Michelle Obama kicked off February with an exclusive fundraiser in Beverly Hills at the home of Netflix executive Ted Sarandos and his wife Nicole Avant, who raised Hollywood millions for the Obamas in 2008, and then became their ambassador to the Bahamas. Now Avant's back managing Obama's Hollywood money march. Many of Tinseltown's titans ponied up: Jeffrey Katzenberg, Harvey Weinstein, Haim Saban and Steve Bing, among others. (Katzenberg has also given $2 million to the Obama-affiliated super PAC called Priorities USA Action.)
California has the largest amount of "bundlers" who've raised gazillions for Team Obama. Bundlers collected at least $35 million from their wealthy-people networks. That represents at least 40 percent of the $86 million raised by the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee last quarter.
That list includes not only Katzenberg and Weinstein, but also Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour. ABC "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria was in the second-highest tier, bundling $200,000 to $500,000. You don't have to have a California address to be a Hollywood bundler either. David Cohen of Philadelphia is executive vice president of Comcast, the new owners of NBC and Universal Studios.
In her remarks in Beverly Hills, Michelle Obama plucked the liberal heartstrings by touting her husband's appointment of two "brilliant" women to the Supreme Court to push social liberalism:
"We cannot forget the impact their decisions will have on our lives for decades to come -- on our privacy and security, on whether we can speak freely, worship openly and yes, love whomever we choose."
That love-whomever-we-choose theme is a sop to another major Hollywood/New York constituency, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender activists. Last summer, Michelle Obama appeared at another million-dollar California fundraiser at the luxurious Westwood mansion of her interior decorator Michael Smith and his partner James Costos, an executive at HBO. Ellen DeGeneres and her partner Portia de Rossi were there, as well as Drew Barrymore, Ryan Phillippe and Vanessa Williams.
Every time Michelle Obama goes to California for cash, she also makes TV appearances to boost the Obama image. On the latest trip, she was honored by Jay Leno and by Ellen DeGeneres. Last summer, she taped an episode of the popular Nickelodeon show "iCarly," which just aired in January. The Viacom network promoted her cool dance moves and her laudable support for military families.
Don't think all these favors aren't part of a deliberate attempt by the entertainment conglomerates to influence legislation designed to maximize their own profits. Their major initiative is the current "Stop Online Piracy Act." Unfortunately, their opposition is the tech sector in Silicon Valley to the north. Although the DNC received $1 million more from the entertainment sector than from the tech sector in the first three quarters of 2011, Obama just declared he could not support this bill.
In between Michelle Obama's Hollywood ATM withdrawals, President Obama landed in Southern California in late September for three events: one at the ritzy La Jolla home of Elizabeth and Mason Phelps; a gay event at the House of Blues in West Hollywood with ABC "Modern Family" star Jesse Tyler Ferguson; and then a $17,900-a-plate dinner with 100 top Hollywood bigwigs at Fig & Olive restaurant on Melrose Place, including Jack Black, Judd Apatow, Quincy Jones, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman. This is Hollywood's 1 percent.
Of course, for the last two weeks we've been incessantly reminded that Obama sang two lines of Al Green's soul classic "Let's Stay Together." That was one of several Big Apple fundraisers for Obama at the Apollo Theater. "American Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe went on Twitter to invite the president to sing a duet with Al Green on his show. Smooch, smooch.
In the same trip, Obama held a $35,800-per-ticket fundraiser at the New York brownstone of director Spike Lee, who was infamous in the Bush era for suggesting in a reckless, conspiracy-theory HBO documentary that the federal government dynamited the levees to drown black people in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Obama patronized Lee by claiming he and his wife went on a first date to see "Do the Right Thing," which ends with a race riot. That's a real handholding flick. Among the 45 guests were Mariah Carey and her husband Nick Cannon.
Campaign Obama wants its candidate to be seen as the embodiment of the "99 percent." In truth, he is the personification of the exclusive and ultimate 1 percent -- the super rich and super famous. Our "news" and entertainment media have their hands full trying to meld those conflicting themes into one convincing narrative.
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