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White House officials confirmed Wednesday that President Barack Obama met “his longtime friend Jeffrey Katzenberg,” the CEO of DreamWorks Animation for dinner last night in Los Angeles following the taping of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
According to a pool report released Wednesday: The two dined alone at Obama’s Woodland Hills hotel. White House press secretary Jay Carney did not answer questions about where in the hotel the dinner was held or who paid for it. The White House did not release information about the president’s other plans last night despite questions from pool.
Katzenberg is considered by far Obama’s biggest Hollywood fundraiser. During the last presidential election he gave more than $3 million to the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA. He raised millions more for the PAC from Hollywood moguls, in addition to holding some of the president’s most lucrative fundraisers, including a dinner at George Clooney’s house that brought in a reported $15 million.
Obama’s dinner with Katzenberg is not the first time he scheduled a private meeting with the studio chief while traveling through Los Angeles.
In October 2012, when Obama was scheduled to attended a fundraiser concert in downtown Los Angeles, his campaign made a special trip before the show to Katzenberg’s Beverly Hills estate, where President Bill Clinton and at least 12 deep-pocketed Democratic donors had gathered for a private lunch.
At the time the town was rife with rumors that the meeting was in fact a fundraiser for Priorities USA, with two campaign finance committee members telling THR that they were kept out of the loop on the closed-door event because it involved super PAC business. (Tickets to the lunch reportedly started at $100,000 according to one source.) However, a campaign spokeswoman flatly denied that the meeting involved the super PAC.
Members of the White House traveling press corps were allowed to accompany the president to Katzenberg’s mansion, but they were kept in the garage for two hours. (The pool dispatch noted that the reporters were sharing their space with an electric Nissan Leaf and an Audi.) The campaign said it would not provide a transcript of the meeting because it was an “informal” private event.
Keeping the traveling press corps out-of-the-loop about Obama’s private meetings in Los Angeles has become a tradition of sorts.
During a campaign stop in 2011, Obama met privately at the Beverly Wilshire with some of the entertainment industry’s high-level executives, as well as talent representatives with access to the industry’s top stars and musical acts. Although the event was not a fundraiser, those invited had been identified as “influencers” with the ability to help Obama shape the national political conversation during 2012 election.
Meanwhile, last spring, before heading to a breakfast fundraiser that concluded his two-day fundraising trip to Los Angeles, Obama met privately at the Beverly Hilton with two dozen of Hollywood’s hottest young actors and actresses — including Dianna Agron, Jessica Alba and Sophia Bush — to urge them to get involved in his re-election campaign. Members of the press were not told of the meeting and were left waiting in vans while the president mingled with the stars. The event became public after the celebrities started posting their photos with Obama on Twitter and Instagram.
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