Obama Treks to L.A. for Hollywood-Heavy Fundraisers (Updated)

Magic Johnson praises Obamacare, Haim Saban endorses foreign policy

Barack Obama Cancels California Trip
Anton Denisov/Host Photo Agency

When he arrives late Monday afternoon, President Obama will attend two industry heavy fundraisers at the Beverly Hills homes of basketball great Magic Johnson and media mogul Haim Saban.

Both events will be to raise money for the House Senate Victory Fund, a joint committee to raise money for Democratic House and Senate candidates.

At a reception at the home of Johnson and his wife Cookie — with tickets priced between $2,500 to $15,000 per person — organizers expect about 160 people, including Samuel and LaToya Jackson, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Antawn Jamison and Ashley Lewis, Diane Keaton, the Clippers’ J.J. Redick and wife Chelsea, as well as a number of members of California’s congressional delegation. Joining Obama will be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.).

About 120 are expected at the dinner at Saban’s home, with tickets at $16,200 per person, according to an aide with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. They include Clarence Avant and his wife Jacqueline; former ambassador Nicole Avant and her husband, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos; Eli and Edythe Broad; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; Berry Gordy; Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson; Michael and Jena King; Paul Reiser; and Barry and Wendy Meyer.

This is Obama’s first visit to Saban’s home. After Saban supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 race, he was lukewarm to Obama in the general election. Obama eventually invited Saban to the Oval Office, and Saban was a more enthusiastic supporter of his re-election in 2012. Saban is a strong backer of Israel and recently chaired the Friends of the IDF Western Region Gala, which raised a reported $20 million. So it’s likely that the Iran nuclear deal reached over the weekend will be a major topic.

On Tuesday morning, Obama is scheduled to attend a $32,500-per-person event at the home of producer Marta Kauffman and her husband Michael Skloff, with Melanie Griffith a co-host. About 30 people are expected at the event, billed as an intimate, 60-minute roundtable with the president. The money raised will go to the Democratic National Committee.

Obama next will go to DreamWorks Animation in Glendale for a meeting with about a dozen studio and network chiefs, followed by a speech on the economy delivered to DreamWorks employees.

Update: Obama arrived about 45 minutes late to LAX, landing about 5:30 p.m. and taking a helicopter to Westwood. By that time, there were a smaller group of protesters at Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, hoping that the motorcade would pass on Sunset Boulevard. They are opposed to the administration’s negotiation of the Trans Pacific Partnership with 11 other countries, expected to be wrapped up by the end of the year. Following the Wikileaks release last week of an August draft of a portion of the agreement, opponents claim that the pact ultimately will restrict Internet freedom with more onerous copyright and anti-piracy restrictions, but they also want the text of the document released. “Transparency: Release the Text” read a large banner on Sunset Boulevard.

Meanwhile, organizers say the green “shirts are flowing” at DreamWorks Animation. The goal is to have a sizable number of employees wear green in solidarity with visual effects artists stung by the loss of work due to outsourcing of jobs to countries that offer subsidies. Outside of DreamWorks Animation, plans are in the works for a protest that is not aimed at DreamWorks, but the subsidies. They want the Obama administration to pursue a duty on imports of subsidized special effects work, and believe that such a duty can be imposed without Congress and that it can be applied to digital goods.

Update: At the home of Magic Johnson, Obama talked extensively about the Affordable Care Act, plagued by a problem rollout, and said that he’ll “make sure that this country provides affordable health care to every single American.” “If I have to fight for another three years to make sure that happens, I will do so.”

In a heated tent at his Beverly Park home, Johnson introduced Obama by calling him “the greatest leader in the world,” and highlighted the benefits of Obamacare.

Obama actually drew some boos when he pointed out that he was a 76ers fan, but then praised Johnson for the way he handled his HIV diagnosis and for his business investments. “For anybody that loves basketball as much as me, there’s nobody who is a bigger icon than Magic Johnson.”

“Also keep in mind that the last time Magic played basketball was with my at my 49th birthday party, and I just want to tell ya, it wasn’t pretty,” Obama quipped, per a pool report.

He addressed the gridlock in Washington, telling the crowd that “what’s stopping us is a failure of our politics and a lack of ambition and we shy away from what might be hard.” He said “our politics all too often encourages people to think selfishly or short-term, and that’s what the debate in Washington is about and that’s what the debate in this country generally is about right now.”

Obama said the country has over the past five years gone through “as tough a stretch we’ve seen in my lifetime,” but said that he was optimistic.

“When you look at American history, some way, somehow we are always able to confront our challenges.”

Johnson later tweeted that he gave Obama a tour of his Laker trophy room “where we talked basketball and I even gave him some tips on how to improve his jumpshot! LOL.”

Update: At the Beverly Park home of Haim and Cheryl Saban — just down the street from Magic Johnson’s house — Haim Saban revealed that he was at the White House on Friday for a “very small intimate dinner” with the Obamas.

“And we had a wonderful time — great food, great company, very inspiring,” Saban said in introducing the president. Then, he added, “No valet parking! You know what? I had to walk to the White House. We have valet parking at the Sabans! So, Mr. President, if you would, please, thank you. Taxpayers money? I’ll fund it, no problem.”

Obama later said in his remarks, “First of all, there was valet parking — for Cheryl. We thought it was appropriate for Haim to get some exercise. Cheryl, being the wonderful person that she is, declined the valet parking, and so she might have joined him. But I would have been happy to have her drive right up into the South Lawn.”

Saban showered Obama with praise, notable because he had previously been guarded about his support.

“Some so-called fair and balanced media and charmers like Mr. Rush Limbaugh have been having a field day with the technical glitch on the Obamacare website and this has clouded some of the most remarkable achievements of this administration,” he said, before mentioning some of his accomplishments “so that you can all see things with perspective without allowing the caffeine that’s in the Tea Party’s rhetoric to keep us awake at night worrying.”

Saban also praised Obama’s foreign policy and the negotiations with Iran. Saban noted that the military and intelligence “cooperation with Israel — our staunchest ally in the Middle East, arguably the world, has never been deeper and the president’s commitment to Israel’s security has never been stronger. And if the Iranians are at the negotiating table today, make no mistake about it, it is only as a result of President Obama’s resolve in striking down the most strict sanctions ever.”

Guests at the event were under a heated tent in the Sabans’ backyard, bathed in orange-gold light and surrounded by four palm tree-inspired chandeliers and an elaborate fountain in the middle of the gathering.

Obama addressed glitches in the Affordable Care Act website, telling the crowd, “I think it’s fair to say that I was not happy that we didn’t have a website that worked on the day it was supposed to work, although it’s actually starting to work pretty well now and it’s going to be working even better in the coming weeks.”

He added, “The reason I wanted to make that point is that so much of what we do is measured through the prism of politics and on any given day, the notion is who’s up and who’s down and what’s on cable television, should drive our sense of direction, sometimes should even [drive] our sense of what’s right and what’s wrong.” He added that when it is a family being able to afford healthcare, “I don’t need a headline to tell me that vindicates a core value that I believe in and that we as Americans should believe in.”

He also cited Iran, saying that “as a result of these sanctions, and the painstaking diplomacy that we engaged in, Iran ultimately came to the table and said that, we are prepared in a serious way to negotiate around our nuke program, for the first time in over a decade.”