LA’s record-breaking Biden fund-raiser draws Obama, top Hollywood stars – and protesters

. June 19, 2024

Biden fund-raiser

Source: Los Angeles Daily News

Pro-Palestinian protesters gathered at the event in Downtown LA as attendees entered the venue

President Joe Biden spoke about the economy, abortion rights and threats to America’s democracy during a record-setting fundraising event in Downtown Los Angeles Saturday, while pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside the venue hours earlier.

The LA Live event at the Peacock Theater was attended by about 7,000 people, and featured emcee and late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel who interviewed Biden, as well as former President Barack Obama and Hollywood superstars Julia Roberts and George Clooney.

Biden and Obama took the stage to a standing ovation with whoops and cheers. Both wore dark suits with open neck white shirts.

“You know, when I was vice president, we talked about what it takes to give the middle class a better shot,” Biden said, looking toward Obama. “What we’ve done is to change the model from trickle down economics to one where everybody gets a shot and it’s made America the strongest economy in the world today.”

Kimmel, wearing a blue suit and white shirt, told jokes and then jabbed at former President Donald Trump, Biden’s presumptive opponent, calling him “a stable genius.”

He praised Biden, saying: “I know an increasingly large number of people don’t seem to care about facts. But the fact is President Biden has accomplished a great deal over the past three years.”

Kimmel asked Biden about him wanting to “restore the soul of America” and quipped: “It looks like we might need an exorcism. Is that why you visited the Pope?”

Biden replied that he had just returned from meeting with European leaders at the G7 summit, and he seemed to be buoyed by their reception. “We’re in a situation where I promise you, not because of me, but because of America, they have enormous faith in America.”

And then he added: “There’s not a damn thing we can’t do when we set our mind to do it together.”

With former Obama providing support for his former vice president, along with stars Roberts and Clooney, the glitzy fundraiser, quickly became a big-money Hollywood-style event reeling in millions for the president’s re-election campaign. Before the first question was asked, the event had already brought in more than $28 million, making it the biggest fundraiser in Democratic Party history, according to a statement from party officials early Saturday.

That figure overtakes the $26 million Democrats raised from a fundraiser in March in New York featuring talk-show host Stephen Colbert moderating a panel discussion between Biden, Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Tickets for the exclusive L.A. gathering began at $250, ranging as high as $500,000 for front-of-house seating, photo ops and an after-party.

Among the surprise attendees was actor/singer Barbra Streisand, actor/comedian Jack Black and actor/singer Sheryl Lee Ralph from the TV show “Abbott Elementary.”

Also in the house were Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, along with an array of Democratic elected officials. They included Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Manhattan Beach; Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-El Monte; Rep. Mark Takano, D-Riverside; Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Panorama City; Rep. Robert Garcia, D-Long Beach.

First Lady Jill Biden talked about punching a neighborhood bully who had “tormented” her younger sister when she was a teen.

“My 13-year-old self was right about one thing: When bullies threaten our loved ones we don’t just stand by,” she said.

“We don’t cower, we don’t turn way. We show up. We speak up,” she said.

A few hours before the start of the event, more than 100 pro-Palestine protesters were massed on the sidewalk near the Peacock Theater, where the event was set to take place. Many waved Palestinian flags and hoisted banners as attendees filed into the theater.

Dozens of police in riot gear were keeping protesters away from the barricades that surrounded the theater. Just before the demonstrators arrived, Biden’s grandchildren Maisy and Naomi and Naomi’s husband Peter Neal entered the theater, according to pool reports.

Protesters chanted “Biden Biden you’re a liar, we demand a ceasefire.” The protest appeared peaceful, however, and no arrests were reported early. Later, Roberts addressed the audience saying some protesters may be inside the theater.

As the presidential motorcade passed through L.A., people stopped on the sidewalks of closed-off streets and on the balcony of a shopping mall taking pictures.

