1 of 4
Mitt Romney

Want to join President Bush, Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and Mitt Romney later this month at an evening reception being held at Romney's lavish Deer Valley home?

You can — if you and your spouse come up with $70,100 for the "McCain Victory 2008" fund.

If that's too much to spend to help elect the GOP's presumptive presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, there's also going to be a $10,000 lunch followed by a $500 reception earlier the same day at the Grand America Hotel.

Invitations to the May 28 events are already circulating among Utahns, who contributed a whopping $6 million-plus to Romney's own bid for the White House that ended in February after he had lost several key states, including California, to McCain.

McCain, who won't be coming to Utah for the fundraisers, was soundly defeated by Romney in the state's Feb. 5 GOP presidential primary. Romney, the former head of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, won with an overwhelming 90 percent of the vote.

The price tag for the McCain events shows that national party leaders are taking notice of Utah as a place to raise campaign cash, according to Kirk Jowers, director of the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.

"Utah had been seen as more of a fly-over land for these types of big fundraising events, but Romney has forever changed that," said Jowers, a longtime Romney supporter who now heads Utah Lawyers for McCain.

Jowers said there are enough deep pockets in Utah to make the president's stop worthwhile. Bush is one of the Republican Party's best-ever fundraisers, taking in more than three-quarters of a billion dollars, according to CBS News.

"Each party has a number of reliable, wealthy donors who will max out to almost everything within the contribution limits," Jowers said. "This is absolutely the premier Republican event of the year."

McCain's campaign will receive the first $2,300 of each contribution, the maximum amount allowed by the Federal Elections Commission. Another $2,300 will go to the candidate's compliance fund that pays, for example, legal fees associated with the campaign.

The rest will go to the Republican National Committee, up to the federal limit of $28,500. Anything beyond that will be divided between the Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico and Wisconsin state parties' federal accounts, according to the invitations.

The White House on Monday would not confirm the president's visit to Utah. Huntsman, who is running for re-election with high approval ratings, backed McCain early on despite Romney's popularity in Utah.


E-mail: lisa@desnews.com