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Obama Looks to Hollywood to Raise Millions for Re-Election

Barack Obama George Clooney
President Obama with actor George Clooney outside the Oval Office. Photographer: White House Photo by Pete Souza/Corbis

President Barack Obama will be tapping into Hollywood money in his first California fundraising trip since anti-piracy legislation backed by the film industry was scuttled in Congress.

Over the next three days Obama is seeking to raise more than $8 million for his re-election, the bulk of it coming from six fundraisers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Corona Del Mar, California, including one event co-hosted by comedian Will Ferrell. He also plans to raise money in Washington state.

Californians have given more to the president’s campaign than donors from any other state, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks political money. The state also is home to two of Obama’s top donor groups, the entertainment industry and Silicon Valley, which were at odds over the legislation to curb pirated content on the Internet.

Andrew Schwartzman, senior vice president of the Washington-based advocacy group Media Access Project, said Obama probably should expect questions from entertainment industry executives about future attempts to revive the anti-piracy measure.

Movie executives will have to “lick their wounds and accept that, if legislation is going to be enacted, it is going to require a very substantial revision,” said Schwartzman, whose group promotes freedom of expression and universal access to communications.

Legislation Shelved

Leaders in the House and Senate on Jan. 20 shelved anti-piracy legislation backed by the movie and music industries days after a global online protest led by Mountain View, California-based Google Inc. and Wikipedia eroded congressional support. Internet companies objected, saying the measures would promote online censorship, disrupt the Web’s architecture and harm their ability to innovate.

The Obama administration, without taking a direct stand on the legislation before Congress, said it wouldn’t support measures that encourage censorship or disrupt the structure of the Internet.

Former Democratic Senator Chris Dodd, chairman of the Washington-based Motion Picture Association of America, said he hopes Obama will use the trip as an opportunity to make the case that the Internet and entertainment industries must find a consensus on stopping content theft.

Common Approach

“Now is the time to come together to find meaningful solutions to protect American intellectual property from foreign criminals,” Dodd said in an e-mail. “We strongly believe that the content and tech industries need each other in order to succeed and grow.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president today that the administration is committed to finding a solution that will protect copyrights and intellectual property without impinging on the free flow of information.

“We believe its a ’both and,’ not an ’either or’ proposition,” Carney said.

Some of Obama’s top bundlers are entertainment industry giants, including Dreamworks Animation SKG Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg, the co-founder of Miramax Film Corp., Harvey Weinstein, and Katzenberg’s political consultant, Andy Spahn. Weinstein, through his publicist, declined to be interviewed. Katzenberg and Spahn didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Political Committee

Priorities USA Action, a super-PAC backing Obama, got one of its first checks from Katzenberg, who contributed $2 million a July Federal Election Commission filing shows. Steven Spielberg, the movie director, contributed $100,000 in July.

Still, there was a decline in contributions from employees and their families associated with the television, movie and music industries to Obama in the last three quarters of 2011 compared with the same period in 2007, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In the last three quarters of 2011, the entertainment industry gave Obama $1.2 million compared with $1.8 million during the same period in 2007, according to the center.

The opposite was true for the computer and Internet industry, which gave to Obama’s re-election more in the last three quarters of 2011 than they did during the same period in 2007, according to the center. In 2011, the employees of computer and Internet companies gave Obama $1.7 million compared with $1.1 million during the same period in 2007, according to the center. Employees of Google, the world’s most popular search engine, were the third-biggest corporate source of Obama’s campaign cash.

Support From Both

Carney said Obama “enjoys support from people in both industries.”

Fred Wilson a managing partner at New York-based Union Square Ventures who has helped fund Web-based technology companies, said Obama “has been pro-innovation and technology and he should enjoy strong support from the tech community.”

Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, a Washington-based digital advocacy group, said that, while entertainment executives may be upset with Obama for not pressing on anti-piracy, they won’t hold a grudge for long.

Tough Questions

“I think Obama’s going to face tough questions, but after they’ve had a little time to think about how much they rely on the administration, to enforce trade agreements in particular, they are not going to want to jeopardize that relationship,” Feld said.

The president is seeking to raise more than $3 million today at the Los Angeles home of television producer Bradley Bell and his wife, Colleen, co-hosted by Ferrell and his wife, Viveca Paulin, according to a campaign official. The rock band Foo Fighters will perform for approximately 1,000 people, with tickets costing $250 and $500 each. A dinner will be held later at the home for approximately 80 people who paid $35,800, the legal limit.

Tomorrow, approximately 125 people are expected to pay at least $2,500 per person to attend a luncheon at the Corona del Mar home of Jeff and Nancy Stack. He is the managing director of Irvine-based developer Sares-Regis Group. The president will then travel to San Francisco where he will attend three more fundraisers. The next day Obama will attend a fundraising lunch with 65 people at a private residence in Medina, Washington, and a reception later in Bellevue, Washington.

The president will bookend the trip with remarks on the economy and about moving jobs back to the U.S. during a visit to a Master Lock Co. factory in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, today and at a Feb. 17 stop at a Boeing Co. factory in Everett, Washington, outside of Seattle. Obama is seeking re-election with an unemployment rate that been at or above 8 percent for three years.

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