Tuesday 6 December 2016

Hollywood's elite refuse to bankroll Obama again

Nick Allen in Los Angeles

Published 26/09/2011 | 05:00

US President Barack Obama. Photo: Getty Images
US President Barack Obama. Photo: Getty Images

Barack Obama arrived in Hollywood four years ago with a star-studded fundraiser on Oprah Winfrey's lawn that featured Stevie Wonder in an event that helped propel him to the White House.

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Surrounded by celebrities and movie power players like Will Smith and Halle Berry, he was the political darling of the entertainment industry's liberal elite.

But Mr Obama's return to the West Coast yesterday was much less glamorous, reflecting how much his star has waned.

Instead of Winfrey's house, he will be at the less glamorous 'House of Blues' nightclub on Hollywood's Sunset Strip with the rap singer B.O.B, a DJ called Adam 12, and The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. Tickets for the event, hosted by a sitcom actor, have been available for just $250 (e185).

Hollywood is traditionally seen as a cash machine for campaigning Democratic candidates. In his first presidential campaign he found nothing but generous friends and open chequebooks.

But some of those wealthy supporters now feel frustrated by what they see as lack of progress on issues including the environment, gay rights, withdrawal from Afghanistan and closing Guantanamo Bay.

While few are openly criticising the president, much less supporting any of his possible Republican opponents, the word "disappointment" is surfacing regularly.

A string of other big name backers from four years ago have yet to donate at all. They include Matt Damon, who has been perhaps the most critical of Mr Obama's A-list friends.

The outspoken actor was voicing the feelings of many when he said recently that he wasn't happy with the job the president was doing and "wants more" from him.

Damon said: "I really think he misinterpreted his mandate. A friend of mine said to me the other day, and I thought it was a great line, 'I no longer hope for audacity.'"

Robert Redford also expressed his disillusionment with the president on issues including Arctic drilling and clean air.

The veteran actor and director said: "Like so many others, I'm beginning to wonder just where the man stands. I'm waiting for him to stand up for our future. But we can't wait forever. What good is it to say the right thing unless you act on it?"

Another leading entertainment executive said: "He's not the idealistic guy we thought he would be. Everyone I talk to is disappointed."

While Mr Obama has portrayed himself as calm and collected, many in Hollywood want to see less detachment and more emotion. Spike Lee, the film director, said: "One time, go off!"

Mr Obama's campaign team is aiming to raise $7m (e5.2m) from his three-day swing along the west coast, which also includes the states of Washington and Colorado.

Friends

But much of the money will come from friends at technology companies in Silicon Valley rather than Hollywood.

The biggest money spinner is expected to be a $35,800 (e26,000)-a-plate dinner at the home of Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg.

His approval rating in the heavily Democratic state of California has now fallen to a record low, dropping below 50pc for the first time.

And days ahead of his visit Mr Obama's campaign office in Los Angeles was shot at with air rifle pellets, and had its windows broken.

Police called it a "politically motivated" attack, and the FBI and Secret Service are investigating. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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