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Ambassador to fund-raise for Obama

Avant will host Jan. 31 L.A. event with first lady

Nicole Avant, the music executive whom President Obama tapped ambassador to the Bahamas, has returned to Los Angeles and will help boost his re-election fund-raising efforts, starting with an event at her home on Jan. 31 featuring first lady Michelle Obama, sources told Variety.

Avant, who was one of the co-chairs of Obama’s Southern California finance team in 2008, was instrumental in expanding Obama’s base of donors in the industry and elsewhere in Los Angeles, particularly in the music business and among prominent African-Americans. She and her co-chair, WildBrain CEO Charlie Rivkin, were each given ambassadorships after the inauguration. Rivkin is currently ambassador to France.

President Obama trekked to Los Angeles three times in 2011 to raise money for his re-election and Michelle Obama came once, and although their Hollywood-centric events sold out, it has not been as easy to raise money as it was in 2008, as some donors have expressed disappointment, frustration or fatigue.

Avant, who is married to Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, will host the first lady at their Beverly Hills home. Michelle Obama will attend another fund-raising event the next day at the home of attorney Michael Lawson and his wife, Mattie, an interior designer, who also raised money for Obama in 2008.

Vice President Joseph Biden is expected to slate a visit to Los Angeles some time in the next month, and plans are in the works for another visit by President Obama.

Avant’s departure as ambassador was announced in late October. The embassy said she wanted to “return to private life and devote more time to her family.”

The tenure of ambassadors is rarely more than an entire presidential term. Although an ambassadorship can be a plum assignment, for many appointees it means a pay cut, as salary tops out at about $150,000.

The Obama event was first reported by the Hollywood Reporter’s Tina Daunt.

Showbiz is expected to be tapped considerably through 2012 by the Obama campaign; the expectation is that enthusiasm will get a boost when a GOP nominee is chosen and offers a clear choice. According to the New York Post, Spike Lee will raise money for Obama at a Jan. 19 event in New York, with tickets at $38,500 per person. Lee has been critical of Obama at points but is among supporters and donors who have nevertheless made it clear that they will still back him this year.

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