President Obama in California gold rush

President Obama’s campaign is increasingly focusing its fundraising efforts on California, where Obama on Wednesday will make his third trip in a month to attend five fundraisers.

Silicon Valley and Hollywood are Obama’s hottest spots to raise money, and the spigots have opened wider since Obama last month went public with his personal endorsement of gay marriage, which went over particularly well with California donors.

The president’s trip on Wednesday will be his 16th visit to California since entering office.


To be sure, the Golden State has always been a major cash machine for Democratic candidates — and even some Republicans. Sixteen of Obama’s top bundlers — including DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg  —  hail from California. But the state’s importance to the president has increased as Wall Street has cooled to Obama because of his attacks on Mitt Romney’s private-equity background at Bain Capital.

“California has always been the go-to, but it’s becoming that way more than ever this cycle,” said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant based in the Golden State.

While Obama might be losing support among investment bankers and hedge fund managers, he’s tapping into the munificence of Silicon Valley, where business has continued to prosper under his presidency, Lehane said. 

“At some level you have concern from Wall Street donor types about this president’s approach to private equity, and what it has generated is a stronger interest in cultivating money from California, and specifically the tech community,” Lehane said. “Whatever the level of drop-off from Wall Street, he’s more than made up for it with [the support] he’s gotten from the tech base, San Francisco and Hollywood.”

Obama has spent the bulk of his time in California on fundraising junkets — including a much-hyped fundraiser with A-lister George Clooney, which pulled in $15 million. The California News Service estimated recently that 80 percent of his trips have included at least one fundraiser.

And when Obama visits the state on Wednesday and Thursday, with two stops in San Francisco and three stops in Los Angeles, he’ll reap the financial benefits of his endorsement of same-sex marriage, observers say. 

Ted Johnson, who writes the popular Wilshire and Washington blog for Variety, points to one example as proof: Ticket demand for an LGBT gala Wednesday night in Los Angeles spiked after Obama’s gay-marriage declaration, and a separate dinner — hosted by “Glee” co-creator Ryan Murphy — was added to the schedule. 

“The campaign is definitely seeing the demand in California this year,” Johnson said. “Just the fact that he was here three weeks ago and now he’s back is proof of that.”

In addition to the president’s fundraising stops, the Obama-backed Priorities USA super-PAC is pulling money in the state, where many of its major donors reside.

“In California, where donors are animated by issues like choice, the environment and stem cell research, there are a lot of people rightfully worried about the prospect of a Romney presidency,” said one Democratic official who works with the super-PAC.

The California support takes the pressure off New York, which has been a pivotal fueling station for Democratic and Republican candidates alike as they fill their campaign coffers. While Obama received some support from Wall Street during the 2008 presidential race, it might have suffered slightly because of the perceived attack on private equity and his backing of the Buffett Rule, observers say.

“There are some on Wall Street who see [Romney] as someone who is much more of their own,” said Anthony Corrado, a professor of government at Colby College who specializes in campaign finance. “There are still some people who will support [Obama], but he’s not going to rise to the levels he raised in 2008.”

Corrado pointed to the trio of New York fundraisers earlier this week, where Obama — appearing alongside former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonThe world's most passionate UFO skeptic versus the government How 'constructive ambiguity' has failed Israelis and Palestinians The Memo: The center strikes back MORE— raked in an estimated $3.6 million.

“It was a successful fundraising swing, but it took the power of two presidents to achieve that success,” he said.

One Obama donor said it’s “obvious” that Obama needs to look elsewhere to make up for the disappointment some feel on Wall Street.

“But he’s still pulling money in from the fashion world in New York and other industries, and he’ll do just fine on the West Coast,” the donor said.

Obama isn’t the only one trying to cash in on California’s riches. Romney — who has received more of his financial support from the Golden State than any other —  has also spent a considerable amount of time crisscrossing the state to pick up cash for his campaign.

Last week, he attended a string of fundraisers — including one event hosted by Hyatt heir Anthony Pritzker in Beverly Hills, where tickets cost $50,000 per couple.

Corrado predicted that California voters would be hit up several more times before the campaign really heats up. “It makes sense at this point to be doing all they can in California to try and flex their campaign-finance muscles, particularly now,” he said.

But some Californians have become accustomed to seeing Obama and his motorcade roll through town.

In Los Angeles, where Obama has made a habit of arriving around rush hour, “people were livid” at one point in time, Johnson said.

“Now they’ve accepted it as a fact of life,” he added.