President Obama Talks Gay Marriage At George Clooney’s Record $15M Fundraiser

BREAKING… 11:45 PM, 5TH UPDATE: President Obama sat at each of the 14 tables — “This is like speed-dating. I’m a Leo.” — and chatted up his Hollywood donors and “spent longer at this fundraiser than any in memory, by a lot”. But he also used the occasion of his record $15 million reelection fundraiser at George Clooney’s Studio City home tonight to praise the host — “We raised a lot of money because everybody loves George. They like me, they love him.” — but also refer to himself and the actor as “Dope and Hope”. Obama also talked about what every $40,000-a-ticket guest there also was talking about: Obama’s new support for gay marriage. “Obviously yesterday we made some news. [Applause] But the truth is it was a logical extension of what America is supposed to be. It grew directly out of this difference in visions. Are we a country that includes everybody and gives everybody a shot and treats everybody fairly and is that going to make us stronger. Are we welcoming to immigrants? Are we welcoming to people who aren’t like us, does that make us stronger? I believe it does. So that’s what’s at stake.”

Here are the latest White House pool reports (combined and edited for length). The journalists really snarked at Hollywood at several points. Read and enjoy:

Per a campaign source, 150 people attended who paid $40,000 each. The proceeds will benefit the Obama Victory Fund, which is OFA, the DNC and several state parties. Attendees included Clooney, his girlfriend Stacy Kiebler, Robert Downey Jr., Diane Von Furstenberg, Trina Turk, Barbra Streisand, James Brolin, Tobey Maguire, Billy Crystal, Jack Black, Salma Hayek, Antonio Villaraigosa and Howard Berman. The campaign declined to say how much they expected to raise, though host Jeffrey Katzenberg was overheard telling the crowd that it was a “record nearly $15 million,” two-thirds of which came from the supporters who took part in a contest to win a seat here.

Guests had to pass two security checkpoints before they reached the valet station in front of Clooney’s house. Once they dropped off their cars, they rode golf carts up his steep curving driveway to the party. Your pooler saw little of the Tudor-style ivy-covered stone house, aside from the three-car garage she was housed in. And the garage doors were shut once people started being shuttled up, so we couldn’t see who all entered (though I did catch a brief glimpse of Tobey Maguire – Spider-Man is short). Garage was spotless with few visible signs of life aside from a bike helmet, a garden hose, a few jackets and some Pellegrino.

As LA/Hollywood fundraisers go, the trappings of this one didn’t put it in the top 10. While Clooney has a charming Tudor house in a verdant setting (a group favorite: the sign on a tree on the winding drive that said “Pot-bellied pig Crossing,” for Clooney’s late pet, Max), the tented setting on his b’ball court was just so-so. The tent had black walls that one person in the pool likened to garbage bags, and a clear roof so that you could see the sky and trees of the wooded hillside property. White paper lanterns of different sizes hung from the roof, celadon-green wallboards with mirrors were at the front and rear, centerpieces of blue hydrangeas graced each table and two slender, tall white urns flanked the short stage with branches of white blossoms.

About 14 round tables with 10 people each filled the tent. In a table in the middle, actor Tobey Maguire sat to the right of Clooney and his girlfriend, Stacy Kiebler. Nearby, on the edge closest to pool, was Diane Von Furstenberg. Also spotted: actors and entertainers Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Salma Hayek, Barbra Streisand (at a rear table and looking serious throughout, in black beret) and husband James Brolin. Said to be there: designer Trina Turk and Billy Crystal.

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck cooked for the guests, but there was no food on the table for the brief period that the pool was allowed in and the campaign declined to discuss the menu.

Clooney and Katzenberg spoke first, before the pool was allowed inside. Standing outside, we heard brief snippets. Clooney joke about receiving emails inviting him to enter a raffle to win dinner at his own house. We could hear Katzenberg’s intro more clearly: “As all of us can remember all too well, back in 2008, things were very, very scary,” he said, noting that unemployment was high, the nation was embroiled in two wars. “Then candidate Barack Obama told us they want back would not be easy. He told us yes you can. I think it’s fair to say yes we have. We are headed today in the right direction. Just yesterday he did the right thing yet again. [Applause]. He did the right thing by confirming his support for every American to enjoy the blessing, privilege and dignity of marriage.”

