President Obama will be in Los Angeles later this afternoon for two fundraisers drawing on support from gays and lesbians: He'll start at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel for a $1,250-per-person event featuring Ellen DeGeneres and Darren Criss of "Glee," with about 600 people expected. Then he will attend a dinner at the home of "Glee" co-creator Ryan Murphy, with tickets starting at $25,000 a piece, for about 70 people.
Just adding it up and the total take exceeds $3.2 million, underscoring the emphasis that the campaign has placed on reaching LGBT donors this year. The President's announcement last month that he supports same-sex marriage certainly gave a boost, but even before that there was a drive to tap the LGBT community with high-profile fundraisers in major metropolitan areas. Last year, Obama held a fundraiser in New York City that was emceed by Neil Patrick Harris. A CNN analysis concluded that gay and lesbian bundlers had raised at least $8 million between January and the end of March.
David Mixner, a legendary figure in the gay rights movement who marshaled LGBT donors as far back as the 1970s, told CNN, "We had some candidates who wouldn't take our money back then because they didn't want to be associated with anyone who was gay. Now the community knows how to raise money and contribute on their own and we are more than welcome at the table."
That contrast is apparent in Linda Hirshman's new book "Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution," where she devotes a chapter to a turning point in the power of LGBT presidential fundraising. It was in 1992, when Bill and Hillary Clinton wooed supporters at Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality, a Los Angeles-based group that by that time had become a way stop for any Democratic candidate seeking LGBT support.
Their appearance led to a Hollywood fundraiser in May 1992, up to them the biggest presidential fundraiser ever held by the gay and lesbian community, Hirshman writes. "I have a vision and you're part of it," Clinton said. "I believe we're all part of the same community and we'd better start behaving as if we are."
While there was consternation to come after Clinton's election, what with the passage of Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act, the night led to organized and open support for Clinton. That was a contrast to the more tenuous attention that Michael Dukakis gave to the LGBT community. "Nationally, gays raised four million dollars for Clinton," Hirshman writes. "In 1992, they were part of it."
A postscript: Chad Griffin, the political consultant who helped spearhead the federal lawsuit against Proposition 8, was feted on Monday at the Brentwood home of longtime clients Rob Reiner and his wife Michele. Griffin is on his way to Washington as the new president of the Human Rights Campaign. Among those present were a mix of Hollywood and Los Angeles politicos, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a smattering of candidates seeking statewide office. Also present were plaintiffs from the case, Sandy Stier and Kris Perry, as well as Jeff Zarrillo.