McDonnell (R) is hosting the three-day invitation-only getaway at the four-star mountain resort in Hot Springs, Va., for those who gave or raised at least $25,000 for his political action committee, Opportunity Virginia, according to Phil Cox, McDonnell’s senior political adviser.
About 100 people are attending. Other bold-faced names include: Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, House Speaker Bill Howell and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Senate Minority Leader Tommy Norment were invited but could not attend. Members of McDonnell’s Cabinet and some other senior staff will be on hand as well.
Participants will be treated to panel discussions about energy, federal policy’s impact on states and a discussion of politics by Cox, Ed Gillespie, a longtime Republican strategist who was chairman of McDonnell's campaign, Larry Sabato, political scientist at the University of Virginia and McDonnell pollster Glen Bolger.
All guests are paying their own way, although McDonnell's political action committee, Opportunity Virginia, will pay for some costs. The governor's staff members are taking vacation time to be there.
The practice of inviting supporters to a retreat — and giving them access to senior staff members — is new for the governor of Virginia, but other politicians regularly hold such events.
Democratic and Republican legislators drive to the Homestead in the western part of the state each summer for their own retreats, which double as fundraisers. Hundreds of lobbyists and others attend the events, which raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Last month, about 325, including McDonnell, attended the House Republican caucus's seventh annual event at the Homestead, which raised more than $500,000. Hundreds are scheduled to attend next week's Democratic fundraiser for the House and Senate, also at the resort. The Democrats have been holding their joint event since the late 1980s.