Biden, Obama raise at least $28 million at glitzy LA event

Seema Mehta and Liam Dillon, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

President Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama appeared on stage together Saturday night in Los Angeles with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel — a conversation that included poking fun at former President Donald Trump, touting the Democratic incumbent’s policy achievements and trying to motivate voters to head to the polls in November.

“I could have done nothing and done better than him,” Biden replied when asked about the former GOP president, whom Kimmel referred to as “Orange Julius Caesar,” before touting the strength of the nation’s economy, the low unemployment rate and other accomplishments. “We’re trying to give ordinary people a chance, just a chance.”

Obama added that Biden had built upon their policies when he was president and Biden was vice president, such as expanding access to the Affordable Care Act and increasing funding for efforts to stop climate change.

“At its best, the presidency is a relay race. You take the baton and you run the race” and then hand it your successor,” Obama said. “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. … But we can take pride in affirming the extraordinary work that Joe has done.”

The star-studded fundraiser at the Peacock Theater in downtown L.A. is expected to raise at least $28 million — the largest cash haul from a one-night event in Democratic history.

Obama, George Clooney and Julia Roberts were among the headliners. Thousands of Biden supporters paid between $250, for a seat far from the stage, and $500,000 — for a ticket package that includes prime seats, photos with both presidents and a VIP after-party — to attend what is likely to be one of the president’s last major L.A. fundraisers before the November election.

“This Saturday, we are going to see an unprecedented and record-setting turnout from the media and entertainment world,” said media mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg, a Democratic megadonor and the only nonelected official who is a co-chair of the president’s reelection campaign. “The enthusiasm and commitment for Biden-Harris couldn’t be stronger. We all understand this is the most important election of our lifetime.”

Barbra Streisand; Gov. Gavin Newsom; Reps. Ted Lieu, Robert Garcia, Nanette Diaz Barragán, Grace F. Napolitano; singer Paul Anka; and Katzenberg were among the elected officials and celebrities at or near the theater before the fundraiser began. Also spotted was Los Angeles City Councilmember Kevin de León, whom Biden urged to resign in October 2022 after he was heard on a leaked audio with other council members that featured racist and derogatory remarks.

Public entrances to L.A. Live were fenced off throughout the afternoon with well-dressed attendees mixing with t-shirted tourists on the sidewalks. Private security and Los Angeles Police Department officers stationed around the perimeter did allow diners to access the restaurants around the venue.

Around 5 p.m., a few hundred pro-Palestinian protesters gathered outside Crypto.com Arena and the adjacent JW Marriott hotel. They waved Palestinian flags and chanted “Biden, Biden can’t you see, Palestine will be free” and other slogans.

A group blocked an entrance to the fundraiser near the hotel, sitting down in front of the gates. Confused attendees approached and wondered how they’d get inside. They were able to enter a gate near the arena as protesters screamed, “Shame on you!”

Protesters later blocked the street outside the hotel after they shut down the gate.


Jennifer Jajeh, a Palestinian and South L.A. resident, stood at the entrance to the fundraiser confronting those going inside.

“The people on the ground in Gaza are experiencing terror every moment of their lives,” Jajeh said. “I feel that the people who are supporting a candidate who is supporting a genocide should feel some discomfort. Kathy Griffin, you can be yelled at for two minutes.”

The crowd of protesters began to dissipate by 7. An LAPD spokesperson said there had been no arrests.

The event came at a critical time for Biden.

While the Democrat has outpaced Trump in dollars raised in California and nationally, the former president has seen a burst of donations since being convicted in late May of 34 felonies of falsifying business records about $130,000 in payments to adult film actor Stormy Daniels, who alleges they had sex in Lake Tahoe during a golf tournament, in an effort to influence the 2016 presidential election.

Trump’s first fundraising swing after the convictions was in California this month.

Both of the presumptive 2024 nominees’ California money runs take place at a fraught time. National and swing-state polls show a razor’s-edge tight race. And voters, some of whom are apathetic about Biden and Trump partly because of their age, are anxious about domestic economic concerns as well as global tumult — the extended wars between Russia and Ukraine and between Israel and Hamas.

Late Friday night, Biden left the Group of 7 summit — a gathering in Italy of leaders of Western nations focused on tackling global issues such as trade, the economy and security — as well as a private meeting with Pope Francis. After a refueling stop at an Air Force base in Maryland, the president landed in Los Angeles around dawn Saturday.

It’s unknown how Biden spent time after he landed; but his son Hunter, who was convicted of three felony gun charges this week, lives in Malibu. In February, Biden spent about 90 minutes with his son and his grandson at the Ivy restaurant on Hunter Biden’s 54th birthday.

The younger Biden has not yet been sentenced for the gun charge convictions, which will almost certainly be appealed. He also faces nine federal tax-related charges in California.

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