Obama rallies Hollywood supporters on fundraising trip
By David Nakamura,
LOS ANGELES — When President Obama arrived Wednesday evening in Hollywood for a pair of fundraisers, 1,000 supporters greeted him at the home of a soap opera producer. Foo Fighters jammed a live set. Actor George Clooney was among the 80 guests who joined the president for a $35,800-a-plate dinner.
If Obama is suffering any lingering Hollywood blowback after his administration failed to get behind a pair of high-profile Internet piracy bills championed by the entertainment industry, it wasn’t apparent.
“I’m going to need you,” Obama told the larger crowd. “You’re going to carry this thing like you did in 2008.”
The two Tinseltown events — which kicked off a series of seven fundraisers for the president over the next three days — were expected to reap more than $3 million. They also could serve as a statement that Obama’s fundraising machine won’t be slowed despite industry frustration after the demise of the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act.
“Anything we can do to help,” said Andy Spahn, a political consultant to DreamWorks chief Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of Obama’s top campaign bundlers and staunchest Hollywood supporters.
“The events are sold out,” Spahn said of Wednesday’s concert and dinner at the home of Bradley and Colleen Bell, producers of “The Bold and the Beautiful.” “I expect the president to continue to enjoy strong support.”
Obama’s three-state trip offers another sign that his campaign is entering a new phase as he cranks his fundraising apparatus into high gear. Obama will also solicit funds in Corona Del Mar, Calif., San Francisco and Seattle. The stops are Obama’s first fundraising appearances outside Washington since he announced last week that he would embrace a super PAC dedicated to raising additional money.
Obama’s campaign has worked hard in recent months to keep his big-money Hollywood backers in the fold.
In early January, the Hollywood Reporter, a trade publication, reported that the Obama campaign asked Nicole Avant, the administration’s ambassador to the Bahamas, to return to her native California to do damage control.
The daughter of music industry titan and Obama bundler Clarence Avant, Nicole Avant and her husband, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, hosted a fundraiser for Michelle Obama at their Beverly Hills home Jan. 31. Another fundraiser, a $1,000-a-plate breakfast at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Jan. 20, featured Vice President Biden.
By then, Hollywood was stung over the White House’s refusal to embrace the two Internet piracy bills, meant to prevent online theft of intellectual property. On Jan. 14, the Obama administration had said that, although it supported such efforts, the bills infringed on the freedom of Web sites.
Hollywood interpreted the decision as the president siding with Silicon Valley, another big base of campaign support where Obama will arrive Thursday. Former Connecticut senator Christopher J. Dodd, now chief executive of the Motion Picture Association of America, lashed out five days later, warning on Fox News that Obama shouldn’t take Hollywood “for granted.”
Dodd added that Hollywood was watching closely and that Obama should not “ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don’t pay any attention to me when my job is at stake.”
Asked about Obama’s visit to Hollywood and Silicon Valley, Dodd said in a statement: “We hope that the president will use this opportunity in both communities to reiterate the important point that he made in the State of the Union: that online content theft is a problem, that it harms U.S. workers and U.S. business and that now is the time to come together to find meaningful solutions to protect American intellectual property from foreign criminals.”
In her opening remarks at the Jan. 31 event arranged by Nicole Avant and Sarandos, Michelle Obama did not mention the controversy to an audience that included Katzenberg, producers Steve Bing and Harvey Weinstein, music mogul Berry Gordy, actress Vivica Ferrell and music producer Quincy Jones.
“He needs your help,” the first lady said. “He needs you to make those phone calls, write those checks.”