WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will head to Los Angeles next week for a big-dollar event that will be his first since strikes by writers and actors effectively ground his fundraising to a halt in the heart of the entertainment industry, which has long served as the ATM for the Democratic Party.
The event next Friday at the home of Michael Smith, a celebrity interior designer, and his partner James Costos, a former HBO executive who was President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Spain, is expected to raise millions and draw a star-studded crowd. Rocker Lenny Kravitz is expected to perform.
Director Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw, who starred in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” are among the hosts of the event, as are recording industry mogul David Geffen, “Scandal” showrunner Shonda Rhimes and “This is Spinal Tap” director Rob Reiner, according to an invitation obtained by The Associated Press.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif, is also a co-host. Barbra Streisand is set to attend.
“We are overwhelmed by the enthusiasm. We don’t do many events, but when we do, we do it out of a great passion,” Smith said.
The event is part of a broader fundraising swing by Biden and comes as the Democratic president tries to stockpile cash for what will likely be a grueling rematch against Republican Donald Trump.
Biden also plans fundraisers in Washington, Boston, Maryland, where he will appear with Gov. Wes Moore, and Philadelphia, where he will be joined by Gov. Josh Shapiro, according to a person familiar with the schedule who insisted on anonymity to discuss internal planning details.
With a cash haul from elite party donors expected to reach into the millions, the Los Angeles event could help ease concerns among Democrats about Biden’s reelection chances. He already has drawn one primary rival, Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, whose candidacy is a symbolic challenge to national Democrats trying to project the idea that there is no reason to doubt Biden’s electability, even as many Americans question whether the 80-year-old Biden should serve another term.
As of the last fundraising reporting deadline at the end of September, Biden and his party reported $91 million cash on hand. He is helped by the fact that as the party’s leader he has entered into a joint fundraising agreement with the Democratic National Committee, as well as state parties, which enables him to receive a check from a single donor that is in the range of $1 million.
This being Hollywood, there is a bit of intrigue and melodrama playing out.
For decades, Jeffrey Katzenberg, a co-founder of Dreamworks Pictures, has served as an arbiter of presidential fundraising in Los Angeles, usually dictating the terms of who gets to host the first premier event — often himself.
Katzenberg now serves as an adviser of Biden’s campaign and will be hosting his own fundraiser during Biden’s California visit, according to two people with direct knowledge of the event who insisted on anonymity to provide details.
But should Katzenberg be outshined, it could help reshuffle a Hollywood pecking order that has been in place since Bill Clinton was president.
A Katzenberg spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
During the 2020 Democratic primary campaign, Smith and Costos hosted Biden’s first major fundraiser in the area, during a Los Angeles swing that raised over $1 million.
At the time, Katzenberg was involved in planning events for another Democratic candidate, Pete Buttigieg, who is now Biden’s transportation secretary. Buttigieg emerged as a top candidate and there was a tug of war among Hollywood donors over who could host his first event.
Katzenberg’s former business partners at DreamWorks, Geffen and Spielberg, will be at the Smith and Costos event.