Insiders tell Deadline that the May 10th fundraiser at George Clooney’s Malibu home has sold out for $6 million and raised over $4 million for the accompanying raffle. But is this Hollywood fundraising giving red meat to Republicans starting to lambast Obama as the ‘Celebrity President’?
On Saturday, Clooney told the Wall Street Journal that his fundraising dinner, co-hosted by Obama bundler Jeffrey Katzenberg and organized by his political right-hand Andy Spahn, would raise $10 million for the president’s re-election. “Which is about double anything that’s ever been done before,” Clooney explained to the WSJ at the White House Correspondents Dunner. (Where Obama greeted the actor with a “Hey, George”). News reports confirm that the $10M is the largest amount ever for a single Obama campaign event. And that exceeds the sum that the Obama campaign raised from the entire entertainment industry in the 2008 presidential race when Hollywood types were slow to embrace Obama as their candidate over Hillary Clinton. But today’s political media outlet The Hill reports:
Republicans are once again seeking to portray President Obama as a ‘celebrity’ — an out-of-touch leader who hobnobs with actress Eva Longoria, considers Oprah a pal and ‘slow-jams’ with comedian Jimmy Fallon before an adoring crowd. Linking Obama to Tinseltown is a strategy that failed to work in 2008. But three and a half years into the Obama administration, Republicans believe they now have enough material to work with to make their point.
In the last few weeks, a string of Republican advertisements have tried to puncture Obama’s likability. First came a Republican National Committee ad that mocked Obama for appearing on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” where the host referred to him as ‘Preezy of the United Steezy.’ Then American Crossroads, the GOP super-PAC, released a spot titled ‘Cool’ that took aim at the persona of a beer-drinking, Al Green-singing, fly-swatting president. “After four years of a celebrity president, is your life any better?” the ad asks, after ticking off a slew of statistics aimed at the 20-something set.
The emerging Republican strategy comes on the heels of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, where the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Zooey Deschanel and scores of other Hollywood A-listers flocked to hear Obama speak. During the dinner, a string of boldfaced names including Martha Stewart and actors George Clooney and Kevin Spacey all approached the dais where Obama was seated to wave. Before the dinner began, Obama mingled with actors Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks at a private reception, a source tells The Hill. In a couple of weeks, Obama will attend a fundraiser at Clooney’s home in Los Angeles, where the actor told The Wall Street Journal he expects to raise around $10 million for the president’s campaign.
Some Democrats say labeling Obama a celebrity is a failed strategy that didn’t work in 2008 and won’t work now. “We’ve seen this movie before,” said Jen Psaki, a former administration official who served on the 2008 campaign. “This is nothing more than a distraction from having a conversation about this issues.”
Hollywood moguls are still smarting over what they see as the Obama Administration’s betrayal of Big Media by siding with Silicon Valley and opposing that congressional piracy legislation (Stop Online Piracy Act). The studio chiefs individually and as a group drew a line in the sand on the piracy issue with the Obama re-election campaign and were refusing to give any more donations.
Katzenberg since the blow-up has tried to mend fences with the studio heads, but he hasn’t wielded influence around Hollywood for years nor is popular with his colleagues who are still hanging back. Make no mistake about it: those moguls who do show up at the $40,000-a-person dinner are doing so only in deference to Clooney, notObama. Especially since SOPA looks dead for 2012. I wouldn’t be surprised if some moguls quietly test the GOP waters when Mitt Romney’s campaign and its fundraising partners hold a fundraising event in Los Angeles for May 31. But Romney’s candidacy is being promoted around the movie biz by another unpopular Hollywood name, ousted MGM studio chief Harry Sloan. Meanwhile, just a few hours remain until the winners are picked for the Obama-Biden raffle until tonight’s midnight Federal Elections Commission deadline. The gimmick is that each donation is an automatic entry for a chance to meet Clooney and the President on May 10th in LA. Even a $3 contribution could score an invite to ‘Obama, Clooney, and You’.