Biden tries to woo donors, bypasses Gaza during glitzy Westside fundraiser

President Joe Biden arrives at Santa Monica Airport in Santa Monica, California, on Friday, December 13.  August 8, 2023. Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., third from left, and Governor of California.  Gavin Newsom, left, and Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, right, watch.  (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

Biden tries to woo donors, bypasses Gaza during glitzy Westside fundraiser

Elections 2024, Homepage News, Israel-Hamas

Laura J. Nelson
Courtney Subramanian

Dec. 9, 2023

President Biden’s arrival in Los Angeles for a weekend of campaign fundraising was greeted not only by well-heeled supporters, but also by hundreds of protesters who gathered outside a glitzy Westside fundraiser to call for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

The Friday evening fundraiser was held at the Holmby Hills home of James Costos, the U.S. ambassador to Spain under President Obama, and designer Michael Smith, the White House decorator during the Obama administration.

The star-studded event, headlined by musician Lenny Kravitz and co-hosted by filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Rob Reiner, was Biden’s first in Southern California since the end of the writers’ and actors’ strikes and the start of the war between Israel and Hamas in Southern California. October.

In an 11-minute speech to Democratic donors and elected officials, Biden did not address the conflict in Gaza, focusing instead on the threat he said Donald Trump poses to democracy.

“The future of American democracy is literally at stake,” Biden said. ‘It’s all at stake. Leave it to me


clear: Donald Trump poses many threats to the country, from the right to choose, to civil rights, to voting rights, and to America’s position in the world. But the biggest threat Trump poses is to our democracy, because if we lose it, we lose everything.”

In a lush backyard surrounded by tall hedges, hundreds of guests listened to live jazz, drank cocktails and ate organic hot dogs made from grass-fed beef. Many guests had jackets or white pashmina with them


to guard against the 55 degree night.

Hours before the event, hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters began gathering in a public park across the street, calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and for the United States to cut financial and military aid to Israel to end.

As guests walked to the fundraiser dressed in suits, ties and cocktail attire, protesters chanted at them, “Shame on you!” and, “What we want is total freedom.”

Much of the crowd had thinned out by the time the fundraising programming began in earnest, but helicopters continued to fly overhead. During brief remarks from First Lady Jill Biden and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the crowd heard the faint but unmistakable sound of air horns.

More than 300 people were expected at the fundraiser, some of whom flew in from Texas, Washington, Boston and other parts of the country, Costos said in an interview with The Times.

“These aren’t just Hollywood glitterati, you know, this really looks like a rally,” he said, as Kravitz could be heard in the background doing a sound check.

Biden landed at Los Angeles International Airport around 5 p.m. and flew on Marine One to Santa Monica Airport, where he was greeted by California’s governor. Gavin Newsom, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass and other local elected officials. The presidential motorcade briefly closed the 405 Freeway as it headed north to the fundraiser.

Hamas’ Oct. The September 7 attack targeting Jews in Israel, and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza in the days that followed, have exposed dramatic divisions among Democrats over a war that


thousands of people died, mostly Palestinians.

A Pew Research Center poll released Friday found that the Biden administration’s handling of the war in Gaza was far less popular with young Democrats. Last week’s poll showed that 21% of the population

voting age

Democrats under 30 approve of Biden’s handling of the war, compared with 74% of Democrats 65 and older.

Overall, about 1 in 3 Americans approved of Biden’s response to the war, 4 in 10 disapproved and about 1 in 4 were unsure, the poll found.

Campaign officials say intraparty divisions over Biden’s handling of the conflict have not hampered fundraising and in some cases have motivated donors to implement tougher checks.

The tensions over the war are a “snapshot of a moment in time,” said Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of DreamWorks Pictures and co-chairman of the Biden campaign, who has been a central figure in the president’s reelection efforts.

“These things are happening every day and the emotions surrounding them will change,” Katzenberg said. “Trying to predict how young people will act or react, or what they will do when they go to the polls in 10 months, is an insane exercise in futility.”

The Chairman and

first lady

They are expected to attend six events, a mix of private fundraisers and gatherings in between


36 hour visit to Los Angeles.

The trip is part of a year-end fundraising campaign aimed at boosting Biden’s fourth-quarter revenue to a target of about $67 million, according to a source familiar with campaign figures.

Katzenberg said each event has its maximum capacity,


he expects Biden’s visit to Los Angeles to be the biggest fundraiser for any candidate in a year leading up to an election year.

To attend Friday night’s event, donors could contribute up to $929,600 to the Biden Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee supporting the president’s reelection campaign, the Democratic National Committee and state Democratic parties.

The star-studded Hollywood fundraisers are a group of Democratic candidates who rely on California donors to fund their campaigns. But glitzy events like this have been on hold for most of the year amid the twin strikes of the actors’ and writers’ guilds. Writers went on strike for 148 days and actors for 118 days between May and November amid disputes over wages, benefits, revenue streams and the use of artificial intelligence.

“I think there is pent-up interest and excitement and enthusiasm to actually have President Biden in person,” Katzenberg said. “It is not lost on anyone how important and effective his leadership has been.”

The other co-hosts of Friday’s star-studded event included producers Shonda Rhimes and Peter Chernin, businessman and former LA mayoral candidate Rick Caruso and several former U.S. ambassadors.


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