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Jewish Journal

Hollywood hosts Obama at democratic fundraiser

by Danielle Berrin

May 28, 2009 | 4:03 pm

Anyone who got stuck in massive road closures yesterday might have guessed that President Obama was in town. And they would be right: the nation’s chief executive headed straight to the chieftains of Hollywood to raise some cash for democratic debt. Tinseltown’s mightiest threesome—Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen—reunited to host the $30K-per-couple dinner at the Beverly Hilton, aided by some of their influential brethren: Ron Burkle, the billionaire business magnate; Casey Wasserman, grandson of movie mogul Lew; and Ari Emanuel, William Morris Endeavor chief and brother to Rahm, the president’s right hand man.

According to yesterday’s L.A. Times, desperate times call for Hollywood’s toughest deal-makers.

“Both dinners are part of Obama’s personal effort to overcome the Democrats’ failure to match the Republicans’ fundraising efforts for so-called “party building,” a crucial aspect of the current political competition,” Tina Daunt wrote for The Times. “Though the Dems have fared well in recent years raising money for individual congressional and presidential candidates, particularly in California, they continue to run behind in gathering funds for the party itself. That even was true last year, when both Obama and Democratic hopefuls for the House and Senate dramatically outpaced their GOP rivals, while the party lost out to the Republicans.”

“So far this year, the national Republican Party is ahead with $23.9 million in reserves and no debt, while the Democrats have just $9.8 million on hand and $6.7 million in liabilities,” Daunt added.

Obama’s presence was enough of a pitch because the dinner brought in more than $3 million. But instead of focusing on economics, Obama used his platform to focus on his choice for supreme court justice, Sonia Sotomayor. He appealed to Hollywood sensibilities by touting Sotomayor’s rags-to-politics background, how she rose to great heights through hard work and struggle. And everyone who’s anyone in Hollywood knows, it’s tough to climb the industry ladder—you need a thick skin and an unlimited Starbucks card. 

The Associated Press reports:

President Barack Obama defended his Supreme Court pick and painted an upbeat vision of the economy Wednesday as he addressed major donors to the Democratic Party in Beverly Hills.

“It’s safe to say we have stepped back from the brink, that there is some calm that didn’t exist before,” Obama told donors and celebrities at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. He said the stimulus bill that Congress passed three months ago is starting to improve the economy.

He also addressed critics of his choice of federal judge Sonia Sotomayor for the nation’s highest court. Sotomayor has stirred some controversy by saying her experiences as a Latina from a struggling, immigrant family make her more sensitive to certain cases than more privileged people might be.

“A lot has been made about the Supreme Court and my criteria,” Obama said in a 20-minute speech to 250 of the night’s biggest donors. “I want people who have a common touch, who have a sense of what it’s like to struggle.”

He praised Sotomayor because she knows that “every once in a while, people need a hand up.”

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