Sen. Mitt Romney now only 'honorary' participant in his annual Deer Valley summit

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PARK CITY — Now that he's a senator, Mitt Romney is participating only in "an honorary capacity" in the annual summit he started six years ago to put political leaders and policy experts together with big-money GOP contributors.

The Utah Republican is expected to make an appearance Friday at the private event in Deer Valley. The summit started Thursday and is scheduled to end midday Saturday.

Other participants include former House Speaker Paul Ryan, Romney's 2012 running mate; Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who considered challenging President Donald Trump in the 2020 GOP primary; and former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

The summit, known as E2 for "Experts and Enthusiasts," is put on by Solamere Capital, a Boston-based private equity firm founded by Spencer Zwick, the man who raised $1 billion for Romney's 2012 presidential bid, and Romney's son, Tagg.

Held at the Stein Eriksen Lodge, the summertime summit is not a fundraiser but costs about $5,000 to attend. It started in 2012 as a way of showing appreciation to top contributors after Romney locked up the GOP presidential nomination.

Big-name Republicans, including the late Arizona Sen. John McCain, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and former Secretary of State George Schultz, have attended the summit, as well as former Vice President Joe Biden and a few other Democrats.

It was an opportunity for many of the Republicans competing to take on then-President Barack Obama in 2016 to meet with donors and try out their messaging, although Trump was not among those invited to attend.

After Trump secured the GOP nomination, Romney delivered an emotional speech at the 2016 summit, saying he wouldn't campaign against the GOP presidential nominee, but "seeing this is breaking my heart for the party."

Romney, who called Trump a fraud and a phony during the GOP primary, ran for the Senate two years later on a pledge to call out the president when he feels it's necessary but otherwise support him.

The summit also has taken a more low-key tone, to avoid tension between the Romney supporters and Solamere investors attending who back Trump and those who see him as damaging the Republican Party.

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Romney created the summit, a source said, "to discuss ideas regarding the future of American leadership. E2 is known to be a gathering of some of the most prominent leaders in business, government, philanthropy and innovation."

But with Romney's election last November to the U.S. Senate, his role has changed.

"Since Sen. Romney’s new duties in Washington, D.C., have kept him busy, he now serves as chairman emeritus and will participate this year in an honorary capacity,” the source said.

Longtime Romney supporter Kirk Jowers said the event itself will stay the same.

"It's was Mitt's vision to have this summit. This one will follow the same effort to bring together people of diverse ideological viewpoints to focus on policy and solutions that are achievable regardless of party or persuasion," he said.

That won't change, Jowers said, as long as Romney is "any part of it."

He said as a senator, Romney "has shown his commitment to conservative values, but also to an independent streak as far as always maintaining his principles regardless of where the president or other members of his party may be heading at any given time."

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Lisa Riley Roche


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