President Obama hit the Bay Area for a fast cash-and-grab fundraising drive Wednesday, but there were signs that even in one of the nation’s most reliable Democratic ATMs, donor fatigue is setting in.
There was no listed price for tickets for Obama’s morning appearance at a roundtable in San Francisco for the House Majority PAC – the type of intimate gathering for which admission is usually $32,400 per person, the legal maximum. Some donors said tickets had been offered for a deep discount.
And in Los Altos Hills, the heart of Silicon Valley big money, the president’s appearance at the home of real estate mogul George Marcus drew an older crowd that was noteworthy for the absence of young angel investors, startup stars and tech leaders who have flocked to fundraisers Obama has held while paying 17 previous visits as president to the Bay Area.
Democratic donors who were invited to the San Francisco event, at the Four Seasons Hotel on Market Street, said they had initially been asked to donate as much as $25,000 to sit down with Obama. One who balked at the price said organizers had offered a cut-rate deal of as little as $5,000.
“Five-thousand dollars to sit down with the president for an hour? That’s usually what it costs for a photo of you and your whole family” with Obama, said the invitee, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Organizers at the House Majority PAC said the event wasn’t really a fundraiser.
“There were no tickets or cost of admission,” the group said. “The president is appearing at the event only as a featured speaker and special guest, and is not asking for funds or donations.”
Obama is turning again and again to the Bay Area to raise money – his last visit was less than three months ago – in part because of a U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down limits on donors’ overall campaign contributions, Democratic insiders said.
The court’s decision in April wiped out individual limits of $74,600 in combinated donations to all parties and political action committees, and $48,600 in combined donations to federal candidates per individual.
That decision means super PACs like the House Majority PAC, and party committees such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the beneficiary of the Los Altos Hills fundraiser, are now free to hit up big donors repeatedly.
Lunch on a tennis court
On his last visit to the Bay Area, Obama held a roundtable fundraiser at the Los Altos Hills home of 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki, not far from where Wednesday’s luncheon was held. That event came with a $32,400 per-person price tag.
At the Marcus home, where tickets were $10,000 and up, about 90 guests – including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto – dined under a tent on the tennis court, set amid groves of olive trees.
Obama arrived at the event after taking a helicopter from San Francisco to Foothill College, where he was greeted by Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who is in a tough re-election battle with fellow Democrat and former Obama trade representative Ro Khanna.
The president’s perfunctory stump speech at the fundraiser – at least the portion witnessed by the press pool, which was ushered out for the question-and-answer session – reprised the same themes he addressed in his last visit to the Bay Area. He made no mention in his public remarks of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in Gaza, the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane over Russian separatist-controlled territory in Ukraine or other current events.
Speaking of his frustrations with Washington, Obama said, “As I look back, I realize how many of you have pictures of me with no gray hair. You’re chronicling the slow deterioration of Barack Obama.”
A swipe at Republicans
He told guests that “the reason politics does not work in Washington … is because we have one party that has no agenda other than making government not work – whose primary function, primary purpose right now, if you distill their ideology, comes down to saying ‘no’ to any efforts to help ordinary families get ahead.”
He added, “Some of it is ideologically driven. Some of it is driven by pure political calculation – because what they know is if government is not working, people get cynical, and if people get cynical they do not vote, and if people do not vote that advantages them.”
Reporters were barred from Obama’s earlier event in San Francisco.
Carla Marinucci is senior political writer for The San Francisco Chronicle. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @cmarinucci