Clooney-Obama Fundraiser Hits $15 Million
DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg said roughly $15 million was raised from 150 attendees. However, most of the funding was raised from an online sweepstakes where visitors could make a donation for a chance to win a pair of tickets to the event. According to The Washington Post, Katzenberg, who has been a longtime supporter of Obama, said, “Once again the entertainment industry has stepped forward in a very big way.”
The $40,000-a-person fundraiser catered by Wolfgang Puck was held on Clooney’s basketball court where a large tent was set up to seat celebrities like Barbara Streisand, Robert Downey Jr., Tobey Maguire, Jack Black and Salma Hayek.
Obama spent three hours there, and during a tour of Clooney’s home, he saw his 2008 “Hope” campaign poster. He told donors that the photograph was actually taken while he was seated next to Clooney, who was advocating on behalf of Darfur, at an event. Obama said:
“This is the first time that George Clooney has actually been photo-shopped out of a picture. Never happened before, will never happen again.”
Besides those willing to pay the hefty price tag, two women won an online contest for a pair of tickets to the event. Beth Topinka, a science teacher from New Jersey, and Karen Blutcher, a mother from Florida, were both flown out to Los Angeles with their husbands.
Obama discussed how bad the situation was when he first came into office and made references to his announcement on Wednesday in support of gay marriage. He said:
“Are we a country that includes everybody and gives everybody a shot and treats everybody fairly and is that going to make us stronger? Are we welcoming to immigrants? Are we welcoming to people who aren’t like us, does that make us stronger? I believe it does.”
His stop in the San Fernando Valley was not the first. Obama started his fundraising trail in Seattle on Thursday at the home of Ann and Bruce Blume on Lake Washington. The $17,900 ticket brunch was attended by 70 supporters. There was also a larger fundraiser in downtown Seattle with 1,800 supporters with tickets starting at $1,000. Guests also had the chance to see singer Dave Matthews perform.
Some conservatives have long criticized Obama’s ties to Hollywood like the pro-GOP super Pac American Crossroads ad which pieced together clips of Obama’s TV appearances and juxtaposed it with unemployment and student loan debt statistics.
GOP media strategist Fred Davis told The Los Angeles Times:
"This event will help Obama regain some of his cool, but they're missing the point if they think cool is gonna re-elect him. We managed to get people to question whether they wanted celebrity or they wanted competence. This time around I think that's the question…”
However, talk show host Bill Maher, who has donated $1 million to the pro-Obama super Pac Priorities USA Action and did not attend the Clooney fundraiser, said many of the rich donors are in the Republican Party. He referred to the $40,000-a-plate as “chump change” in the current election and that:
“This is a fairly new atmosphere we live in with Citizens United. Most of the rich donors are Republicans. I was trying to make the point that if you want to even the playing field, the people who have money on the left really have to get in the game. And most of them are here in California."
Money raised from the Clooney fundraiser will be going to the Obama Victory Fund.
Reach Executive Producer Subrina Hudson here.