LOS ANGELES (AP) — President Barack Obama is raising money for Democrats in California and what he says at some of those events is anybody's guess.
Two of the four events he's attending during three days in Los Angeles and San Francisco are closed-door. No media are allowed in.
The California events cap a week in which Obama flew from coast to coast to help raise much-needed campaign cash for fellow Democrats in the run-up to the Nov. 4 congressional and gubernatorial elections. Democratic control of the Senate is at stake, and Obama has been urging supporters to get out and vote to help preserve the party's majority.
Obama also raised money this week in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut.
It's one place where the money is. California is a liberal bastion, making it a regular stop for Democratic candidates who need cash, that all-important lifeblood of political campaigns. Some areas, like the movie-star haven of Los Angeles, are home to lots of people with lots of money who like giving it to like-minded Democrats (and some Republicans). Many, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, are glad to host events that draw the president. Introducing Obama at her Brentwood home on Thursday night, she gushed that the president is "so handsome that I can't speak properly." The New York City borough of Manhattan has been another one of Obama's regular fundraising destinations.
HOW MUCH MONEY DID HE RAISE
We don't know because Democratic officials refuse to say. They also give such broad ranges for ticket prices to fundraisers that it makes precise calculations impossible. For example, tickets to the Paltrow reception started at $1,000, while the price of admission to dinner was a minimum of $15,000, party officials said. That suggests that some supporters could have paid higher amounts to get into either event. They also don't release the number of people who paid a particular price for tickets. Republicans don't, either.
WHAT TYPES OF FUNDRAISERS DOES OBAMA ATTEND
Two of his four California events are closed-door "roundtables," meaning the media are barred from attending. He's been going to a lot of these lately, and the only people who know what was discussed are the president and the people in the room with him. He attended one such roundtable on Friday at the Los Angeles home of restaurateur Michael Chow and his wife, Eva, a fashion designer. About 25 supporters who paid up to $32,400 were expected to attend, according to the Democratic Party.
A second "roundtable" is scheduled for Saturday in San Francisco.
About half of the fundraisers Obama has headlined since July were "closed press," according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation, which pushes for open and accountable government. But reporters are not barred from all of Obama's fundraisers. They are allowed into private homes, such as Paltrow's, when he makes formal remarks though they are ushered out when it's time for Obama to begin answering questions from his supporters.
Reporters also were present Friday night when Obama addressed supporters at a Democratic National Committee event at San Francisco's W Hotel.
"The main thing that I need right now is votes," he pleaded with about 300 supporters. "We've got to mobilize. We've got to organize. We've got to knock on doors. We've got to make phone calls.
"If our people vote, if young people vote, if women vote, if people of color vote, if people who care about the environment vote, if people who care about LGBT rights vote, that's a majority," Obama said. "That's a majority. That's a majority."
WHAT DOES THE WHITE HOUSE SAY ABOUT THIS
White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz says it's "more conducive" to bar the media when Obama isn't delivering prepared remarks and just wants to have a more informal discussion with supporters. Schultz says media access to the president's fundraisers has improved greatly since Obama took office because reporters get to hear him deliver prepared remarks at private homes. He attributed the change to the administration's "commitment to transparency."
WHAT DO OPEN GOVERNMENT ADVOCATES SAY
Kathy Kiely, managing editor of the Sunlight Foundation, says keeping the press out "seems a bit hypocritical" for someone who promised the most transparent administration in history. Kiely says that whatever a president says or does can affect the country and that denying access to reporters also denies access to the public.
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