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Saturday, July 28, 2012

A Fund-Raiser Behind Closed Doors


JERUSALEM - Mitt Romney's high-dollar breakfast with donors at the King David Hotel here Monday morning will be closed to the media, his campaign decided Saturday, a change from the norm for the presumptive Republican presidential candidate.

The trip to Israel holds opportunity and peril for Mr. Romney, and his campaign aides have spent weeks preparing the former Massachusetts governor for the fine diplomatic line he must walk while abroad. His relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, which dates back to their days as young consultants in Boston, is already being scrutinized for signs of warmth or cooling, and everything said - and unsaid - will be carefully parsed.

The fund-raiser may be especially delicate for Mr. Romney because of the attendance of Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire casino magnate who has pledged to spend some $100 million this election to help defeat President Obama, as well as e lect Republicans. Though Mr. Adelson first supported Newt Gingrich during the early nominating contests because of his strong support for Israel, he has since thrown his support behind Mr. Romney. Mr. Adelson and his wife recently gave $5 million to a pro-Romney “super PAC.” He flew over to Jerusalem for the weekend to attend the event.

Mr. Romney seems to be taking pains to keep the fund-raiser under wraps. Typically, a small pool of reporters is allowed into fund-raisers held in public locations, in order to provide a written report on Mr. Romney's remarks. Though there have been a few occasions when the campaign has tried to limit access - citing an especially small venue or the fact that Mr. Romney was not giving formal remarks - this is the first time that a public fund-raiser has been closed without any explanation.

Mr. Romney's high-dollar event in London on Thursday, held at the Mandarin Oriental in Hyde Park, was open to a press pool.

It rema ins unclear why Mr. Romney wants his remarks to donors in Israel to remain off the record. But earlier in the campaign, Mr. Romney was caught offering a slightly different message behind closed doors than was intended for public consumption. At a private fund-raiser in Florida, Mr. Romney talked about reducing the Department of Education and possibly eliminating the Department of Housing and Urban Development - hardly standard campaign fare.

“Closed press, closed press, closed press,” a Romney spokesman Rick Gorka said when asked for a comment or explanation.