Stars, top Dem donors make state dinner guest list

AP News
Posted: Nov 25, 2009 3:05 AM

Celebrities, major Democratic fundraisers and prominent Indian businessmen were among those scoring coveted invitations to President Barack Obama's first state dinner.

Most of the names on the 338-person White House guest list for Tuesday night's black-tie fete honoring Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remained a closely guarded secret until shortly before the dinner. The event was considered the hottest ticket in Washington since Inauguration Day.

"Tonight under the stars, we celebrate the spirit that will sustain our partnership, the bonds of friendship between our people," Obama told guests, who feasted on a mostly vegetarian meal of curry prawns, aged basmati rice, eggplant salad, lentil soup, potato dumplings and other delicacies served under a giant tent on the South Lawn.

The crowd included a mix of prominent figures in U.S. and Indian politics, business and entertainment.

Democratic fundraisers and donors on the guest list included:

_ Hollywood executives Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, prolific Democratic donors who have hosted fundraisers for Obama and the Democratic Party. Spielberg is on his way to becoming a Washington regular. The Oscar-winning producer-director, a $50,000 inaugural donor, had a spot on the platform for Obama's swearing-in ceremony in January and attended the White House Correspondents' Association dinner headlined by Obama in May.

_ New York hotelier and restaurateur Sant Singh Chatwal, an Indian-American who raised at least $100,000 for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign against Obama. He was a guest at then-President Bill Clinton's state dinner for India in 2000 and helped arrange an earthquake-relief visit by the former president to India in 2001.

_ John Doerr, a venture capitalist and member of Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board. Doerr, a major Democratic donor, hosted a Silicon Valley fundraiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and later donated the maximum $4,600 to Obama's campaign.

_ San Francisco venture capitalist Mark Gorenberg, who raised at least $500,000 for Obama's presidential campaign.

_ Billionaire Hyatt hotel heiress Penny Pritzker, who raised at least $200,000 for Obama's White House bid and at least $300,000 for his inaugural festivities. Pritzker last summer hosted a $15,200-a-person Democratic National Committee fundraiser featuring Obama at her Chicago home.

_ Director M. Night Shyamalan, an Obama donor.

_ Author Deepak Chopra, a donor to the Obama and Clinton presidential campaigns.

Actors Alfre Woodard, a member of the president's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, and Blair Underwood were among the other celebrities at the dinner.

The entertainment lineup included Grammy Award-winning singer-actress Jennifer Hudson and jazz vocalist and composer Kurt Elling, both from the Obamas' hometown of Chicago, and Indian musician and singer A.R. Rahman, who won two Academy Awards for the music in "Slumdog Millionaire."

Indian businessmen on the guest list included billionaire Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries Ltd., a conglomerate whose activities include oil and gas production and which lobbies in Washington on trade issues; and Om Prakash Bhatt, chairman of the State Bank of India.

Prominent Washingtonians at the dinner included several members of Obama's Cabinet; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka; and Colin Powell, a Republican, retired general and former secretary of state who broke with the GOP to endorse Obama for president.

Several governors also made the list. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who withdrew as Obama's nominee for commerce secretary amid questions about the awarding of state contracts, was among four Democratic governors, along with Michigan's Jennifer Granholm, Massachusetts' Deval Patrick and Pennsylvania's Ed Rendell.

Obama also invited a potential 2012 rival: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican of Indian descent who is considered a possible presidential candidate.


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