They spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid getting crosswise with the governor’s team, which declined to disclose any information about the invitation-only retreat.
As 100 or so millionaires and billionaires sit down for lunch on the second day of the retreat, Youngkin and Pompeo plan to hold a “conversation” on the “Spirit of Leadership at Home and Abroad,” the two said.
On Youngkin’s own plate: Nov. 7 General Assembly elections that will determine the viability of his legislative agenda and potential last-minute 2024 presidential bid. The stated purpose of Youngkin’s second “Red Vest Retreat” — named for his trademark zip-up campaign attire — is to inspire national GOP donors to help bankroll Republicans trying to hold on to the House of Delegates and flip the Virginia Senate.
Youngkin professes to be focused exclusively on that goal even as he stokes White House chatter with cross-country travel, forays into international politics and a flurry of self-promoting videos, including one casting him as the successor to President Ronald Reagan.
Aside from Pompeo and a well-heeled Republican who had been on Trump’s shortlist for Federal Reserve chairman, the guests can expect to hear from people involved with Youngkin’s more immediate goals in Richmond, including two of the governor’s top political advisers and three of his Cabinet members: Public Safety Secretary Terry Cole, Education Secretary Aimee Guidera and Health and Human Resources Secretary John Littel.
Youngkin’s office did not respond when asked if the secretaries would take part in the political gathering on state time or their own.
The event is expected to cost Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia political action committee up front, because it is picking up the tab for some of the country’s biggest GOP donors to spend two days and one night at the landmark oceanfront hotel, recently restored to its Roaring Twenties glory by a $400 million restoration. Youngkin’s PAC spent six figures last year covering the lodging and dining costs for donors who attended his first retreat outside Charlottesville at Keswick Hall.
As was the case last year, PAC officials hope donors will more than make up the cost with big contributions. Making up the difference in the three weeks that remain before Election Day could be a tall order, but Virginia Republicans have said privately that they have no hard feelings about the expenditure because Youngkin has been a record-smashing fundraiser.
Another Youngkin political entity, America’s Spirit, a type of “social welfare organization” commonly referred to as a “dark money” group, is billed as a co-sponsor for portions of the retreat. America’s Spirit is a 501(c)(4) organization, named for a section of the federal tax code, that can run issue-based ads and does not need to disclose its donors.
The retreat begins with a cocktail hour “hosted by America’s Spirit.” The group also will sponsor the dinner that follows.
The schedule Wednesday begins with breakfast, as well as “morning reflection and prayer.” Several panel discussions labeled with the governor’s “spirit of” branding follow.
Youngkin appears with political lieutenants Dave Rexrode and Matt Moran to provide a “political update” billed as “Spirit of Winning.” First lady Suzanne Youngkin leads a conversation with the Cabinet secretaries, labeled “Spirit of Virginia.”
That’s followed by a “conversation” between Youngkin and Kevin Warsh, a former member of Federal Reserve Board of Governors, on the “Spirit of the Global Economy.”
In 2017, Trump considered making the Harvard-trained lawyer the Federal Reserve chair but faced a backlash over criticism that Warsh, who lacked the financial and academic credentials more typically associated with the post, was in the mix because his father-in-law is a major Republican donor and the heir to the Estée Lauder fortune.
Zack Roday, spokesman for Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia political action committee, declined to comment on the plans, including speakers, the number of guests or any other details.
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