Cory Booker Sets L.A. Fundraiser With Ben Affleck and Jeffrey Katzenberg as Hosts (Exclusive)

Senator Cory Booker-Getty-H 2019
Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

Booker, who has some serious catching up to do in the race for presidential campaign dollars, has been courting industry donors and support for years and was most recently in Los Angeles for two events in the fall.

Add New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker to the list of Democratic presidential candidates with a high-octane Hollywood fundraiser in the works.

On May 29, a gaggle of the industry’s biggest names on both the business and creative side of things will host an event for Booker, who has been courting industry donors and support for years. Ben Affleck; Emily Deschanel; Troy Carter and his wife, Rebecca; Linda and Bob Gersh; Jeffrey Katzenberg; Joel Madden; Kate Mara; ICM Partners' Chris Silbermann; Endeavor's Patrick Whitesell; Jon Vein and Ellen Goldsmith-Vein; former designer Michael Smith and his husband, James Costos, who was U.S. ambassador to Spain; and Noah Mamet, another former ambassador, are all listed as hosts for the event, which will be held at a Westside residence in Los Angeles, according to a copy of the invitation. Rounding out the list of hosts, each of whom will be responsible for raising $10,000 (co-hosts will pay $2,800), are Walt Disney Studios president of production Sean Bailey and his wife, Charmaine; MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan and his wife, Ronnie; former Critical Content executive Andrew Marcus and his wife, Deborah; surgeon Phil Mercado; and industry executive Todd Quinn. 

When Booker announced his bid for the presidency in February, he became the second black candidate in an historically diverse field of candidates. So far, he has been campaigning on a message of unity and hope, echoing similar themes that Barack Obama campaigned on in the 2007 primary. Booker is no stranger to the entertainment industry, and his ties to the donor class here date back to his days as mayor of Newark, a position he held from 2006 to 2013 and when he broke onto the national stage. More recently, however, producer Simon Kinberg hosted an event for the 49-year old senator in October, and Booker was back in L.A. again for a February event at the Beverly Hills home of manager Bob Gersh.

Despite support from industry executives, Booker has his work cut out for him. According to Federal Election Commission filings, his campaign raised a little more than $5 million in the first quarter of the year, putting him well behind Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who raised $18.2 million, and Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who raised a little more than $12 million. 

With former Vice President Joe Biden’s entry into the race last week, the list of viable candidates — now at 20 — has been solidified, and the question on most political observers’ minds is which candidate has the best chance to have a bona fide breakthrough and start consolidating exclusive support from Hollywood’s donor class. The next date to mark on the calendar is June 26, when the first Democratic debate of the 2020 presidential primary will be held in Miami. The stakes will be extremely high in that first debate, which will be hosted by NBC News and comes just days before the second-quarter financial filing period ends. Between now and then, multiple high-profile fundraisers are scheduled for candidates, with more almost certain to come. 

On May 8, Biden will be the guest of honor at a star-studded Beverly Hills fundraiser held at the home of Smith and Costos. Meanwhile, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose political star seems very much in ascent these days, will be in L.A. for three events on May 9, including one hosted by Gwyneth Paltrow and Bradley Whitford. Ryan Murphy will also co-host a major Buttigieg fundraiser at his home on June 19.