Romney urges political and business leaders to set aside partisan bickering

Mitt Romney is urging political and business leaders to set aside partisan bickering and to seek solutions to the nation's most pressing issues.

The private Experts and Enthusiasts conference he hosted late last week in Park City featured policy discussions about education, the economy, immigration and foreign policy.

Speakers included three potential Republican presidential candidates for 2016: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

Other speakers at the event Thursday and Friday were Democrats David Axelrod, a longtime adviser to President Barack Obama, and Erskine Bowles, former Clinton White House chief of staff.

Some 200 major donors to Romney's 2012 presidential bid attended the retreat at the posh Stein Eriksen Lodge. Many also are investors in Solamere Capital, a private equity firm founded by Romney's son, Tagg. Each paid $5,000 to attend.

Josh Romney told The Salt Lake Tribune that his father wasn't trying to score political points but was trying to influence the national dialogue. He said he did not hear Obama's name mentioned once at the retreat.

"It's not a Democrat problem, not a Republican problem. It's a Washington problem," Josh Romney said.

The event, which was closed to the news media, featured a solid discussion of how Republicans and Democrats could find compromise, he added.

"One of the great things that came from the conference is that there are so many issues where we agree," he told The Tribune. "The goal of the conference is really to influence those certain issues and how to move those forward."

On immigration, Josh Romney said his father and Hewlett-Packard President and CEO Meg Whitman spoke of the need for more visas for foreign workers with specialized technical skills. But he said there was no talk of how to boost the GOP's appeal to Hispanic voters.

"We didn't really talk about the party or how the party's going to improve," he told the Deseret News. "It's really a focus on the country, what we need to do as a country to remain competitive and strong."

There was confusion about the exact purpose of the retreat.

"What are Mitt's plans?" was the major question coming out of the event, former Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, told The Washington Post. "There doesn't seem to be an answer coming out of this."

Romney held a similar retreat in Park City a year ago for some 700 donors. It drew Republicans such as strategist Karl Rove, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.