Despite trade clash, Obama and Pelosi fundraising together
WASHINGTON (AP) — In the midst of their clash over trade policy, President Barack Obama and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi are coming together in the common cause of raising campaign cash during a presidential visit to California beginning Thursday.
Obama's four-day trip is heavy on high-dollar fundraisers during a low-point of party unity, but also features an interview with a comedian who runs a podcast out of his garage, an address to mayors and the prospect of golf during a Father's Day weekend with his family overseas.
In a twist of awkward timing, Pelosi is bringing the president to her San Francisco district for his first fundraiser to benefit Democratic House candidates in the 2016 race — including many of the very lawmakers who delivered Obama a stinging defeat last week in his effort to complete trade negotiations with 11 Pacific Rim nations.
"This is the family reunion that takes place right after the big blowout," said Mo Elleithee, executive director of the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service and the former spokesman for the DNC. "You still are going to go to the reunion and you still are family."
The Friday afternoon event with Pelosi is one of four fundraisers Obama plans to headline over the next two days, with ticket prices for each costing up to $33,400. He also plans to raise money for the Democratic National Committee, including two more intimate closed-door discussions and a bigger Beverly Hills event Thursday night hosted by filmmaker Tyler Perry.
Democratic officials indicated Obama and Pelosi would try to use their joint appearance at the Sea Cliff home of retired hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer to make a show of unity on a progressive agenda, even as the trade effort the president has been promoting for years hangs in the balance over House Democratic revolt. "The strength of their personal and professional relationship is more than enough to withstand a difference over one particular policy issue, even one that's as important as this one," Obama press secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday.
Pelosi has rejected the notion that she betrayed Obama. The two made conciliatory moves as they were seen speaking at Wednesday night's annual congressional picnic on the White House South Lawn, as Pelosi's granddaughter gave the president some pineapple mints with his face on the tin that she bought during a recent Hawaii trip.
"Obviously, democracy can be contentious," Obama said to the assembled lawmakers. "There are times where people have deep, principled disagreements. But I hope that events like today remind us that ultimately we're all on the same team — and that's the American team."
Before leaving Los Angeles Friday morning, Obama plans to sit for a lengthy interview with comedian Marc Maron, who hosts a popular podcast called WTF. Then he flies to San Francisco and will speak to the U.S. Conference of Mayors before his fundraisers with Bay-area donors.
On Saturday and Sunday, Obama plans some down time in Palm Springs, where he favors the golf at the Sunnylands estate and Porcupine Creek, a course owned by software billionaire Larry Ellison. He will not have any family along on the desert getaway, with his wife and daughters on a European tour.
The two smaller fundraisers Obama is headlining each feature a private discussion with about 30 donors, closed to the media. The first on Thursday afternoon is being hosted by television series creator Chuck Lorre in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood on the west side of Los Angeles. The second is on Friday in San Francisco hosted by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar.
Those fundraisers ultimately stand to benefit the eventual 2016 Democratic presidential nominee since they will fill the party coffers. And front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton plans to be a day behind Obama in the hunt for donations in California — planning her own fundraisers Friday in Los Angeles and Saturday in San Francisco — although her campaign is limited to $2,700 donations while Obama can bring in much larger amounts for the party.
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