California dreaming: Obama bags big political donations in Silicon Valley, Hollywood


For President Obama, there's gold in the Golden State. According to the California News Service, he's making his 15th trip to the state as president, trips that have included 35 fundraisers. Many of those have oscillated between two important fundraising constituences for the president — Hollywood and Silicon Valley. With Obama's three fundraisers today and tomorrow, this time it's NorCal's tech community that is getting the chance to shower multi-thousand dollar checks to the president. 

There are conflicting signs about which community can be a bigger fundraising draw for the president and his allies. The vast majority of donations to the super PAC supporting Obama come from Hollywood, and, as of last year, Hollywood was still beating Silicon Valley in total donations to the president. Politico reported today that this point in the 2008 campaign, Obama had received about twice as many big donations from the valley as he has so far in this cycle.

On the other hand, there are signs that Hollywood's fundraising advantage over its equally well-heeled California neighbors may be diminishing, and in a recent high profile battle between Hollywood and Silicon Valley over antipiracy legislation, Obama chose the Valley.

In 2011, Obama and the joint committee that split money between his campaign and the DNC took in $4.7 million from Silicon Valley, just short of the $5.5 million he got from Hollywood in 2011, according to Influence Explorer. That gap is less pronounced than it was in 2007 and 2008 when Obama raised $16.1 million from Hollywood, compared to $11.1 million from Silicon Valley. The numbers are calculated by looking at campaign contributions by sectors defined by the Center for Responsive Politics — TV, Movies and Music on one hand and Computers and Internet, on the other. 

Even so, Hollywood is still important to the president: On his last trip to California, two weeks ago, he raised an eye-popping $15 million, thought to be the most ever for a single event, at the home of actor George Clooney. Of Obama's bundlers, Hollywood has raised at least $7.3 million compared to $4.9 million for Silicon Valley, according to the CRP.

Just as the Obama campaign focuses on California, so does the super PAC supporting him. One-fifth of his re-election committee's funds have come from the Golden State, according to California News Service. Meanwhile about half of the funds raised by Priorities USA Action, the super PAC that Obama's supporters have started to back his reelection, have come from California.

About one third of the super PAC's funds come from deep-pocketed Hollywood executives and stars. No big donors come from Silicon Valley and only a handful of smaller donors—under $1,000—are from the tech sector, according to Sunlight's Follow the Unlimited Money tracker.

Those figures could change after Wednesday's fundraisers, which include a 6 p.m. event at a theater in Redwood City, where the president will speak and tickets go for between $1,000 and $7,500. Before that, there is a $35,800-per-plate dinner at the Atherton home of Lisa and Doug Goldman, who is an heir to Levi Strauss. On Thursday morning, Obama is off to a $35,800-per-head roundtable with Asian American Pacific Islanders in San Jose — an event originally scheduled for Palo Alto but moved "for logistical purposes," the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

While Obama won't be raising money for his super PAC, Sunlight has noticed an uncanny correlation between the location of his campaign fundraisers and the contributions received by Priorities USA.

Also worth noting: the president plans to return to Los Angeles on June 6 for a fundraiser with the LGBT community, an event seeking donations of between $1,250 and $25,000.

Meanwhile, as Obama focuses on California, his presumptive GOP opponent Mitt Romney addressed a Latino business crowd at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., one block away from the White House. 

(Photo credit: Bill Allison)



Updated, 5/23/12, 11:37 p.m. ET: The fraction of money raised by Priorities USA Action from Hollywood was corrected for accuracy from "at least" to "about" one third.