The DNC shuts down shoe designer Steve Madden at LGBT gala

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The Reliable Source has learned that shoe designer Steve Madden and President Barack Obama won’t be co-starring on Instagram anytime soon — or ever, if the DNC has anything to say about it.

Madden, who’d purchased a table at the Democratic National Committee’s LGBT gala held at Gotham Hall in Manhattan last week, got a call from a DNC rep the day before the annual fundraiser and was told that he couldn’t snap a picture with the president — a treat for some donors who purchase a table or max out at $32,400 in donations.

Madden was also told that neither he nor anyone from his company would be allowed to meet Obama or even shake his hand, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.

The reason behind the cold shoulder? In 2002, Madden was sentenced to 41 months in prison for stock fraud. As it happens, Madden’s troubles were featured in the “Wolf of Wall Street,” the Oscar-nominated drama about real life crook and former stock broker Jordan Belfort, whose company, Stratton Oakmont, manipulated stock in Steve Madden Ltd.’s initial public offering. (Dustin’s Hoffman’s son, Jake, played Madden in the movie.)

The DNC declined our request for comment, as did the Steve Madden company.

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Madden decided at the last minute to buy an entire table at the Tuesday fundraiser as a “thank you” to friends, family and employees who campaigned with the designer for Obama in ’08 and ’12. (Madden’s very first tweet in 2009 was “I think Barack is the greatest”). Word around the office was that Madden would get to meet the president.

But the day before the event Madden’s assistant received what one source described as a “panicked email” from Aditi Hardikar, the LGBT leadership council director at the DNC. Apparently the Democrats didn’t want the leader of the free world and a felon photographed together. The practice of vetting potential donors is pretty standard, we hear, and image, as they say, is everything. Still, Madden was thrown for a loop.

“Steve was really hurt by this,” said one source. “He thought that this was really outrageous, like a slap in the face.”

We’re told Madden eventually decided to take his check and go home only after learning that no one from his staff would be able to meet the president, either. He’s reportedly getting a refund. So at least there’s that.

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Helena Andrews is the co-author of The Reliable Source. Follow her on Twitter @helena_andrews, and send your hot tips, sightings, and gossip to reliablesource@washpost.com.
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