LOS ANGELES – President Obama reached for the stars Thursday evening in three marathon fundraisers that drew celebrity heavyweights Tom Hanks, George Clooney and director Steven Spielberg.
In four whirlwind hours of fundraising events, capping a frenetic tour of the West Coast, Obama spoke to Hollywood moguls and entertainers about his deficit reduction plan and his need for their re-election support .
He continued the drumbeat that his plan to restore the country’s fiscal health is to cut spending while retaining social programs. He also stressed, as he had in San Francisco and Reno, Nev., this week, that the wealthiest should pay more taxes.
For 100 donors at two separate private events Thursday evening, big contributions bought private time with Obama, who visited tables.
The first private dinner was co-sponsored by Capital Group’s John Emerson and Tennis Channel CEO Ken Solomon. The guests included business tycoons such as housing developer and philanthropist Eli Broad and Sony Entertainment co-chair Amy Pascal. Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown Records, attended along with White House staffers such as special adviser Valerie Jarrett.
“We set this up so I am going to go from table to table and you guys can poke me and prod me, and lift the hood and kick the tires and give me what I’m sure will be wonderful advice,” Obama said to laughter. “Because looking around this room, this is not a shy group.”
After the private event at the Sony Pictures Studios, he moved to a fundraiser attended by about 2,500 donors. Jamie Foxx entertained the audience and Obama spoke to the donors on the same stage where “Spider-Man 4” was recently filmed along with “Cast Away” and “Iron Man.”
“I was just hearing about Spider-Man 4, so I’m all psyched up about that,” Obama said to high-paying donors at the exclusive dinner at Sony. He added that he was “very big on Spider-Man.”
After the events at the Sony studios, he went to the Tavern restaurant in Brentwood where producer Jeffrey Katzenberg hosted an event for about 50 high-paying donors.
There, Obama thanked the guests who included Clooney, Hanks and comedian Will Ferrell, who sat near White House adviser David Plouffe.
In 2008, Obama enjoyed the high-profile support of Oprah Winfrey and Robert De Niro, who stumped for him on the campaign trail. He may need that same star-studded and mass public support for his re-election bid.
His West Coast tour this week is expected to bring in as much as $4 million, which will add to his $2 million raised in Chicago last week.
In his speech to the crowd at Tavern, Obama said the budget debate in Washington will “crystallize” the debate he’ll be having in the 18 months until November 2012.
He expressed his disdain for political squabbling and said gas prices are partly to blame for his declining poll numbers. He said those numbers tend to fluctuate based on what crisis confronts the nation at the time.
To the entertainment industry supporters, the president said he needs stronger support than in the past election. With 18 months to go in his current term before a bid for four more years, actor Tom Hanks told table mates after Obama’s speech, “Five and a half more years!”