One man waved an Israeli flag soon after departure, while a woman held a picture relating to Gaza nearer the venue. After passing along several L.A. freeways, the motorcade arrived at 5:16 pm at the Peacock Theater.

Among the organizers of the event was entertainment mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, a co-chair of the Biden 2024 campaign. “The enthusiasm and commitment for Biden-Harris couldn’t be stronger. We all understand this is the most important election of our lifetime,” Katzenberg said in a statement.

Two hours before the event began, a few pedestrians and drivers waved Palestinian flags as they moved down Figueroa Street, in front of the security barricades. One pro-Palestinian supporter painted the hood of his car in the likeness of a the red, black, white, and green flag of Palestine.

Madison Beatty, 21 of Detroit, attended the event with two other Howard University students. The three are interning in Los Angeles for the summer.

“I’m voting Biden,” Beatty said. “And I’m here for Obama, too. I’ve met him a couple of times and I think he’s a very humble President and was very good for us. And I’m on Team Kamala too. She’s a great supporter of HBUCs.”

Eden Howard agreed November’s election is important and while she doesn’t know much about Biden’s campaign.

“I know a lot about Trump and it terrifies me. So in my case it’s a hit like voting for the lesser of two evils.”

After Biden gave his introductory remarks, it was Obama’s turn to speak.

“I take great pride in what the Biden administration has accomplished and it’s a reminder that we don’t have to just vote against something in this election,” Obama said. “We have somebody to worry about. There’s a whole agenda that we should be concerned about. But we can take pride in affirming the extraordinary work that Joe has done.”

Later in the program, Biden was asked about women’s reproductive rights and the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

He reminded the audience that the next president may likely get to appoint two new justices.

The fundraiser could be the last major event for Biden in the Southland ahead of the November election, making it a critical moment for an incumbent dogged by continuing consumer complaints about inflation, the cost of groceries and gas, and rising division over the U.S. stance in the Israel-Hamas war.

The California Republican Party blasted the big-money bash.

“Nothing says to struggling Americans, ‘I understand what you’re going through and am ready to help,’ like spending a night schmoozing with the ultra-relatable George Clooney, Julia Roberts and other Hollywood celebrities,” Jessica Millan Patterson, the California Republican Party chairwoman, said in a statement.

Meanwhile, while Biden reeled in dollars in L.A., Trump campaigned in the vital state of Michigan.

Trump used back-to-back stops in an effort to court Black voters in Detroit, including a  conservative group that has been accused of attracting white supremacists, as the Republican presidential candidate works to stitch together a coalition of historically divergent interests in the battleground state.

He hosted an afternoon roundtable at an African American church in Detroit, then addressed the “People’s Convention” of Turning Point Action, a group that the Anti-Defamation League says has been linked to a variety of extremists.

“What a turnout this is,” Trump told a standing-room-only crowd of thousands of conservative activists packed into a massive convention hall. “With the help of everyone here today we’re going to win the state of Michigan in November.”

At the Biden event, a Trump supporter wearing a MAGA hat and an anti-Biden shirt attracted attention outside the theater. “I’m a one man MAGA strike team, to show them that MAGA is everywhere,” said the man, saying he was Drew from Anaheim.

Trump and the Republican Party outraised Biden in April, raking in $76 million as compared to $51 million for Biden and the Democratic National Committee that same month. Biden said he had a $192 million war chest at the end of April, the same as previous months, meaning he appears to be spending it as fast as it comes in.

For example, Biden on June 13 launched a seven-figure ad in Spanish and English in battleground states on “lowering costs for food and rent,” raising wages and creating jobs, the campaign reported. Campaign ads are rarely aired in California.

Kimmel’s interview topics included healthcare, jobs, the economy, the Supreme Court and threats to our country’s democracy.

After his newborn son required open-heart surgery in 2017, Kimmel became outspoken about the importance of the Affordable Care Act passed when Obama was president and Biden was vice president.

