Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) headlined two fundraisers for her 2020 presidential campaign on Saturday, as the first Democratic candidate to hold official events aimed at the large pool of Los Angeles and showbiz donors.
Universal’s Jeff Shell and his wife Laura hosted Harris at their Beverly Hills home for an early evening reception, drawing a crowd that included Jeffrey Katzenberg, Fox Television Group’s Dana Walden, ICM Partners’ Chris Silbermann, Paramount’s Jim Gianopulos, Amazon Studios’ Jennifer Salke, manager Scooter Braun, political consultant Andy Spahn, Lionsgate’s Michael Burns and Jon Feltheimer, actress Eva Longoria, director Lee Daniels, and producer Dayna Bochco, according to attendees.
At an event earlier in the rainy day, Harris addressed a large crowd gathered under a backyard tent at the Hancock Park home of David Cooley, the CEO and founder of the West Hollywood eatery the Abbey. According to one attendee, the crowd was “especially enthusiastic,” as Harris talked about a host of issues, including the false narratives pervasive on social media platforms, and the divisiveness of the Trump administration.
“It’s going to be a journey. It’s going to get rough. It’s going to get tough. But I was born in Oakland,” she said, drawing huge cheers.
According to an audio clip from her remarks, she told the crowd to be “prepared for disinformation campaigns through social media to happen again, and it’s already happening. And so it is going to be about all of the friends, all of the leaders, pushing out facts in the face of those who are going to try and push out fiction. And in particular, they are doing it with the intention of making people afraid.”
She talked of a speech she gave at Netroots Nation in August in which she said she had a problem when people used the phrase “identity politics,” as it is used as a pejorative. “That phrase is used to divide, and it is used to distract.”
At Saturday’s event, she also cited a serious of actions taken by Trump that are “not reflective of our America,” including, among other things, the transgender ban in the military.
“Talking about groups in Charlottesville and saying, well, there is merit on both sides is not reflective of our America,” she said. “Our America will stand up and fight against those who would commit violence in a synagogue, in the Tree of Life Synagogue, because that is not reflective of our America.”
Cooley hosted the event along with Lance Bass, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and husband Justin Mikita, Todd Hawkins and Michael Kraut, and Dan McCarty, according to a copy of an invite. Tickets to the event started at $200 each, and went up to a max of $2,700.
Cooley’s company the Abbey posted a clip of the event at his home on YouTube.
Harris’ ability to draw industry donors to an event so early is significant, as some fundraisers have been saying they want to see how the field shakes out before deciding whether to back one candidate. Haim Saban, for instance, says that he’s “sitting out the primary process for now and seeing how it unfolds,” according to a spokeswoman.
Other donors say it is likely that they will “max out” to Harris and other declared candidates and potential contenders, given that they have longtime personal friendships with other figures who have long courted Hollywood’s political activists.
Former vice president Joe Biden, for example, drew a crowd of media moguls and executives to an October event for his PAC that was held at Katzenberg’s WndrCo. That same month, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) raised money for his Senate campaign and leadership PAC at the home of screenwriter and producer Simon Kinberg.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) recently trekked to L.A. to do a meet and greet, while figures like Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, among others, have been contacting potential industry supporters.
Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, has been a prolific contributor to Democrats, and last year hosted an event for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) that included an appearance by former President Barack Obama.