Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is on a weeklong trip in which he’s scheduled to meet with three prime ministers, give two speeches and attend the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics. On a more practical level, he’ll also raise some campaign cash.
This trip is designed to highlight how Romney would fix the failings he sees in President Obama’s foreign policy.
Romney opened his attack Tuesday while still in the U.S. In an address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev., he lit into the Obama administration’s relationship with Israel.
“Since I wouldn’t venture into another country to question American foreign policy, I will tell you right here — before I leave — what I think of this administration’s shabby treatment of one of our finest friends,” he said.
On Sunday night in Jerusalem — scheduled in between a day of religious fasting and a day of high-level meetings — is a Romney fundraising dinner. Tickets start at $50,000 per couple.
“I think that there’s been an incredible response to Gov. Romney’s fundraiser,” says Jonny Daniels, an Israeli political consultant with close ties to the Republican Party. “I know dozens of people that are flying out to Israel from the United States, literally for a few days, just to be in Israel when the governor’s there.”
He says the travelers include leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition and other members of the GOP elite.
“Which, in fact, in terms of what Gov. Romney’s doing, strengthens his ties with these people,” Daniels says. “Enables them to be with him not just for a fundraiser, but to be with him in a day in a place that they call home.”
The Jerusalem event comes after Romney holds a pair of fundraisers in London on Thursday — a reception priced at $2,500 per person and a dinner costing $25,000 and up. Both are aimed at donors in the banking industry.
There’s a little awkwardness involved. Originally, Barclays CEO Bob Diamond was going to be one of the hosts. But since then, the bank has paid $450 million in fines to settle charges that it rigged the LIBOR, the rate that international banks charge for short-term loans to one another. The bank faces a criminal investigation in England, and Diamond has resigned as CEO.
Still, another of Romney’s fundraising hosts is Patrick Durkin, the top lobbyist in Barclays’ U.S. operation. He’s also a Romney campaign bundler — a solicitor of contributions.
The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics says Durkin has previously raised more than $1 million.
Durkin and the Romney campaign both declined comment for this story.
Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, a liberal group that criticizes big money in politics, says Romney “is obviously raising huge sums of money from across the country and apparently from across the world, but he is focusing very heavily on the Wall Street sector.”
Weissman says neither candidate nor donors seem deterred by the LIBOR scandal or other problems that have rolled through the financial sector.
“So I suppose it’s no worse to be doing that in London than it is to be doing it in New York, but it’s a sad state of affairs,” he says.
Now, all of these events are raising money from American citizens and permanent residents.
“Best estimates are that there are 6 [million] or 7 million American citizens who live outside the U.S.,” says Rob Carolina, chairman of Democrats Abroad United Kingdom.
He points out that it’s illegal to solicit political money from anyone who isn’t a citizen or a green-card holder. And he says the law is taken seriously.
“I’m typically asked to produce my passport at the time a contribution is made. Or alternatively, if a contribution is made online, it’s become commonplace to ask people to scan and submit a copy of their passport for records,” he says.
Carolina says Americans overseas are often eager to do more in politics than just vote.
And as campaign budgets keep pushing upward, politicians from would-be congressmen to would-be presidents are looking overseas — especially to London.
In the last presidential campaign, the visitors to London included Republican Rudolph Giuliani, Democrat Dennis Kucinich, former President Clinton and future first lady Michelle Obama.
Two weeks ago, the Obama campaign held a $250-per-person reception. And last July, Romney attended a reception in London that records indicate grossed about $73,000.
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