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“Cozy Bedfellows”: Romney Spending Big At Top Benefactors’ Hotel Chain

Like all presidential candidates, Mitt Romney is perpetually on the road; trans-American speechmaking, fundraising and all-around stumping are requirements of any campaign for the White House. Tiring stuff.

When it’s time for a few hours’ sleep, Romney may not pull out his very own down pillow — as George W. Bush did when he was on the trail — but he does appear to have a preference in hotel chains: Marriott International, a company with deep personal, political and financial ties to the candidate.

Romney’s campaign has spent more than $475,000 in travel expenses at Marriott-owned hotels during the 2012 campaign — more than three-and-a-half times what he’s spent at second-place Hilton Hotels and 39 percent of the campaign’s total lodging expenditures, according to Center for Responsive Politics research.

The money, however, doesn’t flow one way: current Marriott International Chairman J.W. Marriott, Jr. and brother Richard Marriott — the chairman of a Marriott International offshoot, Host Hotels and Resorts — each have maxed out in contributions to Romney’s campaign. More significanly, they’ve donated $1,000,000 apiece to pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future.

Romney was literally born into his connections with Marriott. His was given his first name, Willard, as a tribute to J. Willard Marriott — the hotel chain’s founder and a friend of Romney’s father. Romney’s business affiliations with the hotel giant were built in the 1990s and continue, to a lesser extent, to this day. He served 10 years on Marriott’s board of directors prior to his successful 2002 run to be governor of Massachusetts. Romney rejoined the board in 2009 before announcing his resignation in January 2011, three months before forming a presidential exploratory committee.

According to personal financial statements released this month, Romney has between $101,000 and $250,000 invested in Marriott International.

“[Romney] was on our board for twelve years, and so I’ve gotten to know him and watch him in action and been very impressed with him,” J.W. Marriott, Jr., told Bloomberg Television in a June 5 interview.

Romney is not alone in his links to the resort industry. President Obama also has a hotel connection: Penny Pritzker, who’s a billionaire Hyatt executive and a co-chair of President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, has donated the legal maximums of $5,000 to his reelection campaign and $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee. 

One member of Hyatt’s ruling family has strayed from the clan’s Democratic leanings, though: Thomas Pritzker — Penny Pritzker’s cousin and executive chairman of Hyatt Hotels– has contributed thousands to Republican candidates during this election cycle.

While the Marriott brothers’ $2 million in gifts to Restore Our Future is the biggest political funding effort linked to the company, the company’s PAC and employee contributions also trend Republican. Workers at the corporation have given $107,880 to Romney’s campaign in the 2012 race, according to CRP research; by comparison, Obama’s campaign has received just $15,170 from Marriott International employees. Marriott’s corporate PAC has sent 63 percent of its nearly $175,000 in 2012 donations to Republicans.


By: Dan Glaun, OpenSecrets Blog, June 7, 2012

June 10, 2012 - Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , ,

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