Obama Swing Through LA Attracts A-List Celebrities And Cash

Tuesday, February 20th 2007, 9:09 pm
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Checks from Hollywood's A-list stars such as George Clooney, Eddie Murphy and Barbra Streisand were expected to add up to a one-night take of $1 million for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Three of the entertainment industry's biggest names _ DreamWorks studio founders Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen _ planned a private Beverly Hills fundraiser for the freshman senator from Illinois.

Before the fundraiser, Obama addressed a racially mixed crowd at a South Los Angeles park, talking of a political system he said is failing the country and a slash-and-burn political culture he said stands in the way of any significant change.

With the support of the electorate, Obama said, he could work to resolve such issues as an unpopular war in Iraq and health and public education systems he said leave too many people behind.

``We can do all these things. I can't do it without you,'' said Obama, tieless and in shirt sleeves as he spoke to the audience of several thousand.

The lineup of celebrities writing checks for Obama read like a red carpet's who's who _ Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington and Ben Stiller among others.

Tickets to the fundraiser were $2,300, the maximum individual donation to a federal campaign, or $4,600 for a couple. Fundraisers who brought in at least $46,000 for the evening were invited to a private dinner at Geffen's home.

The fundraiser underscored the intense competition among the party's leading 2008 candidates for Hollywood dollars and endorsements. The entertainment industry is a perennial source of cash for Democrats, with big names often donating to multiple campaigns while withholding formal endorsements until later.

Spielberg, for example, was a host of the event but had not made an endorsement. Katzenberg and Geffen were backing Obama.

The movie, television and recording industries gave $33.1 million to federal candidates and parties in 2004, with much of that coming from Hollywood, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

Obama's display of celebrity sizzle and campaign dollars challenges any assumptions that Hollywood dollars would default to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who has longstanding ties to the industry, along with her husband, former President Clinton.

``I think this guy is for real,'' said longtime Democratic consultant Garry South, who is unaligned in the 2008 race. ``I was skeptical at first, but something is going on here. ... Whether it can sustain itself remains to be seen.''

Clinton will be pulling in Hollywood dollars next month, when a fundraiser is scheduled at the home of supermarket tycoon Ronald Burkle, a longtime friend and fundraiser for her husband.

In addition to money, the state has taken on new importance in presidential politics with lawmakers poised to move its primary to Feb. 5 from June.

Among other candidates, Republican Rudy Giuliani was in the state earlier this month. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is planning to appear Wednesday with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Los Angeles area to discuss climate change.

Obama was on a three-day swing through California, his first since announcing his candidacy. He also held a fundraiser in La Jolla, near San Diego,

Beside the celebrity giving, checks have come in from studio bosses, including Paramount Pictures studio chief Brad Grey; Richard Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios; and Ron Meyer of Universal Studios.