Obama leaves L.A. after star-studded fundraising swing

Obama leaves L.A. after star-studded fundraising swing

By Steven Herbert City News Service

President Barack Obama shakes hands with supporters at a campaign event at the Nokia Theater, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill) (Mark J. Terrill)

LOS ANGELES – About a half-hour behind schedule, President Barack Obama left Los Angeles today bound for Keene in Kern County for the establishment of the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument.

The president left the Beverly Hilton around 9 a.m., about 30 minutes later than scheduled, and was driven to Cheviot Hills Park, where he boarded the military Marine One helicopter for the short flight to Los Angeles International Airport.

Obama spoke at two re-election fundraisers at the L.A. Live entertainment complex Sunday after earlier joining former President Bill Clinton at the home of DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg in Beverly Hills for an event attended by around a dozen people.

The president has been criticized for being so aloof that he even gives major financial donors short shrift. Reporters were barred from the Katzenberg home, but campaign press secretary Jennifer Psaki said the gathering had been “a thank you event for a small group of donors” who either previously donated the maximum amount to Obama’s re-election effort “or contributed a high amount.”

Obama traveled to the foothills of the Tehachapis to a property that was home to United Farm Workers of America Founder Cesar Chavez for more than 20 years and where the union still maintains its headquarters.

In a move expected to extend his already dominating lead among Latino voters, he was scheduled to designate 105 acres of the property — known as Nuestra

Senora Reina de la Paz (Our Lady Queen of Peace), or just as La Paz — as a national monument within the National Park system.On Sunday, in a 22-minute speech to a crowd of about 6,000 following a fundraising concert at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, Obama said his accomplishments included ending the Iraq War, winding down the U.S. role in the Afghanistan conflict, the passage of health care legislation, and the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

He again argued that a November victory by Republican former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney would mean a return to failed economic policies favoring the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

“The last thing we can afford right now is four years of the very same policies that led us to the crises in the first place,” he said. “That’s why I’m running for a second term as president of the United States.”

The Romney campaign released a new TV ad Sunday with the tag line, “We can’t afford four more years,” highlighting a study released Tuesday by the American Enterprise Institute, which found the annual cost of Obama’s current and looming debt amounts to $4,000 per year in higher taxes on the middle class.

Jon Bon Jovi; Earth, Wind and Fire; Jennifer Hudson; Katy Perry; and Stevie Wonder performed at Sunday’s pro-Obama concert, dubbed “30 Days to Victory.”

“They just perform flawlessly night after night. I can’t always say the same,” Obama said in a self-deprecating allusion to his performance in Wednesday’s debate with Romney, which was was slammed — most vociferously by the president’s own supporters — as spectacularly weak.

Actor George Clooney, L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, Texas, the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention, also spoke Sunday. Ticket prices ranged from $44 to $2,500.

After the concert, Obama spoke for 18 minutes to about 120 guests — including Clooney; actor and “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane, who will host the next Academy Awards; and film producer Harvey Weinstein — at a $25,000 per person fundraising dinner at WP24 by Wolfgang Puck on the 24th floor of the Ritz-Carlton at L.A. Live.

The president recounted how people have told him they have been helped by the new health care law, which Romney has vowed to dismantle starting his first day in office if he is elected. Among them was the waiter who served him and the first lady when they belatedly celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary — it had coincided with Wednesday’s debate — at a Washington restaurant on Saturday.

“At the end of the dinner he just said, `I wanted to just say how much I appreciate you because you saved my mother’s life,”‘ Obama said. The waiter said his mother suffered a stroke, “and because of the Affordable Care Act, we were able to get her coverage that allows her to take her medicines and is keeping her alive,” the president related.

Proceeds from Sunday’s fundraisers will go to the Obama Victory Fund, which groups Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and several state Democratic parties. A fundraising total was not announced.

The trip was Obama’s 12th to the Los Angeles area since taking office, the ninth solely for political fundraising. He has spoken at political fundraisers during all but his first visit to the region as president.

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