President Barack Obama visited Beverly Hills Wednesday for a Democratic National Committee event that was expected to raise between $3 million and $4 million because of a hefty $30,400 price tag.
"There are some people who would pay $300,000 to have dinner with Barack Obama, so in a sense the 30,000 is limiting what people would be willing to pay because he's such a celebrity and people want to meet him," said Robert M. Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies.
Tickets to the reception at the Beverly Hilton, which featured performances Jennifer Hudson and Earth, Wind and Fire and the president. went for a base price of $1,000, VIP seats went for $2,500, according to Hari Sevugan, the national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee.
Admission to what was described as a separate "dinner and discussion" cost $30,400 per couple, which matches the maximum yearly individual contribution to a national committee under federal law.
The reception and dinner were the first Southern California fundraisers Obama had since taking office.
Big donors attend dinners like this not because they think they can influence Obama "as much as they want to have the picture taken with him and tell people I had dinner with the president," said Stern, whose group seeks to create ways to help individuals participate more effectively in their communities and governments.
To Sevugan, the success of tonight's fundraisers, based on the number of tickets sold, was the result of people being "enthusiastic about the president and his policies."
"We're thankful that they are willing to support the party as we attempt to push his agenda forward," Sevugan said.
Obama's fundraising prowess makes it "unlikely that he's going to necessarily remember every person who gives $30,400," Stern said.
However, contributions at that level do mean "your phone call will be returned, not necessarily by the president, but by somebody who is in a position to help you out," Stern said.
California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring said holding a fundraiser in Beverly Hills shows that "Barack Obama is certainly more in tune with the 90210 crowd than he is with rank and file voters or even party
"Here we are in California with our unemployment rate just went above the national average, we've been hit harder than anybody else because of the crisis in the real estate markets and Barack Obama chooses now as time to hit up his friends in the 90210 crowd for political cash," Nehring told City News Service.
Supporters of same-same marriage, opponents of increased U.S. troop deployment to Afghanistan, critics of Obama's decision to attempt to block the court-ordered release of photographs depicting alleged abuse of detainees by CIA interrogators and activists who want Obama to declare the killings of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire between 1915-1917 a genocide protested in a park across Wilshire Boulevard from the hotel.
Obama began his day at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, joining Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in touring a solar photovoltaic array and speaking on the effects of the stimulus bill before flying to Los Angeles aboard Air Force One.
Temporary flight restrictions on private pilots are in effect during Obama's visit. Only airliners, law enforcement aircraft and air ambulances will be allowed within a 12-mile radius of Santa Monica Airport until 7:40 a.m. Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced.
Private pilots are barred from flying into or out of Los Angeles International Airport, Santa Monica Airport, Hawthorne Municipal Airport, Van Nuys Airport and Bob Hope Airport in Burbank.