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Amid widening scandals over IRS misconduct and controversy over secret surveillance of Americans’ phone and Internet use, President Barack Obama arrived in Los Angeles Friday morning to make another withdrawal from the Democrats’ Hollywood ATM.
The president landed at LAX after a short flight from the Bay Area, then helicoptered to an exclusive fundraising event and luncheon (which was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter in April) at the Santa Monica home of former News Corp. chief Peter Chernin and his wife, Megan. Entertainment industry attendees included: Director J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath, Bob Iger, Mike Lombardo and Sonny Ward, Haim Saban and actress Laura Innes, who lives across the street from the Chernin’s.
Proceeds from the Friday event will go to the Democratic National Committee’s midterm congressional election efforts. Strictly for the entertainment industry’s high rollers, a luncheon ticket cost $10,000, while those donating $32,400 not only received a meal, but also a photo with the president and a seat at a pre-lunch discussion.
According to a pool report, the president’s motorcade arrived at the Chernins’ house “driving on closed local roads, including winding tree-lined streets flanked by large homes.”
“Hundreds — maybe over a thousand — people lined the streets in residential areas holding smartphones and cameras to take pictures of the president,” according to the report. “On one block, the assembled throng began cheering. On another corner, one woman held a ‘U SUCK’ sign that listed Benghazi and IRS on it. Others held American flags and waved. One man held a multicolored sign saying ‘Stop Corporate Greed.’ One woman held a ‘Close Gitmo’ sign.”
Once inside the Chernin estate, Obama talked about the time he spent in Mooresville, N.C, yesterday, touting a local school district’s efforts to integrate technology into classrooms and speaking about the time he spent with students there, according to the pool report.
“Sometimes, when people ask how do you manage through all the crises you have to deal with every day, I tell them stories like that,” Obama said.
He also sought to highlight some of his administration’s accomplishment, noting that “the deficit has been reduced at the fastest rate since World War II” and “the government can afford to make needed investments,” according to the pool report.
He added: “All I care about right now is governance and getting things right.”
“Every single time I’ve got an opportunity to work with Republicans, and they’re game to do something sensible, I’m ready to do it,” he said. “Right now, the nature of the Republican Party makes it very difficult for them to engage in common-sense discussions around solving problems. Within their ranks, there’s a tendency to believe that compromise is a dirty word.”
According to the pool report, Obama said he appreciates concerns about donor fatigue. But he said “there’s no time to be tired because there’s so much to do” for Democrats to win back the House and hang onto a majority in the Senate.
After the Santa Monica event, Obama was set to travel from LAX to Palm Springs for an up-close-and-personal summit and dinner with Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Obama arrived in L.A. fresh from a similar fundraising trip to the Democrats’ other reliable source of major California money, Silicon Valley. There he was the featured attraction at deep-pocket events at the Palo Alto home of Flipboard’s CEO, Mike McCue and the Portola Valley compound of Vinod Khosla, co-founder of Sun Microsystems. The last time he visited the area, in April, the president walked away with $3.25 million for the DNC’s electoral efforts.
Obama wasn’t the only chief executive in town Friday, as former president Bill Clinton is in L.A. to headline Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s lavish going-away extravaganza at downtown L.A.’s new Grand Park. That event, too, carries with it a bit of controversy, since questions have been raised about the $265,000 cost being paid by public agencies, including the airport, harbor and Department of Water and Power. Some costs also are being covered by private corporate donors, including Disney, Wells Fargo Bank and Time Warner Cable. Incoming Mayor Eric Garcetti, like Villaraigosa a longtime national Democratic activist, also will attend the event, which will be emceed by Ryan Seacrest.
Villaraigosa, who is reportedly shopping for a bachelor pad in Venice, defended the 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. festivities as “a block party celebrating the ethnic diversity of this city.” However, Tony Wilkinson, chair of the DWP neighborhood council oversight committee, told the Daily News the he is “dismayed that we continue to see DWP money spent on events for which there is not a direct relationship to the ratepayers’ interest.”
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