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Elite Romney fundraisers party under Cayman Islands flag

August 29, 2012|By Melanie Mason
  • Mitt Romney boards his campaign plane at Tampa International Airport en route to Indianapolis.
Mitt Romney boards his campaign plane at Tampa International Airport en… (Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty…)

TAMPA, Fla. -- Elite fundraisers for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign kicked off the second full day of the Republican convention aboard a luxury yacht flying the flag of the Cayman Islands.

ABC News reported on the Wednesday morning reception aboard the Cracker Bay, a 147-foot yacht owned by Florida real estate baron H. Gary Morse. It was described as an exclusive event for those who had raised at least $1 million for the campaign. According to ABC, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was scheduled to speak and Romney family members, including the candidate’s brother Scott, were in attendance.

Democrats were quick to circulate the story, gleefully highlighting the flag of the Caribbean island nation, known as an international tax haven. Romney's Cayman-housed investments have taken political fire from President Obama's campaign, which has sought to portray Romney's legal but exotic finances as proof that he is out of touch with average Americans.

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Morse, the owner of the yacht, is the CEO of the Orlando mega-retirement community the Villages and a member of the Romney campaign's Florida finance team.

He, along with family members, fellow Villages executives and companies registered to him, has given more than $1.5 million to the pro-Romney "super PAC" Restore Our Future, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

A spokesman for the Villages did not immediately return calls for comment.

Spencer Zwick, the Romney campaign's finance director, told ABC News that the event was a thank you for donors, not a fundraiser.

Because the campaign has not disclosed its bundlers, it is unknown how many individuals would qualify for the "Romney Victory Council," those who have raised at least seven figures for the Republican's presidential bid.

Mel Sembler, a prolific GOP fundraiser and former ambassador, told the Los Angeles Times that the reception, which he attended, was for "great supporters of the Romney campaign," but he declined to name other attendees.

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Sembler brushed off the political points Romney's critics may score off the Cayman Islands connection.

"Where [Morse] houses his boat is his business," Sembler said. "He's a great resident of the state of Florida and a great humanitarian."

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