“Once again the entertainment industry has stepped forward in a very big way,” Katzenberg said, naming John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and now Barack Obama as beneficiaries.

Just as he introduced POTUS, pool was led in to see a standing ovation greeting the president as both Clooney and Katzenberg exited to take their seats among the round tables. Obama began his remarks at 7:27 p.m. OBAMA spoke 19 minutes.

“I want to thank Jeffrey (Katzenberg) not just for this evening, but for his tenacious support and advocacy since we started back in 2007. He has consistently been there for me, through thick and through thin, through all the ups and downs, and occasionally he would call, and he would say, ‘Barack, I don’t think that things are working the way they’re supposed to.’  Over the last three and a half years he remained an extraordinary friend. So Jeffrey, thank you.

“And I want to thank Clooney for letting us use his basketball court. This man has been talking smack about his basketball game ever since I’ve known him.” Obama said he and the actor had known each other for quite a while, and that famous ‘Hope’ poster from the 2008 campaign by Shepard Fairey of him was actually a picture of him and Clooney when the latter was advocating for Darfur. He told the donors, “People don’t realize that the photograph of me is actually me sitting next to George. And this is the first time that George Clooney has actually been photo-shopped out of a picture.” (Laughter and applause.) Never happened before. (Laughter.)  Never happened before, will never happen again.  (Laughter.)

Potus said Fairey did a poster for Clooney with both men in the same picture. “Why he said at the bottom ‘Dope and Hope,’ I don’t know.” More laughter. ”We raised a lot of money because everybody loves George. They like me, they love him. And rightfully so. Not only is he an unbelievable actor, but he is one of those rare individuals who is at ease with everybody, he seems to occupy a constant state of grace, and uses his extraordinary talents on behalf of something truly important.”

Then went into his familiar stump speech… He joked that he has aged. “People have comment on the fact I’ve got gray hair now. There was a blog post about look how wrinkly Obama is getting. [Laughter]. Sort of distressing. George doesn’t have to go through these things.”

Clooney interjected, “You look good to me!”

Clooney listened intently to Potus throughout, his hands folded as if in prayer and his chin resting on them.

Frankly, Potus didn’t seem on his game exactly. But briefly at his close, he gained energy.

At nearly 10 pm PT, prematurely, the pool made its way down Mr. Clooney’s curving hillside drive to the waiting motorcade.  But even though Potus has spent longer at this fundraiser than any in poolers’ memory, by a lot, he was not through. It was another 45 minutes before the motorcade engines fired up to signal departure was nigh — it is approaching 4 hours since we arrived. Potus had said he would spend time at each of the 14 tables, so you do the math.  At 10:55 PT, 3 hours and 48 minutes after we arrived, motorcade is leaving. Pool did not see Potus emerge. Some residents are out to see the departure, including a couple women in bathrobes.

Related: George Clooney’s Obama Fundraiser Now Single Biggest Obama Campaign Event: Is Hollywood Help Going To Hurt?

7:45 PM, 2ND UPDATE: As the White House pool reporter wrote en route, “George Clooney, we’re on our way.” At the actor/director/writer/producer’s Studio City home, the Hollywood sign is clearly visible on the hillside over the pool where showbiz types are milling and  chatting for the $15M record fundraiser for President Obama’s reelection. Guests include actors Barbra Streisand and Tobey Maguire, UTA agent Jeremy Zimmer, Lionsgate/Summit movie co-chairman Rob Friedman, The Hunger Gamesproducer Nina Jacobson, former Fox topper Barry Diller and his wife designer Diane Von Furstenberg. Dinner will be served on the tennis basketball court.

Accompanying Jacobson were Centerview Partners’ senior media adviser Skip Paul and husband Van Fletcher who were among the prominent members of Hollywood’s Gay/Lesbian community wanting to show support for Obama tonight. More dollars like theirs are coming in after the president came out in favor of gay marriage. Paul, a longtime Democratic party trustee, ’doubled down’ on his donations to Obama, according to my sources. Another immediate payoff came from legendary TV producer Norman Lear, who told The New York Times that he bought two $40,000 tickets to tonight’s fundraiser after months of sitting on the sidelines with his wallet shut. New LGBT fundraisers attended by Obama are planned, including one May 14th with Latino superstar Ricky Martin and a gala/concert with Pink on June 6th in Beverly Hills that already needs a bigger venue. Its ticket prices range from $1,250 to $25,000. Political reporter Tina Daunt today scooped that Ryan Murphy (Glee, American Horror Story) and his fiancé David Miller will host a separate dinner that night to raise additional money for the Obama campaign at $40,000/couple or $25,000/solo.

