If there are two things folks in Hollywood know, it's (a) how to run a fundraiser and (b) how to make a deal.
Both skills will come into focus tonight when President Obama arrives in L.A. for a huge fundraiser on behalf of the Democratic Party, with many of the industry's heavy hitters in attendance. For those not at the top of the food chain, there will be tickets available in a range of prices for the event at the Beverly Hilton -- some of them even less than Lakers floor seats.
Yes, it will take $30,400 -- don't ask how anybody came up with that number -- for a couple to dine with the chief executive. But you can attend a reception for only $1,000 a person, and $2,500 gets you VIP seating while you listen to "American Idol" alum and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson and Earth, Wind & Fire perform. Assuming you're on a diet like everyone else, you can skip the high-calorie dinner, spare your wallet -- and still show your support for the Dems as they gear up for the midterm elections.
The Beverly Hills event is expected to raise at least $3 million and follows a similar gala the president attended in Indianapolis May 17, after his controversial but well-received commencement address at Notre Dame. Just for the record, and to show the relative difference in the cost of living -- and giving -- between B-Hills and the Midwest, a couple could attend the Indianapolis dinner for less than half the price -- $15,000 -- which is enough of a discount to make it almost worthwhile to put up with their weather.
Both dinners are part of Obama's personal effort to overcome the Democrats' failure to match the Republicans' fundraising efforts for so-called "party building," a crucial aspect of the current political competition. Though the Dems have fared well in recent years raising money for individual congressional and presidential candidates, particularly in California, they continue to run behind in gathering funds for the party itself. That even was true last year, when both Obama and Democratic hopefuls for the House and Senate dramatically outpaced their GOP rivals, while the party lost out to the Republicans.
So far this year, the national Republican Party is ahead with $23.9 million in reserves and no debt, while the Democrats have just $9.8 million on hand and $6.7 million in liabilities.
Before he gets to Los Angeles, the president will drop into Las Vegas to help raise money for what's expected to be Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's hard-fought reelection campaign. (Next month, entertainment mogul Haim Saban also will host a lavish gala for Reid in Malibu.)
That's all part of a separate fundraising effort directed at the midterm elections and includes an e-mail that recently went out to Democratic donors, offering those who send in at least $5 a chance in a drawing to win dinner and a photo with the president for "a memory that will last a lifetime."
Who said lotteries were just for schools?
Obama promised to bring people together, and he'll certainly be doing that tonight, when former DreamWorks partners Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen reunite to co-host dinner with the president. Other co-hosts include Ron Burkle, Casey Wasserman, John Emerson, Nicole Avant and Ari Emanuel.
Political guru Andy Spahn, who is organizing tonight's dinner, said, "It's a very rough economy, but despite that there is tremendous excitement and enthusiasm for the president."
The event also will reunite the president and the man who produced the Lincoln Memorial gala for his inauguration, Don Mischer. That guarantees, as always, a top-quality production, though this time you can bet the veteran producer will scratch the eagle.
Watch your e-mail for a chance to buy the DVD.