President bids to capitalise with glitzy fundraisers

President Barack Obama was testing his newest appeal to wealthy backers last night — his hours-old public — support for gay marriage when he travelled to the West Coast for three fundraisers, including a record-setting one at the Los Angeles home of movie star George Clooney.

Last night’s event featuring Clooney and Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of Dreamworks, was promoted by Obama backers as the top fundraising vehicle of the year.

With 150 guests paying $40,000 a ticket to attend, it was worth $15m.

The Obama campaign also emailed an appeal to donors following his ABC News interview in which he announced his support for gay marriage, ending years of vacillation and reversing his earlier opposition.

’I decided it was time to affirm my personal belief that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry,’ said the note, addressed from Obama, which asks for donations.

Before the Los Angeles stop, Obama appeared at two fundraisers in Seattle. One a brunch for 70 guests, with tickets at $17,900, according to a campaign official. A larger fundraiser drew 1,800 guests with tickets starting at $1,000.

Obama’s campaign moved quickly to capitalise on his newly announced support for gay marriage, releasing a video that called his Republican challenger Mitt Romney backward on the issue.

The internet video titled Mitt Romney: Backwards on Equality opens with Mr Obama saying same-sex couples should have the right to marry, then shows a clip of Mr Romney saying that he opposes gay marriage and favours rolling back some rights for same-sex couples.

Mr Obama’s aides hope his support for gay marriage will energise Democrats, though they acknowledge the issue could hurt him with socially conservative independent voters.

Meanwhile the sold-out fundraiser at the home of Clooney was a blockbuster mix of high celebrity, big money and committed activism. In one single evening, the Obama camp and the Democratic Party was expected to collect more than Romney has amassed in his best single month of fundraising.

“I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient,” Mr Obama said. But he added that now, “it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

His support for gay marriage is a huge symbolic step, but it does nothing to change the legal status for gays who wish to wed.


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