Related: NBC News Breaks Into Programming For ABC’s Obama Same-Sex Marriage Scoop

President Obama’s transport, Air Force One, touched down at LAX at 6:15 PM after leaving Seattle 2 hours earlier. From LAX Obama boarded helicopter Marine One to Burbank Airport. “Wheels up to the Valley at 6:28,” the WH pool report from AFP’s Tangi Quemener said. ”Everyone gives me shit for living in the Valley,” Clooney told guests tonight. Maybe so but the motorcade trip through the San Fernando Valley to Clooney’s home brought out crowds:

Thanks to the sunset, wonderful views of the San Gabriel mountains in the backdrop as POTUS boarded his SUV at 6:46. Motorcade rolled through the Valley on Sherman Way, with throngs of gawkers waving and taking pictures at each crossing. Then we took the 170 Freeway, ruining several thousand commutes at the tail end of rush hour. Friendly people dotted the streets by the hundreds as we got into Studio City by Laurel Canyon boulevard. Signs: “Obama 2012″, “Welcome to Studio City”, “We (heart) U Obama”. Crowds grew even thicker south of Ventura as the motorcade made its way into the hills. Other signs seen on the way: “Our gay family says thanks Mr. President”. And: “Will trade Lakers for Bulls if you stop!” Clooney compound in sight at 7:07.

Tonight’s  traffic snarl because of massive security is being branded ‘Starmeggedon’ as the president and his 150 celebrity and executive and politician supporters made their way to Clooney’s Studio City home. Clooney’s dinner was organized by DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg who initially planned a spring gala at his own house under renovation. When the home wasn’t ready, Clooney offered his own. Insiders tell Deadline that close to $15 million has been raised. The breakdown was about $6+M for the Wolfgang Puck-catered dinner and nearly $9M for the accompanying online raffle which attracted public donations for a chance to hobnob with Hollywood. It’s the largest amount ever raised for a single Obama campaign event with proceeds going to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee authorized by Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties. Today’s fundraising total 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.

As for the online raffle which brought in 2/3s of tonight’s reelection moolah, tens of thousands of people participated. The campaign’s pitch was, ”for a chance to hang out with President Obama at George Clooney’s house, donate $3 or whatever you can to be automatically entered to win.” The names of the two winners who’ll attend with their husbands were announced tonight: grassroots supporters Beth Topinka (a New Jersey science teacher) and Karen Blutcher (a Florida utility company communications coordinator).

Comments (72)

  • $40.000 per plate, that’s alot to pay to stay A-List.

    Comment by Alex — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 6:41pm PDT  
    • The one percent celebrate their King.

      Comment by Occupy Studio City — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 3:14am PDT  
    • $15 million? I doubt it.

      Comment by haskernazy — Saturday May 12, 2012 @ 10:29am PDT  
  • I don’t think any individual or especially corporation should be able to don’t say, over a $100 and thats it! Elections should be won through debating ideas not who can saturate the airwaves with the most attack ads.

    Comment by GIBBS — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 6:48pm PDT  
    • Couldn’t agree more.

      Comment by Abe — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 7:10pm PDT  
    • Better this than Super Pacs. At least with this, you know where the money is coming from.

      Comment by TIm W. — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 8:40pm PDT  
    • Agreed, but in fairness none of this plays a huge role in Presidential elections. It’s more an issue in state/local races. At the Presidential level both the Democrats and Republicans find ways to fund their man on relatively equal footing. No one thinks John McCain would have beat Obama if he just could have bought a few more TV ads…

      Comment by HW — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 10:02pm PDT  
  • Must be nice to have the President owe you a favor.

    Comment by woodrow — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 6:49pm PDT  
    • it’s no different than reagan visiting bob hope. this stuff has been going on since the first presidency.
      since ancient Egypt for that matter. read a book before you pass judgment.

      Comment by a140 — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 7:10pm PDT  
    • Don’t forget that Reagan was in the pocket of Lew Wasserman.

