President Barack Obama will be at the Studio City home of actor George Clooney tonight for what is projected to be the most lucrative fundraiser ever for a U.S. presidential candidate–an event expected to generate $15 million.
The president will begin his day in Washington, D.C., and fly on Air Force One to Seattle, where he will speak at two campaign events. He is scheduled to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport at 6:25 p.m. for his 10th visit to the region since taking office, the seventh solely for political fundraising.
Obama, who has spoken at political fundraisers during all but his first visit to Southern California as president, is scheduled to spend the night in Beverly Hills and leave Friday morning for Reno, Nev.
A demonstration over the administration’s policies on homeownership issues is planned for as close to Clooney’s home as possible tonight. The protestors will call on Obama to get aggressive about prosecuting banks and militating for principal reduction in mortgage payments, according to Peggy Mears of the Campaign for a Fair Settlement.
Inside the Clooney home, the president will dine with such celebrities as Barbra Streisand, Robert Downey Jr., Tobey Maguire, and several high-powered Hollywood executives.
DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg and his political advisor, Andy Spahn, arranged the dinner, which is being catered by Wolfgang Puck, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Organizers told The Times they expect tonight’s event to raise $15 million, an unprecedented sum for a single fundraiser.
VIPs will pay $40,000 a ticket to attend. But two-thirds of the projected haul is expected to come from contributions from tens of thousands of Americans who donated an average of $23 for a chance to win a ticket to the event, The Times reported. In the end, two winners and two guests will attend.
The protest scheduled to be staged near Clooney’s canyon home will dwell on a theme that many of the president’s supporters frequently return to–the perception that he has allowed banks to get away with misdeeds.
“Years after wrongdoing by the banks destroyed California’s housing market, not a single banker has been prosecuted and the president has refused to dismiss the heads of Fannie and Freddie, who stands in the way of helping for millions of Americans,” Mears said. “It’s time the president stood up for homeowners.”
There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the Obama campaign.
Mears’ group plans a series of protests at campaign events and fundraisers demanding that Obama act now to address the issue, she said.
Campaign finance reform is also an area where some supporters feel Obama has failed to fulfill his 2008 campaign promises — a complaint brought into focus for critics by the size of tonight’s projected haul.
“We have been disappointed by his failure to follow through in helping rebuild the presidential public finance system,” said Mary Boyle, vice president for communications of Common Cause, a nonprofit advocacy organization that describes itself as a watchdog against corruption.
In 2008, Obama became the first major party presidential nominee to opt out of the public financing system for the general election, which began with the 1976 campaign, correctly guessing he could raise more from the combination of small and large donors.
“He said he would like to work fix the system and that hasn’t happened,” Boyle told City News Service.
Tonight’s event is an example of how “it costs an exorbitant amount of money to run for president of the United States,” she said, complaining that “we have elected officials … constantly worrying about fundraising instead of worrying about the country’s problems or their constituents’ issues.’