The Oscar-winner hosts a dinner party in his backyard, the president hobnobs with A-list guests, and a record is set for the largest one-night campaign haul ever
Who do you call when you need $15 million? Apparently, George Clooney. The Oscar-winner hosted a fundraiser for President Barack Obama at his Los Angeles home Thursday night, and the event funneled a cool $15 million into the president's re-election campaign — the largest one-night campaign haul ever. How did the former Sexiest Man Alive (who's worked with Obama on Sudan issues for years) drum up the cash? Here, a brief guide to the star-studded affair:
What kind of party did Clooney throw?
"An exclusive backyard soiree" described as "the best party ever." The event's 150 or so donors and celebrities sat outside Clooney's Tudor-style home, at round tables under a tent with a transparent roof. Dinner was catered by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, and the menu included roasted duckling "Peking style" with tiny buns, a duo of lamb and beef cheek with potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and sweet corn tortelloni. President Obama delivered a 19-minute speech to guests, and table hopped for more than four hours.
Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Salma Hayek, Barbra Streisand, James Brolin, Billy Crystal, Tobey Maguire, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Clooney's girlfriend, Stacy Keibler. But not all the attendees were A-listers. Obama's campaign held a contest in which supporters could win a spot at the dinner by donating as little as $3 to the campaign. Tens of thousands of people ponied up (an average of $23), and New Jersey science teacher Beth Topinka and Florida utility company worker Karen Blutcher won, each bringing their husband along for the trip.
How did Clooney raise so much money?
The event's price tag certainly helped. The 150 guests each forked over $40,000 to attend, amounting to $6 million. The other two-thirds of the money came from that wildly successful contest to win seats at the dinner. "We raised a lot of money because everybody loves George," the president quipped. "They like me; they love him."
Did Obama mention gay marriage?
It's such a "popular issue with the Hollywood crowd" that he'd have been insane not to, says Seema Mehta at the Los Angeles Times. So perhaps predictably, Obama expounded on the topic, saying that same-sex marriage is "a logical extension of what America is supposed to be." His decision to support the divisive issue came down to a burning question, he said: "Are we a country that includes everybody and gives everybody a shot and treats everybody and is that going to make us stronger?… I believe it does."
Are Clooney and Obama really pals?
Seems like it, says Jackie Calmes at The New York Times. "The buddy act" the two have developed "was on full display Thursday night." Obama needled Clooney over his basketball skills: "This man has been talking smack about his basketball game ever since I've known him." He also joked that the photo used for 2008's famous Hope poster originally had Clooney in it — before the actor was cropped out: "This is the first time that George Clooney has even been Photoshopped out of a picture."
Isn't this all a little... over the top?
Many conservatives think so, pouncing on the glitzy affair to argue that Obama is out of touch with struggling Americans. "While he's noshing with notables, courting celebrities, and soliciting stars, the middle class is being squeezed," says Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Perhaps, says Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press, but the A-list party still earned the president "the kind of Hollywood buzz a Republican seldom gets."
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- Opinion Brief: Will Obama's cheeky economic to-do list backfire?
- Fact Sheet: The inmate who nearly defeated Obama in the West Virginia primary