Other celebrities in the house included Jason Bateman, Jack Black, Kathryn Hahn, Jon Cryer and Sheryl Lee Ralph.

Kimmel, who sharpened his skills on rowdy local radio and bawdy cable-TV fare, has built a high-octane resume that includes a hit late-night show on network TV, hosting the Academy Awards and even lending his name to a college football bowl game. He’s also become a go-to guy for the Democrats during a particularly bitter election year.

Biden is no stranger to Kimmel’s late-night desk.

On June 8, 2022, he interviewed President Biden on the show not long after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed. The two discussed gun background checks. More recently, Vice President Kamala Harris was a guest.

Kimmel, meanwhile has gotten under the skin of Biden’s likely foe in November, former President Trump.

Their very public feud included a social media spat during this year’s Oscars. On live TV, Kimmel read aloud Trump’s scathing review of his performance as host, then quipped: “Isn’t it past your jail time?”

Saturday’s event took place after Trump was convicted on 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in an effort to conceal a hush-money payment to a porn star with whom he allegedly had sex. Prosecutors said it was a cover-up to prevent voters in 2016 from learning about the extra-marital affair.

It also comes just a few days after the president’s son, Hunter Biden, was convicted of three felony firearm charges involving lying on a mandatory gun purchase form by saying he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs, and illegally having the gun for 11 days.

Trump was in the Southland for a fundraising swing of his own last week. He spoke at a Newport Beach fundraiser, with tickets ranging from $3,300 for a lunch reception to $100,000 to be designated as a member of the host committee. The cost for a photo opp with Trump started at $35,000.

Trump also attended a fundraiser in Beverly Hills, with tickets ranging from $5,000 to $250,000.

Biden was last in the Los Angeles area in late February, when he attended a fundraiser at the home of Israeli American media mogul Haim Saban in the gated Beverly Park community, near Mulholland Drive.

Tickets for that event ranged from $3,300 to $250,000, with those donating at least $25,000 getting to take a picture with Biden, according to the entertainment news website Deadline.

 Biden arrived in Los Angeles early Saturday morning, touching down at LAX as the sun rose, later to be surrounded by stars.

Wearing a black baseball cap bearing the presidential seal, sneakers and a dark blazer with no tie, Biden hustled down Air Force One’s ramp and into his motorcade as dawn broke Saturday. Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden, accompanied him.

Biden had come to L.A. immediately after attending the G7 meetings in Italy.

A White House official said the president did not attend the G7 closing dinner, and only stayed for the entertainment by Andrea Bocelli, because the summit’s schedule was running late. Biden had to leave to be back in U.S. airspace in time for Vice President Kamala Harris to depart for the Ukraine peace conference in Switzerland, the official said.

The travel across 10 time zones illustrated the competing presidential and political demands on Biden’s time as the campaign against former President Donald J. Trump intensifies. Biden aides said the taxing schedule made clear that even at age 81, he still demonstrates the endurance to manage his many duties.

Pope Francis was at the G7 summit in Italy on Friday, and Biden met with him privately. A White House readout of their conversation did not reference abortion rights, which was a key point of contention at the talks. At the start of an earlier G7 session on artificial intelligence, the two men greeted each other warmly, the pope smiling as Biden bent down to speak quietly to him, their foreheads touching.

Francis was invited by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the summit’s host. The pontiff said elected officials must assure that AI remains human-focused, so decisions about when to use weapons are made by people and not computers.

Biden made a brief stop in Los Angeles on Feb. 3-4, meeting with entertainment industry leaders to lobby for support for his campaign.

In December, Biden was in the area for two days of fundraising events and campaign meetings, including a fundraiser at the home of investors Jose Feliciano and Kwanza Jones. He also attended a star-studded affair in Holmby Hills that included Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner, Shonda Rhimes, Gov. Gavin Newsom, Mayor Karen Bass and her former opponent, developer Rick Caruso, and a performance by Lenny Kravitz.