Stars Come Out for L.A. Fundraiser
By Scott Wilson
LOS ANGELES -- President Obama shook the money trees hard here tonight, this time on behalf of the Democratic National Committee. Before a rapturous crowd studded with movie stars, he said that the economy is starting to recover, thanks in part to his stimulus package, and that "I would put these first four months up against any prior administration since FDR."
The event at the Beverly Hilton was expected to raise $3 million to $4 million for the party in power, which has been lagging behind Republicans in fundraising for the 2010 election cycle. The haul added to the DNC's bottom line of $9.1 million.
The Republican National Committee has $24.4 million on hand.
The president headlined the event, which also featured singer Jennifer Hudson and Earth, Wind and Fire. About 1,000 people attended, with tickets running $1,000 to $2,500 each. In addition, 125 couples paid $30,400 each for a dinner and a photo with Obama beforehand.
Hollywood was on hand, with guests including actors Seth Rogen, Kiefer Sutherland, Jamie Foxx, Tyler Perry, Marisa Tomei, Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, as well as directors Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard.
Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg introduced the president, saying, "If you look in the dictionary under 'grace under fire,' it will say 'Barack Obama.' "
The president, mindful that the event bumped up against a pivotal Lakers home game in basketball's Western Conference Finals, began: "It was tied in the first quarter. That's the story. We will get out of here before the end of the third. Some of you will get out of here before halftime."
He then thanked Katzenberg, saying, "If it weren't for you, we would not be in the White House."
Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Arlen Specter (Penn.), the newest Democrat on Capitol Hill after his recent defection from the GOP, were also there to meet potential donors. Both face difficult races next year, and the president mentioned each by name.
Obama has sought to stay above the partisan fray, but this two-day swing through Nevada and California has been almost entirely about raising money for his party and his allies.
In his remarks here, Obama listed his achievements in office and praised, to applause, his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor. He said, "We didn't ask for the challenges that we face, but we don't shrink from them either."
Earlier today, Obama spoke to several hundred soldiers and airmen at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, marking the 100th day since the passage of his stimulus package.
He told the audience, gathered in a hangar, that nearly 150,000 jobs have been saved or created as a result of the $787 billion bill, the largest domestic spending measure in U.S. history.
Yesterday evening, Obama appeared at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who polls show may be vulnerable in next year's election. The event raised roughly $2 million for Reid.
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