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Entries in Retreat (4)

Saturday
Jun232012

Mitt Romney Donor Retreat Kicks Off with Tote Bags, Ski Jumpers, and a Roast from Ann

ABC/ Ida Mae Astute(PARK CITY, UTAH) – “It will be the happiest day of my life, after the day I got married and the birth of my children.”

That’s how one donor described what Mitt Romney winning the presidency would mean to him–and he’s a Democrat from Los Angeles.

He gave his first ever donation to a candidate just this Fall – a $500 check to Romney – and has since bundled over $200,000 through donations ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 increments for the former governor’s presidential campaign, but the donor, who owns shopping centers in California, doesn’t want to be publicly identified as a “bundler.”

The Los Angeles donor, who once voted for Ronald Reagan, said he cast his ballot for Obama in 2008 because he liked his “rhetoric,” but he’s since soured on the president whom he called “arrogant” and has turned his full focus on getting Romney elected the next President of the United States.

He said he took time away from his business and family to attend this weekend because he wanted to “network” with other attendees and spend time with Romney himself.

Wealthy donors and bundlers determined to propel Romney to the White House joined a mix of GOP elite, leaders of the party, and members of Romney staff in this postcard perfect resort town for the weekend retreat beginning Friday.

For many, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to listen to the most famous and influential of the Republican party, hob nob with other wealthy fundraisers and Republican lawmakers, and of course mingle with the presumptive GOP nominee.

There could be as many as 700 attendees gathering at the exclusive retreat over the course of the weekend, and a number of vice presidential contenders will speak and socialize with the donors, including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, and South Dakota Sen. John Thune.

As attendees entered the Chateaux at Silver Lake, the host hotel, throughout the sunny afternoon, they were handed a Vineyard Vines tan canvas tote bag with navy piping and the words “Believe in America” stitched on the side. Inside the bag was a blue baseball hat with “Romney” written over a circular American flag and a thick white binder, detailing the weekend’s schedule from policy discussions to social events, along with a list of Romney’s upcoming events.

In addition to the Romney swag, there was also a typed note from Romney’s National Finance Chairman Spencer Zwick addressed to the attendees by their first name. “Welcome to the first Romney Victory Leadership Retreat! We are very glad you were able to join us for this special weekend. Thank you for the continued support and leadership. On to victory!” the card read.

Some were even personalized with a handwritten note from Zwick expressing appreciation to the donor and their family, signed with his initials “SZ.”

Golf carts whipped attendees around the complex and to and from the Stein Eriksen lodge across the street where discussions on healthcare, Israel and the financial services industry were conducted.

The Republican strategist Mary Matalin, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, and a beaming Tagg Romney, the candidate’s eldest son, were seen whizzing by on the carts at various points in the day. The personal touch didn’t stop there. As attendees registered, campaign staffers handed everyone a schedule on a lanyard credential, gave directions, and even offered to take suitcases up for those eager to get to the events.

One of the first discussions was a lecture from former Secretary of State James Baker III. Rodger Young and his 26 year old daughter, Lauren, came from New York and Chicago respectively for the retreat (every attendee got a plus one), and he said he was so impressed by Baker he didn’t expect to enjoy another one of the events so thoroughly.

Young described the speech as “positive” in tone and although he said Baker did say the country was in “significant trouble” because of the nation’s “debt burden,” the state of the world “internationally…isn’t as bad as you think,” specifically pointing out that America has “still by far the strongest military.”

Baker scolded the Obama administration for “ignoring any type of bi-partisanship,” according to the Youngs. Rodger Young is a business and trial lawyer who lives in both Michigan and New York. Young said he supported Romney in 2008 and originally became involved because he knows Romney’s older brother Scott, who was also on hand for the weekend.

He described himself as a donor not a bundler, “yet.” Young said the 82-year-old Baker told the crowd he has been around for “1/3 as long as this republic has existed” and despite its current troubles he knows the “resilience of the American people will conquer all.”

Lauren praised the campaign’s social media efforts, saying she thinks it is effectively targeting Republicans her age.

Friday evening, retreat goers attended a reception at Olympic Park, which sits atop a mountain overlooking picturesque Park City. Romney waved to the small group of press relegated to the bottom of the mountain as his motorcade zoomed up the mountainside.

As young Olympic hopefuls practiced their impressive ski jumping on the green jumps from the 2002 Olympics, which Romney ran, donors arrived amidst heavy security.

Reporters were not allowed into the event, but Olympic athletes did perform their ski jumping for those lucky enough to attend with their plus one.

Two donors who attended the reception said their highlight was Ann Romney’s speech where she introduced her family and roasted her sons, four of whom attended.

It all starts up again early Saturday morning with donors expected to hear from Sen. John McCain, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ann Romney, and Karl Rove, former Bush strategist and founder of the GOP superPAC American Crossroads, throughout the day.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb082012

Senate Dems Say Obama ‘Reinforced’ Stance on Contraception Mandate at Retreat

Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama “reinforced” his stance on the controversial contraception mandate while speaking at the Democrats’ annual retreat at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Wednesday, Senate Democrats said.

The retreat was closed to media.

Following President Obama’s speech at the retreat, a small group of Senate Democrats, mostly women, left the retreat early in order to hold a news conference on Capitol Hill to counter the Republicans’ news conference Wednesday at which they called for the mandate to be overturned.

Democrats said they will “fight strongly” to keep the mandate in place.

“It is our clear understanding from the administration that the president believes as we do, and the vast majority of the American women should have access to birth control,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said pointing out that 15 percent of women use birth control for medical issues. “It’s medicine, and women deserve their medicine.”