      Comment by They forget — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 8:52am PDT  
  • He’s taking Air Force One. So all taxpayers are contributing to funding his re-election campaign?

    Comment by elchan — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 7:31pm PDT  
    • All sitting Presidents are required to take Air Force One for security reasons. It’s been that way for a long time. It’s not even the decision of the POTUS. Did you never take a civics or gov’t class? Or…are you still in school?

      Comment by Crazy 8 — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 7:49pm PDT  
      • Yes, but he’s going to a campaign dinner not related to his full time job as POTUS. His campaign needs to reimburse the country. Also they should dock his pay for the time he spends on his re-election campaign.

        Comment by elchan — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 8:13pm PDT  
        • Bush2 used Air Force One for campaign events more than any of his predecessors.

          Comment by 100stones3x — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 9:58pm PDT  
          • Bush. Obama. Whomever. Doesn’t matter, it still isn’t right for “Taxpayers” to foot these bills. BTW… who’s paying for our Mayor’s tab, and all the cops involved for these Presidential, Mayoral, etc. events/gigs? Duh.

            Comment by HS — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 12:02pm PDT  
        • I assume you’re joking. Obama’s use of Air Force One (uh, would you rather a sitting President fly commercial?) is a drop in the bucket compared to W’s cross-country fundraising in 04.

          Incidentally, were you demanding that George W reimburse taxpayers for his use of a friggin’ AIRCRAFT CARRIER for a campaign photo op?

          Comment by HW — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 9:59pm PDT  
        • Your kidding right? Every POTUS has to use Airforce One

          Comment by JOE — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 7:15am PDT  
    • Sort of. If there weren’t so many threats on the life of all presidents, and if there wasn’t a need for a flying command center for the leader of the free world, and if we would just let the right wing media appoint presidents they wouldn’t have to leave the White House and campaign. It’s a conundrum. The campaign will be paying for some of this trip. There are laws.

      Comment by Pierre — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 7:54pm PDT  
    • in his defense, southwest has started charging for carry-ons.

      Comment by arthur1076 — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 7:56pm PDT  
    • I support President OBAMA and it’s obvious that he will be re-elected!!!! If you need to go back to school , there are many grants and financial aid available to you as an student and so i suggest you enroll at a community college and take some government 101 courses and i think you will then realize that your comment is ridiculous!

      Comment by Kristine Gurvais — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 9:02pm PDT  
  • Or JFK with Sinatra. We pay for everything a President does while he is President and after the fact. Obama will not be re-elected so it will cost even more.

    Comment by captainlashout — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 7:56pm PDT  
    • You think people are going to come out in droves to vote for Mitt Romney? He makes John Kerry look positively magnetic by comparison.

      Comment by Tim W. — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 8:44pm PDT  
      • No, they’ll come out in droves to correct the mistake of four years ago

        Comment by Righty — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 10:37pm PDT  
        • Is the mistake you’re talking about giving any votes to any ticket with Sarah Palin on it? Because putting a person like that one heartbeat away from the presidency would have been a colossal mistake. I wouldn’t have minded McCain, but there’s no way I’d want Palin to be anywhere close to making decisions for the country.

          Besides, when you get away from the whole right-left nonsense, Obama has done a pretty decent job, considering the cards he was dealt. Obama-care isn’t perfect, but it’s not the march to socialism some would like you to believe, he’s been able to turn the country around when I really didn’t think anyone could, and having to deal with a Congress so incapable of doing anything has to have been difficult. The fact that he’s gotten ANYTHING done is a miracle, quite frankly.

          Probably the biggest mistake has been feeding this right vs left gibberish that is slowly (or quickly) killing the country.

          Comment by Tim W. — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 12:12am PDT  
        • No, sadly we all KNOW what Righty is talking about, although he hasn’t got the guts to say it in public for fear of the condemnation he deserves. Back under the rock, son.

          Comment by anotherwgamember — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 3:08am PDT  
        • Obama administration is not perfect but at least it does not propose to spend astronomical amount of money blowing people into pieces. Check what your beloved Mitt ‘Flip-flopper” Romney would do if he got elected.

          I’d pick medicare over this any time any day.

