Dinner for Democrats

Obama courts Hollywood donors

As Democrats try to boost enthusiasm for midterm congressional candidates, it’s little surprise that President Obama has chosen to headline a fund-raising event Monday designed to attract one of the most reliable sources of campaign cash: Hollywood.

Obama is scheduled to appear at a late-afternoon cocktail reception at the Los Angeles home of John and Marilyn Wells, and he will be joined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; and members of the California congressional delegation. The fund-raiser had been in the works for the DCCC for some time, but the White House agreed to send Obama to the event just about two weeks ago as part of a swing through the West.

Among the co-hosts for the event are Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barbra Streisand, J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath. Wells is expected to help bring in a number of showrunners and writer-producers.

Tickets to the event are $2,500 per person for the reception; and $30,400 per couple for the reception, a presidential photo and a dinner, along with a listing as one of the event’s co-hosts.

According to one source familiar with the plans, about 100 people are expected at the reception and 100 at the dinner. But the source said Obama is not expected to attend the dinner itself, although Pelosi will be there.

While donors in other industries have been hedging their bets in anticipation of a turnover of the House this fall to Republican control, Hollywood is still giving at about the same rate as in recent cycles.

According to the most recent analysis from the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks federal campaign contributions, sources from the TV, movie and music business have contributed $12.6 million to Democrats and $4.7 million to Republicans in the 2010 cycle. That 73% to 27% party split is just slightly lower than that of the 2008 cycle, but higher than the 64% to 35% split in the last midterm in 2006.

Today’s event is unusual in that it is occurring in what is normally a dormant period for fund-raising — mid-August — when many donors are on vacation. For instance, although they are co-hosts, Spielberg, Katzenberg and Streisand will not attend, as they are out of town.

There also have been increasing grumbling and frustration from industry liberals, disappointed in aspects of the president’s agenda, particularly the failure of the Senate to pass a comprehensive climate bill. And it also hasn’t been an easy time in which to raise money with the continued economic anxiety, although it remains to be seen just how much impact it will have on industry fundraising.

Political consultant Andy Spahn, who also is co-host of tonight’s event, said industry politicos are recognizing the threat of the possible loss of control of the House, helping to boost interest in Monday’s event as well as others scheduled in the coming weeks. “Three words: Speaker John Boehner,” Spahn said.

And while some donors grouse about Senate inaction, and doubt they will contribute to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the same is not true for individual candidates.

In fact, this evening will see dueling events: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), fresh off of an unexpected victory in the state Democratic primary, also will be in Los Angeles raising money for his campaign at the home of Bruce Corwin, the CEO of Metropolitan Theaters.

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