Romney Mines for California Gold in Hillsborough and Beverly Crest

2:16 PM PST 05/29/2012 by Tina Daunt
JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images
Mitt Romney

The GOP presidential nominee will connect with supporters from the tech and investment communities at a series of lavish fundraisers in the Bay Area and Los Angeles this week.

It’s not called the Golden State for nothing.

While the Democrats have been busy mining Hollywood for campaign contributions, the Republicans’ presumptive nominee -- La Jolla’s own Mitt Romney -- will drop into both Northern and Southern California on Wednesday and Thursday for fundraisers thrown by some of the state’s GOP high rollers.

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Thursday’s event is set for the art-filled Beverly Crest mansion of billionaire investor and philanthropist Tony Pritzker, heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune. The 7:30 p.m. gathering is a dinner for the candidate with tickets going for $50,000 per couple. As with previous Romney fundraisers in Los Angeles, there likely will be a few Hollywood names and a large showing by the investment and finance communities.

Wednesday’s fundraiser is notable for site alone: The spectacular Carolands Chateau in the old-money Bay Area enclave of Hillsborough. Romney’s hosts include the home’s owners -- Charles Bartlett Johnson, the billionaire investor and heir to the Templeton Franklin fortune, and his wife, Dr. Anne Johnson -- along with former Secretary of State George Schultz and ex-California Gov. Pete Wilson.

The event’s co-chairs are a who’s who of the Northern California finance and technology elite, including Seagate CEO Steve Luczo, HP honcho and former gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (who made her bones at eBay), Cisco director Brian Halla, private-equity chief Dick Boyce, Goldman Sachs’ Brad DeFoor, Pacific Private Equity’s Grant Finlayson and Romney’s one-time Bain Capital partner, Vince Tobkin.

Whatever impact the Barack Obama campaign’s anti-Bain Capital effort may be having elsewhere, it’s clear the Bay Area GOP is shrugging it off: Carolands Chateau, generally regarded as one of America’s handful of truly “great homes,” is directly linked to one of the great robber barons -- George Pullman, creator of the eponymous railcar. His daughter and heir, Harriett, built the 65,000-foot American Renaissance mansion the year before the income tax was imposed in 1913.

The home’s 75-foot high atrium is the largest enclosed space in an American private home and easily could contain George Clooney’s whole house. The home’s architecture is in the Beaux-Arts style inspired by the court of Louis XIV of France, and the gardens -- originally more than 500 acres -- were modeled after his palace at Versailles.

Now shrunken to a bit under six acres, the gardens will be the site of the first part of Wednesday’s scaled fundraiser with admission of $2,500 per person. For $10,000 each, guest can have their photos taken with Romney; for $25,000, they can attend a “VIP Roundtable.” Dinner with the candidate runs a hefty $50,000 per person, which makes Pritzker’s event the next night a bit of a bargain. (The previous national Republican fundraiser held at Carolands netted $1.5 million in one night for George W. Bush.)

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Romney will travel to Hillsborough from Las Vegas, where Donald Trump hosted a Tuesday fundraiser on his behalf. The Donald, whose “birther” rants against Obama have become something of an embarrassment to the Romney campaign, now appears bent on demonstrating that he can outdo Clooney as an online contest draw.

For a suggested donation of $3, contestants can win transportation to the Big Apple in “the Trump vehicle,” a stay at the Trump International Hotel & Tower, a tour of the aforementioned tower and -- drum roll -- dinner with Romney and Trump, who was dubbed a "charlatan" by the Obama campaign on Tuesday.

Clooney hosted a record-breaking fundraiser for Obama's re-election campaign May 10 at the actor's home near Studio City’s Wilacre Park. An online contest for a seat at Obama and Clooney's table also raised millions. 

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