Washington prepares for its annual edition of dining with the stars

George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon and Steven Spielberg are among the celebrity guests at this year's White House Correspondents' Association dinner, an event that has seen its star power grow over the years.

The annual gathering — a fundraiser for journalism scholarships — takes place at the Washington Hilton Hotel on April 28.

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But the growth in the dinner’s stature means the scramble for guests begins months in advance, and that, in turn, has transformed the one-night gala into a weekend-long event.

Seven parties, including one hosted by The Hill, get the celebration started on Friday evening. And the festivities conclude on Sunday with John McLaughlin’s traditional brunch. Sandwiched in between are another brunch, multiple pre-dinner receptions and four after-dinner parties.

Media guru Tammy Haddad, who hosts a brunch the Saturday afternoon of the dinner, said social media has contributed to the explosion of interest in what was once an inside-the-Beltway event.

“The Internet has made politics more accessible and more relatable to power centers around the country,” she explained.

The infusion of star power began in 1987, when then-Baltimore Sun reporter Michael Kelly invited Fawn Hill, of the Iran-Contra scandal.

Twenty-five years later, the dinner has turned into a competition among the news organizations for the most head-turning celebrity guests — along with the best (and the most) tables.

Not all media outlets have released their guest lists — or the full list of attendees — because celebrities have been known to cancel at the last minute, but The Hill has learned several names from among the chosen few who are invited by news companies to attend the exclusive event. 

Those include “The Help” actress Viola Davis, "Modern Family" star Sofia Vergara, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd and Dakota Fanning.

They’ll join major figures of President Obama’s reelection team and his administration, including chief adviser David Axelrod, CIA Director and retired Gen. David Petraeus, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown Law student who became a national figure thanks to Rush Limbaugh, will attend, as will New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and controversial conservative Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.).

What follows is a list of guests and parties surrounding the dinner. Please note the dinner and parties are invitation-only (and, yes, they are strict about checking).


Thursday, April 26

The National Journal and Hotline will host Political Pursuit, a trivia contest featuring members of the media, lawmakers and pundits, at the Newseum.

Lanmark Technology Inc. President and CEO Lani Hay, Elle magazine and the Creative Coalition will host a private dinner to celebrate women in media —including honorees CBS’s Norah O’Donnell and MSNBC’s Alex Wagner — at the Ritz-Carlton. 

Lani Hay and Rock the Vote will also host an official “Off the Record” post-party at Hay’s home that will feature live music performances. 


Friday, April 27

The Hill hosts a cocktail reception at the Turkish Embassy residence.

Google and The Hollywood Reporter team up to host a party for leaders from the worlds of politics, technology and entertainment. The exclusive event at the W Hotel will be co-hosted by Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt and Hollywood Reporter editorial director Janice Min.

Atlantic Media Co. owner David Bradley and his wife, Katherine, will host their annual welcome dinner at their home. The evening will bring together leaders from business, politics and media, as well as celebrities. 

People and Time will give a cocktail party at the St. Regis Hotel hosted by People managing editor Larry Hackett and Washington correspondent Sandra Sobieraj Westfall and Time managing editor Rick Stengel and Washington bureau chief Michael Duffy.

New Yorker editor David Remnick hosts a cocktail party on the rooftop of the W Hotel.

Voto Latino and Rosario Dawson host a reception celebrating diversity in the media at the Hay-Adams Hotel. Honored guests include MSNBC President Phil Griffin, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington and BET CEO Debra Lee.

The Atlantic, National Journal and IMPACT Arts + Film Fund will host The First Amendment Party with Funny or Die in a customized pop-up space at 1800 L St. NW. 


Saturday, April 28

Tammy Haddad hosts her annual brunch at the home of Mark Ein. The event will honor Steve and Jean Case for their entrepreneurial spirit and Susan Axelrod for her work with CURE. The co-hosts of the brunch include Stan Greenberg, Bloomberg’s Kevin Sheekey, Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen, GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, Café Milano's Franco Nuschese, BiZBash Media’s David Adler and NYSE Euronext’s Clarke Camper.

The White House Correspondents’ Association dinner begins at 8 p.m. Jimmy Kimmel is the emcee and President Obama will speak. C-SPAN airs the event live.

Bloomberg and Vanity Fair host an after-party at the French ambassador’s residence.

MSNBC is hosting an after-party at the Italian Embassy.

Capitol File magazine hosts its seventh annual after-party at the Newseum.

Thomson Reuters will host both pre- and post-parties in the Georgetown Room at the Washington Hilton.


Sunday, April 29

John McLaughlin, host of “The McLaughlin Group,” and Reuters News editor in chief Stephen Adler will host a correspondents’ brunch at the Hay-Adams Hotel.


Guest list:

ABC:

Sofia Vergara
Jesse Tyler Ferguson
Julie Bowen
Eric Stonestreet
Elizabeth Banks
Paul Rudd
Christa Miller
Bill Lawrence
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie (R)
President Obama adviser David Axelrod
National Security Adviser Tom Donilon
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno

CBS:

Claire Danes
Christine Baranski
Daniel Dae Kim
Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.)
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan
Army Lt. Gen. George Flynn
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice
Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)
Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger 

Fortune:

Rashida Jones

Newsweek/The Daily Beast:

Reese Witherspoon
Viola Davis
J.R. Martinez
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.)
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.)
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D)
CIA Director David Petraeus
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano
U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer

Huffington Post:

Sandra Fluke
Dakota Fanning
Daniel Day-Lewis and Rebecca Miller
Anna Paquin
Stephen Moyer
Darren Criss
Nasim Pedrad
Attorney General Eric Holder
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer 

NBC:

Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix

Time:

George Clooney
Stacy Keibler
Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta

The Atlantic/National Journal:

Rosario Dawson
José Andrés
Darren Star
Dreamworks Studio CEO Stacey Snider
White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Nancy Ann DeParle

Washington Times:

Uggie, the dog from “The Artist”