Democrats on Wednesday called on Republicans to stop using women as a “political football,” and stop defining this debate, as Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., did earlier in the day, as a religious issue.

“It’s time to tell Republicans ‘mind your own business,’” said Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J. "Ideology should never be used to block women from getting the care they need to lead healthier lives."

“The power to decide whether or not to use contraception lies with a woman -- not her boss,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. “What is more intrusive than trying to allow an employer to make medical decisions for someone who works for them?”

Sen. Patty Murray, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, was asked if she was concerned about some Democrats, such as Tim Kaine, the former DNC chairman and Virginia governor now running for a Virginia Senate seat, disagreeing with parts of the White House’s decision. Kaine supports the mandate but said Tuesday that the White House made a “bad decision” in not allowing a broad enough religious employer exemption.

“I know that our candidates know their states and they know their own beliefs, and I back them in doing that,” Murray responded Wednesday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Feb072012

President and Campaign Manager Jim Messina to Appear at Senate Dems Retreat

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and his re-election campaign manager Jim Messina will appear together Wednesday at an annual Senate Democrats retreat to be held at Nationals Park, campaign and Capitol Hill aides tell ABC News.

Both men are expected to address the meeting, which typically focuses on developing a policy agenda and political strategy for the coming election campaign. The event is closed to the public and the press.

“This is a much more informal atmosphere. This is not a speech per se, it’s a conversation with the president, one of our former colleagues, and we’re all looking forward to it,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., told reporters.

The joint appearance on Capitol Hill is apparently a first this election cycle for Obama and Messina, a former Hill staffer and deputy White House chief of staff.

It also follows Messina’s announcement Monday night that the campaign would change course and encourage support for a pro-Obama super PAC, Priorities USA Action.  Aides said Tuesday that Obama “signed off” on the decision.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan272012

President Obama Fires Up House Democrats at Retreat

Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images(CAMBRIDGE, Md.) -- President Obama fired up House Democrats Friday with an energetic address, urging Democrats to capitalize on an array of legislative opportunities this year and build a case for a Democratic electoral sweep this fall.

The president repeated many of the themes from his State of the Union address, and he predicted that House Democrats would win back the House majority this November, restoring Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s perch in the speaker’s chair.

“People understand that the job’s not done -- not even close to being done yet,” he said. “If we’re going to finish the job, then we’ve got to, first of all, make sure that American manufacturing is strong, and that means that we’re out there creating a tax code that doesn’t provide tax breaks for companies that are shipping jobs overseas. We are focusing on companies that are investing right here in the United States because we believe that when you make it in America, everybody benefits. Everybody does well.”

Obama recounted some of the legislative accomplishments during his presidency, such as the Recovery Act and the auto bailout, and he imagined how much worse the financial crisis could have become if Democrats had not acted.

“The good news is that we are moving in the right direction thanks to your efforts, thanks to some tough votes that all of you took, thanks to the leadership that Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the leadership team showed,” he said. “We righted the ship. We did not tip into a Great Depression.”

Moving forward, Obama said that Democrats must work to “restore a commitment to the American values of hard work and responsibility.”

“Nobody envies rich people. Everybody wants to be rich,” Obama said, drawing laughter from the Democrats. “Everybody aspires to be rich, and everybody understands that you got to work hard if you’re going to be financially successful. That’s the American way. The question is: Are we creating opportunity for everybody?”

The president’s visit to the House Democratic caucus’s retreat concluded his blitz through the country to sell initiatives enumerated in his State of the Union address. He said that the American promise “has been eroding for too many people” as wages and income are stagnant and jobs are outsourced.

“The defining question that faces all of us is whether we are going to restore that sense of an American promise where, if you work hard, if you’re carrying out your responsibilities, if you’re looking out for your family, if you’re participating in your community, if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, you have the chance to get a job that allows you to support your family,” the president said. “You won’t be bankrupt when you get sick. You can send your children to college. You can retire with some dignity and some respect. You can expect that the next generation -- your children and grandchildren -- will do better than you did.”

This week, about 100 rank-and-file Democrats attended the three-day retreat, which was themed “Reigniting the American Dream.” Vice President Joe Biden also addressed the conference earlier Friday. Obama said that once a Republican presidential candidate secures the GOP nomination, Democrats will have a clear opportunity to differentiate themselves based on the contrasting directions each party wants to take the country.

While Congressional Republicans contend that Obama has turned his attention to his reelection campaign, the president prodded his party to recognize that “it’s important during the course of this year not to forget that there’s still work that we can do right now.”

“We can extend the payroll tax cut right now, without drama and without delay. We can work together right now to help start-ups and entrepreneurs get easier financing and use R&D more effectively,” Obama said. “There are folks out there that are still counting on us. There are people out there who are still hurting, and wherever we have an opportunity, wherever there is the possibility that the other side is putting some politics aside for just a nanosecond in order to get something done for the American people, we’ve got to be right there ready to meet them.”

“On the other hand, where [Republicans] obstruct, where they’re unwilling to act, where they’re more interested in party than they are in country, more interested in the next election than the next generation, then we’ve got to call them out on it,” he continued. “We’ve got to call them out on it. We’ve got to push them. We can’t wait. We can’t be held back.”

The president spoke for about 22 minutes and finished with an emphatic call to action, bringing the House Democrats to their feet in a standing ovation.

“I believe in you guys. You guys have had my back through some very tough times. I’m going to have your back as well, and together, we’re going to move this country forward,” Obama said to a rousing applause. “Let’s go out there and change the country.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio