Biden enlists Hollywood to offset Trump’s fundraising boost from conviction

President Joe Biden ‌is ⁣set to host a ​major fundraising event in Los Angeles featuring star⁣ attendees such as former President Barack‍ Obama, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts. The aim is‍ to replicate the ​success of a previous⁤ New York fundraiser that raised $26 million, despite Donald Trump’s surge in campaign funds, partly credited to his $53 million raise following a ⁢conviction in ⁢a hush money trial. The addition of celebrities is‍ considered crucial for ‍generating excitement and donations to Biden’s election campaign,⁢ though experts believe​ the influence of stars on voter decisions might be limited due to ​current political polarization.‌ The event plans to​ involve high-profile activities with tickets priced up to $500,000,⁢ offering exclusive interactions with the⁤ presidents. While Trump and⁣ Republicans criticize Biden’s association with​ Hollywood elites, Democratic⁤ strategists argue that the importance of such ‍fundraising events is to ensure sufficient resources for the campaign rather than ‌directly swaying voters.


President Joe Biden is hoping the sequel will live up to the original when it comes to his campaign’s blockbuster Hollywood fundraiser starring former President Barack Obama, George Clooney, and Julia Roberts.

A similarly star-studded event in New York in March that also included former President Bill Clinton helped Biden raise a record $26 million. But since then, former President Donald Trump, Biden’s 2024 Republican rival, has experienced a cash bonanza, raising $53 million during the first 24 hours after he was convicted in his hush money trial in May alone.

The star power of Clooney, Roberts, and even Obama for Biden’s fundraiser in Los Angeles on Saturday is “huge” for his campaign and his campaign coffers, according to University of Southern California political science professor Christian Grose.

“The celebrities help create an excitement around the event and likely yield more donations,” Grose told the Washington Examiner.

FILE – George Clooney and his wife, Amal Clooney, pose for photographers upon arrival at the screening of the film The Boys In The Boat, Sunday, Dec. 3, 2023, in London. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali/Invision/AP, File)

Democrats have had a celebrity advantage for so long that it is almost assumed in elections, George Mason University political science professor Jeremy Mayer added, agreeing that it helps with fundraising and “gets their message out in nontraditional formats and channels.”

“However, because of polarization, it is unlikely to make a big difference at the polls,” Mayer told the Washington Examiner. “Those people who were going to be swayed by George Clooney or Robert DeNiro or Kid Rock are already behind a candidate. The younger the celebrity, though, the greater the potential for impact. An 18-year-old first-time voter may not be as polarized and loyal as a 40-year-old, and an endorsement from Taylor Swift might make a difference.”

DeNiro was the face of a criticized Biden campaign press conference outside the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse during Trump’s New York hush money trial in May, while Rock has been a longtime Trump supporter. Swift publicly backed Biden in 2020 but has not done so yet this election cycle despite Trump telling House Republicans that she had this week.

Biden’s campaign dismisses speculation there is pressure on the president to raise millions of dollars at the Peacock Theater in downtown LA on Saturday, but Mayer indicated there was. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel is expected to moderate a conversation between Biden and Obama. Musical performers have not been announced, but comedian Keegan-Michael Key and actress Connie Britton are anticipated to attend. Ticket prices start at $250, with $500,000 packages covering a pre-event reception, a photo with the two presidents, and an after-party.

“There is pressure on the Democrats to raise money in the aftermath of Trump’s post-conviction success but no more than before,” Mayer said. “The level of pressure on both parties’ fundraisers really couldn’t get much higher.”

Biden had routinely outraised Trump until April, when the former president’s campaign merged with the Republican National Committee after the GOP primaries. Even Biden’s New York fundraiser, co-hosted by entertainer Mindy Kaling and comic Stephen Colbert at Radio City Music Hall, was overshadowed a week later by a $50.5 million finance event for Trump organized by billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson in Palm Beach, Florida.

Earlier this year, Trump’s campaign committees disclosed to the Federal Election Commission that they had raised $120.5 million through April, with $49 million cash on hand and $719,000 in debts. With nonaffiliated pro-Trump organizations, which have different disclosure deadlines, those numbers increased to $244 million and $107.5 million, respectively, as of May 21, according to political money tracker OpenSecrets. That excludes the $141 million the Trump campaign and RNC claims to have raised last month.

In comparison, the Biden campaign and Democratic National Committee had raised $195 million by April 30, with $84.5 million cash on hand, increasing to $306 million and $159 million with outside groups in May. The Biden camp has not shared any other numbers from last month.

“We’ll see how the numbers actually shake out come July, but one thing’s for certain: Trump’s billionaire friends are propping up the campaign of a white-collar crook because they know the deal — they cut him checks and he cuts their taxes while working people and the middle class pay the tab,” Biden campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa told the Washington Examiner at the time.

President Joe Biden, right, and former presidents Barack Obama, left, and Bill Clinton participate in a fundraising event with Stephen Colbert at Radio City Music Hall, Thursday, March 28, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“Saturday night’s Los Angeles fundraiser will be a show of force and the latest example of excitement and enthusiasm for the president and vice president across our diverse coalition of voters,” a second Biden campaign source said. “Leaders across the entertainment industry are sending a clear signal: They are united and they are excited for our reelection campaign.”

“The money we’re raising matters,” he continued. “Every dollar from Saturday’s haul will be used to open offices, hire organizers, and launch paid media campaigns to communicate directly with the coalition of voters who will decide this election.”

Democratic strategist Mike Nellis, who, like the Biden campaign, downplayed the idea of pressure regarding the Hollywood fundraiser, argued both the president and Trump “will have more than enough resources to execute strong campaigns” and that the race will come down to “execution, messaging, etc.”

“Money is important, but it gets outsized coverage in politics,” Nellis told the Washington Examiner. “There’s a point of diminishing returns for these kinds of elections, especially when it’s essentially a race between two well-known incumbents like Biden and Trump.”

“Celebrity endorsements are nice to have, but I don’t think they’ll move the needle much for swayable voters,” he said. “They’re great at motivating donors and the base though. There’s a few exceptions to that, of course. Oprah [Winfrey] endorsing Obama in 2008 comes to mind. [Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson] endorsing Biden in 2020. The surprise factor and the celebrity’s brand matters a lot.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s campaign has scrutinized Biden for spending the evening with “elitist Hollywood celebrities who can’t relate to the suffering caused by [his] inflation, immigration crisis, and crime.” Trump himself took part in his own Hollywood fundraiser with actor Jon Voight earlier this month.

“While Joe Biden was in New York City for a ritzy fundraiser with Obama, Clinton, and wack jobs like Lizzo, President Trump was attending the wake of fallen [New York City Police Department] officer and hero Jonathan Diller, who was tragically killed in the line of duty by an illegal immigrant,” Trump spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt told the Washington Examiner. “While Joe Biden takes a taxpayer-funded flight from Europe to Los Angeles for his glamorous fundraiser with Clooney, President Trump will be campaigning in Detroit, a city that has been left destitute by Democrat policies for decades.”

Another Republican strategist, John Feehery, was critical of Clooney after reports he called the White House to complain about its opposition to the International Criminal Court seeking indictments for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, in addition to Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al Masri, and Ismail Haniyeh, concerning allegations of war crimes committed amid the Israel-Hamas war. George Clooney’s wife, Amal, an international human rights lawyer, worked on the ICC case for the arrest warrants. Industry strikes delayed Biden’s outreach to Hollywood last year, but it is unknown whether his response to the war in Gaza will have any repercussions for his support in California, more broadly.

“Well, the facts that Clooney’s wife is leading the charge against Israel in the ICC makes Clooney’s money more than a little suspect,” Feehery told the Washington Examiner. “Movie stars are better off giving money without sharing toxic opinions that hurt the candidate. Democrats should be panicked at this point.”

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER

Regardless of Trump’s fundraising, the former president has to pay one type of expense that Biden does not: his mounting legal bills.

“What I think most Republican donors are unaware of is how much of their donation is going to Trump’s legal fees,” Mayer, the professor, said. “If Trump were not running for president, he would be $100 million poorer because he would be required to pay for his own criminal and civil defense attorneys.”



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