President Barack Obama left Los Angeles today for Reno, Nev., after spending the previous evening at actor George Clooney's home for what is believed to have been the most lucrative fundraiser for a U.S. presidential candidate.
DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of the event's organizers, said nearly $15 million was raised from Thursday night's $40,000-per-person event at Clooney's sprawling Studio City residence, where Barbra Streisand, Robert Downey Jr., Tobey Maguire, Jack Black, Billy Crystal, Salma Hayek and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were among the 150 people in attendance.
Two-thirds of the funds raised came from supporters who took part in a contest to win seats for the event. The winners were Beth Topinka, a science teacher from Manalapan, N.J.; and Karen Blutcher, a St. Augustine, Fla., mother of a 5-year-old son with Down syndrome.
Both brought their husbands -- Jerry Topinka and Patrick Blutcher -- to the dinner, which was catered by Wolfgang Puck.
The event benefited the Obama Victory Fund, with funds going to Obama for America, his re-election campaign, the Democratic National Committee and several state parties. In Reno, Obama will prod Congress to act on the next initiative on the "to do list,'' cutting red tape so homeowners who have been paying their mortgages on time can feel secure in their homes and refinance at today's lower rates, the White House said. He will leave Reno-Tahoe International Airport for Washington, D.C., this afternoon.
At the Clooney home, Obama spoke for 19 minutes, giving his standard stump speech, recalling the difficult economic times when he took office in 2009, then touted recent job creation, the comeback of General Motors from bankruptcy, passage of health care legislation and doubling automotive fuel efficiency standards.
Obama said his support of same-sex marriage, which he disclosed Wednesday in an interview with ABC, was "the logical extension of what America is supposed to be'' and "grew directly out" of the difference in vision between the Democratic and Republican parties.
"Are we a country that includes everybody and gives everybody a shot and treats everybody fairly and is ... going to make us stronger?'' Obama said. "Are we welcoming to immigrants? Are we welcoming to people who aren't like us? Does that make us stronger? I believe it does.''
The president also told his well-heeled supporters that the fact "folks are still hurting'' means that "this (campaign) is going to be harder than it was last time.''
"Two-thousand-and-eight in some ways was lightning in a bottle. That's not going to be replicated and we shouldn't expect it to,'' Obama said.
The trip was Obama's 10th to the Los Angeles area since taking office, the seventh solely for political fundraising. Obama has spoken at political fundraisers during all but his first visit to Southern California as president.