Obama's Hollywood searchlight finds firm of major donor
Producer Jeffrey Katzenberg attends the premiere of Shrek The Third at Clearview Chelsea West Cinemas May 14, 2007 in New York City.
November 26th, 2013
07:26 AM ET
5 months ago

Obama's Hollywood searchlight finds firm of major donor

Update 4:58 p.m. ET, 11/26/2013

Glendale, California (CNN) – American moviemakers have helped fuel a recovering economy, President Barack Obama told some of Tinseltown's most powerful players on Tuesday.

Delivering remarks at the animation studio headed by one of his top financial backers, Obama called the entertainment industry "one of the bright spots of our economy," employing thousands of Southern Californians who create a top American export.

"The gap between what we can do and what other countries can do is enormous," Obama said at DreamWorks Animation, headed by Jeffrey Katzenberg. He added later that U.S. studios "helped shape the world culture in a way that makes the world better."

Hollywood's highly paid studio executives, agents, lawyers and movie stars have long provided Democrats with a reliable source of campaign cash - and have provided a draw for regular donors as well. During the 2012 presidential election, the President's campaign raffled off access to events with George Clooney, Sarah Jessica Parker, and other stars. The Clooney event netted a reported $15 million.

In all, the entertainment industry formed the fourth largest sector for Obama fundraising in 2012. The reliance on celebrity cash has drawn critics - in 2008, John McCain ran an ad comparing the President to Paris Hilton.

During his speech to a supportive crowd on Tuesday, Obama blasted Republicans who he said were solely focused on blocking his signature health care legislation.

"We'd be a lot further along if we could just get folks to act with some sense. If we didn't have one wing of one party that was obsessed with repealing health care for 40 million people," he said.

Katzenberg brought in almost $1.9 million for the President in 2012, according to Opensecrets.org; in August of this year, Obama and the animation mogul had a private dinner in the President's hotel after a Tonight Show taping.

DreamWorks, the studio behind the massively popular "Shrek" franchise, has been ranked as one Fortune Magazine's best places to work, partly for the expansive, Mediterranean-style campus where the studio is based in Glendale. That's where Obama spoke Tuesday. The studio employs more than a thousand workers; however, a poor box office for "Rise of the Guardians" earlier this year forced DreamWorks to lay off 350.

At the time of the staff reduction, in February, Katzenberg told "The Hollywood Reporter" the layoffs were "the hardest thing I've had to do since we started DreamWorks."

In the months since the layoffs, some new jobs have been added at DreamWorks; in all, the entertainment industry has added jobs over the last year and employment is up 5.5% since the end of the recession. However, like manufacturing and customer service positions, animators and certain technical roles risk being outsourced to countries with cheaper labor.

Southern California, where the President also raised money for Congressional Democrats, is home to virtually all of the country's movie and animation outlets, meaning Obama could have chosen any number of places to highlight the entertainment industry's importance in the overall economy. He did meet with leaders of several studios and media conglomerates Tuesday, including Walt Disney, NBC Universal, and Warner Brothers.

A White House spokesman said Monday that Katzenberg's financial ties to Obama and Democrats didn't play a role in the choice of venue.

"Contributing to the President's campaign or being a political supporter of the President doesn't guarantee a presidential visit, but it shouldn't exclude you from one either," Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest said aboard Air Force One.


Filed under: California • President Obama
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Gurgyl

    Absolutely Nothing wrong with ACA Law. Wrong lies with GOP garbage. O.k.

    November 26, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  2. RIchard Long

    Fundraiser-In-Chief rubbing elbows with Hollywood elite while millions of 'commoners':
    - get their healthcare policies eliminated
    - have to pay higher insurance rates
    - still having to deal with a 7+% unemployment rate
    - have to face a $17 Trillion debt

    Let them eat cake!

    November 26, 2013 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  3. Rudy NYC

    Layoffs at Dreamworks is not too surprising. Dreamworks hasn't exactly been hitting it out of the park lately. The "Shrek" series went from great to okay to awful. They're also responsible for the "Transformers" series of big budget, sci-fi films, which have been mediocre at best.

    November 26, 2013 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  4. william ball

    This is exactly where Obama belongs

    November 26, 2013 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  5. rla

    It would be nice if this president actually knew what his job entailed and he had the skill and background to do it ! Instead he thinks fund raising and campaigning are best for America.... How sad!

    November 26, 2013 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  6. absolute%win

    ok,tea party never invited me,i reject anyway.,no invite to WH.OK.stuck with silly obsevations.bobby gentry may be conseves only hope,but he doesn't want it.who could blame him.even cristy.rand.hillary.anticipate his next driven move.must be boring for all.and intrest the rest.

    November 26, 2013 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  7. Jim

    Dear Mr. President, stop campaigning and lead this country. Stop sucking up to the vapid stars of Hollywood, you're not a rock star, you're the President. Please act like it.

    November 26, 2013 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  8. Gurgyl

    -–because of this ACA Law, one could keep kids till 26 years, keep insurance regardless of insurance thugs DENY PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS, have insurance not lose homes by greedy hospital rampant multiple Needless tests, etc. O.k. ACA is a Law. Cut reimbursement for unneeded admissions to Hospitals, fee etc.

    November 26, 2013 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  9. Malory Archer

    RIchard Long

    Fundraiser-In-Chief rubbing elbows with Hollywood elite while millions of 'commoners':
    - get their healthcare policies eliminated
    - have to pay higher insurance rates
    - still having to deal with a 7+% unemployment rate
    - have to face a $17 Trillion debt

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    I know, right? How DARE he waste his time with those "libruls" who provide entertainment for our children when he could be rubbing elbows with weapons manufacturers and vulture capitalists!

    November 26, 2013 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  10. $$$$

    @Jim
    Dear Mr. President, stop campaigning and lead this country. Stop sucking up to the vapid stars of Hollywood, you're not a rock star, you're the President. Please act like it.
    ------
    I could not have said it better.

    November 26, 2013 09:39 am at 9:39 am |