          Comment by A. J. Roscoe — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 12:27pm PDT  
  • hey george – don’t let anyone give you crap about living in the valley – I’ve lived westside, los feliz, and now live in studio city – best neighborhood in the area…and traffic wasn’t too bad today either

    as for this dude who you’re hosting…well it’s not a political website so i’ll keep my mouth shut – $40 grand to have dinner at a tennis court – some people got ripped off

    818 – represent!

    Comment by drew — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 8:19pm PDT  
  • The only difference between past presidents and Obama is the scale of his events. To the victor go the spoils.

    The point should be that we, the taxpayers, should not be paying for all the travel, security, etc when the end game is not the nation but the campaign revenue. No president should be able to take 15 million dollars for his campaign while we pay the trip expenses. This is not a political issue to blame on either party. It is an issue which should not be permitted to occur in an environment where the candidate/party can raise one BILLION dollars.

    Obama, if you want to tax the rich…stop taking from the poor for your own gain. Again, the question for discussion is not whether every president does this. The question should be why do we all just roll our eyes and say it is okay?

    It isn’t.

    Comment by FTCS — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 8:25pm PDT  
    • By the way, the DNC along with Obama 2012 does pay for the food, some of the Hotel bill, some of the cars in the motorcade, the vendors, the signage and a lot more. Out of the 15 million raised 2 to 3 million is paid directly out of the DNC, Obama 2012 budget for the George Clooney Fund Raiser. The Security Service Budget pays for security and their hotel – Per diem of $200 a day for food. White House Staff has to use their own credit card if they use room service. Protection President Obama at all times is a matter of National Security. Sealing up manholes and removing large mailboxes, fuel costs, traffic delays, manpower – even vetting who is close to the bubble is all a matter of National Security. We protect the OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT not just the man or his wife. The OFFICE goes everywhere President Obama and the First Lady goes in the world. Enough said.

      Comment by Chris Jackson — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 7:14am PDT  
    • Right on, FTC.

      Comment by HS — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 12:08pm PDT  
  • I don’t know who’s worse the limousine liberal Democrats who love Obama or the country club Republicans who love Romney. I’m voting for Ron Paul as a write-in candidate. He’s the only one who’s able to relate to the 99%.

    Comment by Anonymous — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 8:29pm PDT  
    • If Ron Paul related to the 99 percent, he wouldn’t plan on cutting a trillon dollars from the budget in a year because he would know how bad that would devestate the 99 percent and put hundreds of thousands of people out of work.

      Comment by Dawn — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 10:53pm PDT  
      • 99% is just an advertising campaign slogan, a cold calculated Obama choice to get people excited about a product.

        Used to be that successful people were celebrated and role models (greed is good). But now we are being sold that failure and squalor is righteous and that people who make over 1 million a year are stealing their money from the mouth of welfare moms (does ‘Get Moving’ M. Obama support the 1% swiping the doritos?).

        Reject the slogan, and look at the choices that help make a person a success or financial failure.

        Comment by ad brainwashing — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 12:28am PDT  
      • Oh please, as if the Fed’s massive money printing is doing anything positive for the 99%. News flash — the people who benefit from monetary expansion ARE the 1% !!

        The 99% carry the burden for all the Fed induced credit bubbles — being victimized by both serious inflation in food/housing/energy, and the trillions in new debt since 2008.

        You’ve been conditioned to think there are no other alternatives to Bernanke’s printing. I wont suggest that Ron Paul’s approach will be easy, but better to make some tangible cuts now rather than have them forced on us by some black swan global financial event.

        Comment by JW — Friday May 11, 2012 @ 10:39am PDT  
  • how can one see the hollywood sign from studio city?

    Comment by moniquev — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 8:57pm PDT  
  • How can they see the Hollywood sign? They in the valley and the sign faces LA. Maybe George has his own in the backyard!

    Comment by map it — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 9:03pm PDT  
    • Agreed… no way in hell you can see the Hollywood sign from that side of the hill.
      And by the way traffic was nothing…

      Comment by Deg — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 9:22pm PDT  
      • Not exactly true. You can see the Hollywood sign, just not “read” it. At the top of the hill in the park (higher than George’s place), look East and you can see the tower just above the sign, as well as the side of the “H” just below.

        Comment by Flork — Thursday May 10, 2012 @ 11:29pm PDT  
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