for celebrations marking the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Winter Olympics, which he led.

Romney will attend a $2,500-a-person reception Friday evening at the Grand America. It will be preceded by a VIP reception for those contributing $10,000 to the Romney Victory Fund.

Afterward, he will attend a private dinner for Utah donors who have given at least $50,000 to the campaign at the home of Scott Keller of Keller Investment Properties.

Donors typically are limited to giving just $2,500 to a campaign per cycle, but presidential campaigns can create organizations like the Victory Fund to raise up to $78,500 with the money divided among the campaign, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and several state parties.

The Romney committee is sharing funds with the state parties in Idaho, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont.

Romney's campaign had raised nearly $98 million through the end of April. The campaign has raised more than $3.6 million in Utah, according to figures compiled by the Federal Election Commission.

President Barack Obama has raised a total of $217 million nationwide and just over $500,000 in Utah.

gehrke@sltrib.com

Twitter: @RobertGehrke