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Obama Taps Entertainers to Stay Ahead of Romney’s Money

President Barack Obama is using the entertainment industry on both coasts to help fill the fundraising hole left by defections of some Wall Street donors.

Obama has been hitting California and New York in the race to stay ahead of Republican Mitt Romney in fundraising for the presidential campaign. He’ll be in New York tonight for the second time this month for an event at actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s house and another co-hosted by singer Mariah Carey at the Plaza Hotel, aiming to raise $4.5 million.

“If you go to New York to raise money at Sarah Jessica Parker’s house you’re really going to Los Angeles,” said Joel Aberbach, a political science professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “He’s getting a better reception from show business people than finance people, and those are the moneyed classes on the two coasts.”

California, the headquarters for the music, movie and television industries, is outpacing New York as a funding source for both candidates. Through the end of April, California donors have raised $19 million for Obama and $10.6 for Romney compared to New York’s $12.2 million for Obama and $9.7 million for Romney, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Obama is devoting most of his day to campaigning, including a speech in Ohio intended to sharpen his attacks on Romney and set out differences on economic policy.

Different Visions

“The president believes that this election is a fundamental choice between two very different visions for how we grow the economy, create middle-class jobs and pay down our debt,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said yesterday.

Romney, 65, sought to pre-empt Obama with an address to the Business Roundtable yesterday in Washington.

“My own view is that he will speak eloquently, but that words are cheap, and that the record of an individual is the basis upon which you determine whether they should continue to hold on to their job,” Romney told about 100 executives at organization’s quarterly meeting.

He argued that Obama’s agenda has been hostile to business and that has led to “a tepid and unfortunate recovery”

In remarks to supporters, Obama has accused Romney and Republicans in Congress of pursuing the same policies that led to the worst recession in more than seven decades.

Economic Reports

Obama, 50, has faced a steady stream of bad economic news over the past two weeks, the latest being a Commerce Department report yesterday that showed retail sales in the U.S. fell in May for a second month. Along with slower job growth in May and subdued wage gains, the report was another sign that the recovery is cooling.

About 50 people are paying $40,000 each for the reception at Parker’s home, co-hosted by Vogue magazine editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. Another 250 people will pay $10,000 each to attend the dinner at the Plaza hotel hosted by Carey and Newark, New Jersey, Mayor Cory Booker. Booker riled the Obama campaign with remarks on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last month criticizing the president’s attacks on Romney’s private-equity experience.

Wintour is a top bundler for Obama, having raised at least $500,000 for his re-election campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group that tracks campaign finance reports.

Through April, Parker hasn’t donated to the Obama campaign, the Democratic National Committee or Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super political action committee that has trailed the Republican groups in fundraising. She gave $2,660 to Obama’s election effort in 2008. Carey gave the maximum $35,800 to Obama’s campaign and the DNC this election cycle.

Entertainment Industry

Donors in the TV, music and movie industry have given Obama’s re-election campaign $2.3 million compared to $392,736 for Romney, according to the center.

That may not make up the shortfall from Wall Street. The securities and investment industry gave Romney $8.8 million and Obama $3.2 million through the end of April, according to the center’s study of Federal Election Commission data.

In 2008, when he was running against Arizona Senator John McCain, Obama received $15 million from employees in the securities and investment industry, more than any other candidate. In office, Obama has pushed for tighter regulation of Wall Street. Romney’s experience as co-founding the private equity firm Bain Capital LLC has given him greater support from the industry.

Industry Donations

“It might well be that Obama made the financial industry unhappy by talking about them, but at the end of the day they’re still going to be giving him a lot of money,” said Jonathan Nagler, a political science professor at New York University. “What is different this year is that Romney is better known to them than McCain was -- he’s one of them.”

Since he filed for re-election in April 2011, Obama has visited California seven times, most stops including fundraisers in Los Angeles or San Francisco. During the same period he’s visited New York 12 times, almost all including fundraising stops in New York City.

The East and West Coasts are “where the money is, that’s the Democratic landscape of America,” said Don Baer, who was the director of communications and chief speechwriter for former President Bill Clinton.

While the pace of Romney’s fundraising has increased since he secured the Republican nomination, Obama’s re-election committee more than doubled the amount raised by Romney’s campaign through April, taking in $222.3 million to $100.4 million, and had $115.2 million in the bank entering May, compared with $9.2 million for the challenger.

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