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Romney camp: $50,000 gets you an invite to 'inaugural retreat'

April 16, 2012|By Kim Geiger
(Elsa/Getty Images )

This story has been updated to include comments from the Romney campaign.

WASHINGTON -- Inauguration Day may be nine months away, but that’s not stopping Mitt Romney from cashing in on the possibility that he could be president-elect by then.

In a fundraising plea circulated by a Georgia supporter and obtained by Buzzfeed, the campaign was said to be “asking people who are able to make a $50,000 contribution to do so today and become a ‘Founding Member’ of Romney Victory,” a new joint fundraising committee that allows Romney to rake in larger donations than he had been collecting through his single campaign committee.

In return, "these donors will be invited to a special retreat with Governor Romney in late June in California and will have preferred status at the first Presidential Inaugural retreat as well as yet to be determined access at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August," the letter said. 

While that sounds like the campaign is offering invites to two retreats -- oen in June and one for inauguration -- Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul says there is really just one retreat, and it has nothing to do with inauguration.

Saul, in an email after this story posted, said the letter to supporters had been misunderstood.

"The reference to 'inaugural retreat' means 'first retreat,' not one revolving around the inauguration," Saul wrote.  "This is confirmed by the fact that it’s scheduled for this summer."

News of the retreat -- coupled with reports that Romney was overheard speaking more candidly with donors at a private event in Florida --  threatened to overshadow a report in Sunday's New York Times that had described major donors -- and lobbyists --  getting access to the Obama White House.

"While both President Obama and Gov. Romney organize fundraising the same way, President Obama is the only candidate selling access to the White House," Saul said.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, referring to Romney's comments at the Florida fundraiser, replied that "instead of measuring the drapes more than 200 days before the election, Governor Romney should share with the American people what he confessed to high dollar donors last night." Read more about what Romney said at that Florida event here

The $50,000 contribution required for the special access promised by the Romney campaign is steep, but still below the legal maximum of $75,800 that an individual can give to the committee.

The campaign’s swift formation of Romney Victory is an effort to rival the fundraising successes of President Obama, who, as his party’s presumed nominee, has spent the past year collecting donations of $35,800 – and sometimes even more -- through a joint fundraising committee with the Democratic National Committee.  That effort raised $53 million in March alone.

Meanwhile, Romney and the rest of the GOP field had been limited in the amount they could collect from wealthy donors. Individuals can give a maximum of $5,000 to a standard presidential campaign each election cycle.

Romney Victory is a joint venture of five different committees: The Republican National Committee --which can collect up to $30,800 from each donor -- and four state committees. A Romney spokesperson said that those committees, based in Idaho, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Vermont, would be able to make unlimited transfers to state parties in battleground states.

Formation of the victory committee is just one of many steps the campaign has taken to pivot into general election mode since Rick Santorum’s exit from the race made Romney’s nomination all but guaranteed.

In an interview that will air tonight, Romney told ABC News’ Diane Sawyer that he has turned his attention to choosing a running mate, and that he has appointed longtime advisor Beth Myers to head the effort.

Romney said “it’s way too early to begin narrowing down who the potential vice presidential nominees might be,” but called Florida Sen. Marco Rubio “one of the terrific leaders” of the party. Rubio, a rising star in the party who could help Romney appeal to Latino voters, has repeatedly said he is not in the running.

Melanie Mason in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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