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Obama Blames Gridlock on Republicans as He Courts Donors

U.S. President Barack Obama
At a White House news conference with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. President Barack Obama called accusations that the White House sought to cover up a terrorist link to the Benghazi attack a “sideshow” that “defies logic.” Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

May 14 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama told a crowd of supporters at film mogul Harvey Weinstein’s home that Republican “hyper-partisanship” is to blame for holding up his second-term agenda.

Speaking to a group of Democratic donors in New York City that included entertainer Justin Timberlake and actress Jessica Biel, Obama pledged to find ways to work across the aisle, even as he faulted Republicans for creating gridlock in Washington.

“My thinking was after we beat them in 2012 that might break the fever,” he told donors gathered yesterday evening at the West Village brownstone of Weinstein, head of the independent studio Weinstein Co. “It’s not quite broken yet, but I am persistent and I am staying at it.”

The $16,200 per person event was the first of three Obama fundraisers yesterday for the Democratic Party campaign committee ahead of the 2014 congressional elections.

The trip came hours after Obama addressed Republican criticism of his administration’s handling of the attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, and revelations that Internal Revenue Service workers targeted for special scrutiny tax-exempt groups promoting limited government.

At a White House news conference with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama called accusations that the White House sought to cover up a terrorist link to the Benghazi attack a “sideshow” that “defies logic.”

IRS Case

Regarding the IRS situation, in which the agency gave special attention to applications for tax-exempt organizations if they had “tea party” or “patriot” in their name, Obama said that those responsible would be held accountable. He called such action “outrageous,” if true.

Obama told donors dining on petits fours in Weinstein’s living room that their contributions will help hold Republicans accountable for blocking his second-term agenda. Some Republicans, he said, are open to compromise, though they fear upsetting their party’s base and pundits such as syndicated radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

“If we’ve got folks on the other side who are prepared to cooperate, that is great and we are ready to go,” he said. “On the other hand, if there are folks who are more interested in winning elections than they are thinking of the next generation, then I want to make sure there are consequences to that.”

Second Fundraiser

After speaking at Weinstein’s home, Obama attended another $16,200 per person reception farther downtown at the residence of Alexandra Stanton, a prominent donor to Jewish causes and chief executive officer of Empire Global Ventures LLC, a New York-based international trade and business-development firm.

At Stanton’s Tribeca apartment, Obama stressed his interest in the Middle East peace process, urging supporters to keep pushing for a solution even with the regional focus on the conflict in Syria.

“Deep down there’s still this incredible desire for peace,” he said, calling his March trip to Israel a “highlight” of his second term.

The third event benefited the Democratic Party and House candidates in 2014. Tickets to that reception, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Midtown Manhattan, started at $7,500.

Obama has promised to headline at least 20 fundraisers for Democratic candidates across the country this cycle.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lisa Lerer in New York at llerer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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