Joe Biden spoke to a crowd of about 300 people on Wednesday evening at the home of James Costos and Michael Smith in his first fundraising swing through Los Angeles since announcing his 2020 presidential bid.
A who’s who of Hollywood’s longtime political class, including Jeffrey Katzenberg, Tom Rothman, Rob Reiner and Chris Silbermann were among the long list of co-hosts for the event, which was priced at $2,800 per person. Among those also at the event were Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, Aubrey Plaza, Tom Ford, Michelle Kwan, and Jason Collins.
The crowd cheered as Biden spoke from a stage, flanked by two American flags, of the need to bring the country together and heal political divisions, and he talked of his experience as a consensus builder. Some shouted “Go Joe!” as he spoke.
“I promise you if we elect a Democrat this time — I predict to you whether it is me or someone else — but I guarantee you if it’s me, what’s gonna happen is, we’re going to see this country come together like it hasn’t in a long time,” Biden said, according to a pool report, to a crowd that gathered on the home’s front lawn under heat lamps. “Because people are tired, they’re sick and tired of what’s happening. Let’s lift our heads up. Again, not a joke, remember who the hell we are.”
He said about a half dozen of the attendees had called him over the past two years to urge him to run, evening saying, “You don’t have a choice — run. This is not about you.” “I said, ‘Thank you very much,'” as the crowd laughed.
One notable aspect of the event were the sheer number of co-hosts who bundled or organized for the Obama-Biden 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. Those present also included producer Eric Ortner, Tennis Channel President Ken Solomon; Colleen Bell, former U.S. Ambassador to Hungary, and her husband, producer Bradley Bell; Noah Mamet, former U.S. Ambassador to Argentina; Sony-Screen Gems senior VP Eric Paquette; entrepreneur Jon Vein; and Michael and Mattie Lawson. As one attendee said, “It is the band getting back together.”
Although many in the industry are still weighing their options on who to support, given that it is still so early in the race, the attendees said that Biden “closed a lot of deals tonight” in convincing donors that he is best suited to taking on President Donald Trump.
A portion of Biden’s remarks focused on the need to boost the middle class. Even though the stock market is up and corporate profits are soaring, “many are left behind.”
He then was critical of the Wall Street mentality. “Since when are they the only job creators? Since when has that happened? Since when has it become the fact that there’s no obligation to employees?” He added, “Stockholders aren’t the only job creators.”
Biden said the press would be allowed in to “every single fundraiser I do” because “I don’t want to hear anybody say we are doing things in secret.”
Costos is a former HBO executive who became U.S. Ambassador to Spain during President Barack Obama’s second term. Smith is an interior designer, who did a redo of the Oval Office during the Obama presidency.
They introduced Biden, and Costos noted that during the Obama years the vice president spoke out in favor of same-sex marriage and was a champion for intellectual property protection, a key issue for the entertainment industry.
Earlier in the day, Biden appeared at a noontime fundraiser at the Hancock Park home of Joe Waz, senior strategic adviser for Comcast, and his wife Cynthia Telles, who is on the board of Kaiser Foundation Hospitals and Kaiser Foundation Health Plan. About 250 attendees were at the event, and Biden spoke for about 20 minutes, according to a pool report. Tickets started at $250 per person.
As he did in his announcement video, Biden cited the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., as a reason why he is running for president. He also said that while many of those at the event were “extremely successful people,” they also likely came from “pretty modest backgrounds.” And he jokes that some of them own companies or are on boards of companies, and that he comes from the “corporate state of Delaware,” according to the pool report.
He also gave a warning of what will happen if Trump is reelected.
“Four years of this president will be an aberration in a moment in history; eight years will fundamentally change who we are beginning particularly in foreign policy,” he said.
About dozen protesters from the National Union of Healthcare Workers were outside the event, and they held signs and chanted “Kaiser, Kaiser, you can’t hide. We can see your greedy side.” The union represents Kaiser’s 3,500 mental health clinicians in California.