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Mitt Romney has embarked on his foreign trip. He arrived in London early today. The Republican presidential candidate is scheduled to meet three prime ministers, give two speeches and attend the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics. He'll also raise some campaign cash, as NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: The trip is designed to highlight how Mitt Romney would fix the failings he sees in President Obama's foreign policy. Romney opened his attack yesterday. Addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nevada, he lit into the Obama Administration's relationship with Israel.
MITT ROMNEY: Since I wouldn't venture into another country to question American foreign policy, I'll tell you right here before I leave what I think of this administration's shabby treatment of one of our finest friends.
OVERBY: And, on Sunday night in Jerusalem, scheduled in between a day of religious fasting and a day of high level meetings is a Romney fundraising dinner. Tickets start at $50,000 per couple.
Jonny Daniels is an Israeli political consultant with close ties to the Republican Party.
JONNY DANIELS: I think that there's been an incredible response to Governor Romney's fundraiser. I know dozens of people that are flying out to Israel from the United States, literally for a few days, just to be in Israel when the governor's there.
OVERBY: He says the travelers include leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition and other members of the GOP elite.
DANIELS: Which, in fact, in terms of what Governor Romney's doing, strengthens his ties with these people, a reason to be with him, not just for a fundraiser, but to be with him in a day in a place that they call home.
OVERBY: The Jerusalem event comes after Romney holds a pair of fundraisers in London. They are tomorrow night, a reception priced at $2,500 per person and a dinner costing $25,000 and up, both aimed at donors in the banking industry.
There's a little awkwardness involved. Originally, Bob Diamond, CEO of Barclays Bank, was going to be one of the hosts, but since then, Barclays has paid $450 million in fines to settle charges that it rigged the LIBOR interest rate, a benchmark in daily commerce. The bank faces a criminal investigation in England and Diamond has resigned as CEO.
Still, another of Romney's fundraising hosts is Patrick Durkin, the top lobbyist in Barclays' U.S. operation. He's also a Romney campaign bundler. That is a solicitor of contributions. The Nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics says Durkin has previously raised more than a million dollars. Durkin and the Romney campaign both declined comment for this story.
Robert Weissman is president of Public Citizen, a liberal group that criticizes big money in politics.
ROBERT WEISSMAN: Romney is obviously raising huge sums of money from across the country and, apparently, from across the world, but he is focusing very heavily on the Wall Street sector.
OVERBY: And Weissman says neither candidate nor donors seem deterred by the LIBOR scandal or other problems that have rolled through the financial sector.
WEISSMAN: I suppose it's no worse to be doing that in London than it is to be doing it in New York, but it's a sad state of affairs.
OVERBY: Now, all of these events are raising money from American citizens and permanent residents.
ROB CAROLINA: Best estimates are that there are six or seven million American citizens who live outside the U.S.
OVERBY: This is Rob Carolina, chairman of Democrats Abroad United Kingdom. He points out that it's illegal to solicit political money from anyone who isn't a citizen or a green card holder and he says the law is taken seriously.
CAROLINA: I'm typically asked to produce my passport at the time a contribution is made or, alternatively, if a contribution is made online, it's become commonplace to ask people to scan and submit a copy of their passport for records.
OVERBY: Carolina says Americans overseas are often eager to do more in politics than just vote and, as campaign budgets keep pushing upward, politicians from would-be congressman to would-be president are looking overseas, especially to London.
In the last presidential campaign, visitors to London included Rudy Giuliani, Dennis Kucinich, former President Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama. Two weeks ago, the Obama campaign held a $250 per person reception and, last July, Mitt Romney attended a reception. Records indicate that it grossed about $73,000.
Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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