Michelle Obama tells West Coast donors, ‘Write the biggest check you can possibly write.’

A glimpse at how much fundraising power the First Lady commands. (Julie Percha/The Washington Post)

Wednesday night, first lady Michelle Obama spoke at a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Los Angeles. The event sought to persuade West Coast donors to open their bank accounts for the 2014 midterms, and the most expensive all-access seats cost $32,400 -- the cheapest ones running $1,000 a pop.

“We need to be engaged right from the beginning and this is where all of you here tonight come in, this is your part, because there is something all of you can do right now, today, to make a difference," Obama said, according to the pool report. "You can write a check, do you hear me?”

The 200-strong crowd, which included Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Barbra Streisand, and James Brolin, laughed, but the line wasn't just for laughs. “That’s what you need to do, I’m serious, write a big fat check. Write the biggest check you can possibly write,” Obama said.

The fundraiser -- postponed from its original date on Oct. 11 because of the government shutdown -- was hosted by "Everybody Loves Raymond" creator Phil Rosenthal and his wife, actress Monica Horan, at their home at Hancock Park, a gated community, where the median income is roughly $85,000 a year. Rosenthal -- besides donating that $32,400 to the DNC -- has also donated to Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Minnesota Sen. Al Franken this cycle. Outside the ivy-lined and citrus tree-dotted courtyard where the DNC event was held -- complete with a koi pond -- people gathered to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The first lady's speech echoed many of the rhetorical cues of the president's State of the Union address from Tuesday night, except with a bit more campaign trail panache. She mentioned the White House's policy goals for the next three years -- raising the minimum wage, reducing gun violence, universal pre-K and "so much more," and she tried to inspire a little fear by saying Democrats were only six seats away from losing the Senate. “What I want all of you to think about for just a minute is what could happen if we lose those six seats,” she said. “That’s just the beginning. Thirty-seven governor’s seats are up for grabs, nearly three-quarters of our state houses. We’ve got state legislatures in play, and remember, these are the folks who draw those congressional districts.”

She ended the speech, like her husband often does, with an anecdote -- this time about a young man named Troy from New Orleans, right after hitting home that point about writing checks. “We need you to max out today. Once you’ve given what you can, we need you to get out there and volunteer," she said. "We know, our Obama supporters know that person to person contact, those calls and doors knocked on, all of that can also mean the difference between victory and defeat.”

Obama is attending two more DNC fundraisers in San Francisco Thursday. Friday, she will headline a Democratic National Congressional Committee event -- a sold-out "Women's Lunch" at the Fairmont Hotel -- with House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.
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