Obama turns to tech leaders for cash for Democrats

Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington
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U.S. President Barack Obama smiles as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union speech on Capitol …

By Steve Holland

LA JOLLA, California (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned tech leaders on Thursday to dig deep in their wallets to fund Democratic candidates and feel a sense of urgency about congressional elections in November or risk further gridlock in Washington and a failure to move on their priorities.

Obama took his California fund-raising tour to the seaside home in La Jolla of Qualcomm founder Iwin Jacobs. Later he was headed to Silicon Valley for a fundraiser in San Jose co-hosted by Y Combinator President Sam Altman and Yahoo Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer.

The tech industry has raised questions about the scale of the National Security Agency's surveillance under the Obama administration, but there's little sign that Obama is losing support in Silicon Valley.

Obama made no mention of these concerns in his luncheon speech attended by 65 guests who paid up to $32,400 per couple for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Obama told them that majorities of Americans support the direction that Democrats want to take the country, such as on raising the minimum wage and making sure women receive equal pay as men, but that they have "lost faith that we can actually make it happen" because of Washington gridlock.

Obama needs Democrats to do well in November to allow him to advance his agenda in his last two years in office, in 2015 and 2016.

But most political analysts believe Republicans will build on their majority in the House of Representatives and stand a decent chance of ousting Democrats from control of the Senate.

Obama has been using fund-raising speeches to warn of this outcome, saying Democrats need to avoid getting distracted by media attention on the 2016 presidential election to choose a successor to him.

Obama said in La Jolla that Democrats need to gain seats "in order for us to not simply play defense but to actually go back on the offensive for the American people."

The president has launched a series of executive actions this year to get around the divided Congress, but on some issues, like a comprehensive immigration overhaul, he can only go so far on his own and needs congressional action.

He accused Republicans of taking a backward view on climate change, an issue he has been pushing this week.

"You've got to believe in climate change in order to work with me on climate change," Obama said of Republicans.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Ken Wills)

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