Second Fundraiser, on Billionaires Row.
After this hush-hush meeting, Obama checked into the hotel, made a very brief unscheduled and unannounced visit to Chinatown restaurant (that sells illegal shark’s fin soup) that I managed to miss (drat!), returned to the hotel for a snooze, and then made his way to the second San Francisco fundraiser of the day, an equally expensive ($38,500 per person) no-riff-raff dinner at the home of billionairess Nicola Miner (who inherited a breathtaking fortune from her father Robert Miner, the guy who co-founded Oracle with Larry Ellison); she’s married to middling novelist Robert Mailer Anderson, who is frequently identified as the “owner” of their home where Obama’s fundraiser took place; but in truth, Nicola is the souce of the couple’s wealth. Larry Ellison, in what is likely not a coincidence, lives right across the street on this most exclusive of blocks, known to locals as “Billionaires Row.” Obama has by now attended three fundraisers on this same block, and I’ve managed to be there every time (for my report on his earlier visits to this block, see Obama Visits Billionaires Row and The Stench of Elitism Hung Heavy in the Air. Also see Obama Visits the S(lush) F(und) Bay Area, for an Obama fundraiser just a few blocks away from Billionaires Row.)
You will notice in those earlier reports that the security around Obama has increased significantly. During his first visit here, during the 2008 presidential campaign, I was able to just walk right up to Obama and shake his hand. During his second and third visits in 2010-11, security was much tighter, but a rubbernecker could at least view the action from a distance.
But this time around — whooooeeee, security was harsh. No only was walking up to Obama and shaking his hand out of the question, but even seeing the building where the fundraiser was to be held was totally forbidden.
I at first tried one access point to Billionaires Row, and met a blockade.
Then I tried another — and encountered another blockade.
In fact, every single street around the neighborhood was blocked off, and the public was not even allowed within a block of any intersection which may have had a vantage point from which Nicola Miner’s house could be glimpsed.
But did that stop me? Nah. Nothing can stop me.
I knew from previous visits here that there is a super-secret location, not even on city property, from which the homes on Billionaires Row can be seen. To make sure everything was kosher, I even walked over to the nearest police contingent and had the following conversation:
“Hi, I —”
“You can’t stay here. Move along. No one is allowed to hang around this area.”
“I know that. I just wanted to ask: Would it be OK if I was way over there?”
“Way, way back over there” [pointing in the exact opposite direction from the cordoned-off area].
“Sure, if you want. Just don’t approach this area.”
“I won’t. Thanks.”
This was all in the pitch dark, at night. Little did the cops (or anyone, apparently) know, but from the spot I was indicating, one could “see” the Obama fundraiser, just so long as you had a camera with an extremely powerful zoom lens.
Unfortunately for me, I don’t have such a camera, but my pocket camera wasn’t half bad, so I was able to capture the following series of images, showing Obama’s motorcade arriving, a limousine pulling up next to the tent, and someone getting out. Was it Obama? I couldn’t say for sure. But it was the best I could do considering the circumstances:
Incredibly, I was the only person of any kind to capture this scene. No media was able to, no protesters, no rubberneckers, no Obama fans; no one but me. A very strange feeling!
Al Green sang the correct version of “Let’s Stay Together” at the bash, but you’ll never get to hear that because you’re not rich.
After this, I zipped over to the Masonic Auditorium for the protest outside the last fundraiser, which we saw at the beginning of this report. I left that final event before Obama arrived that last time.
And so we chalk up another Obama visit to the “West Coast ATM,” better known as San Francisco.
How Do I Do It?
People often ask me how I manage to find out about these types of events ahead of time. In this case, for example, not only was the address of the second (Nicola Miner) fundraiser never revealed to the public, but the media had wildly conflicting reports about Obama’s purported schedule that day.
For example, just to give you a taste of how confusing it all was:
The San Jose Mercury News, ABC News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and KCRA all erroneously reported that Obama’s first fundraiser was going to be at the the Mark Hopkins, a completely different hotel owned by the Intercontinental chain. Ooops.
Meanwhile, music site Loudwire, SFGate’s “Spin Cycle” blog, and SFStation all falsely claimed that the last fundraiser, which featured rock musician Chris Cornell of Soundgarden (one of the reasons it was such a well-attended event) was to be held at the Regency Center Ballroom, over a mile away from its actual eventual location at the Masonic Auditorium.
Many media outlets didn’t get it “wrong” per se, but rather left out any and all detail. For example, CNN’s “1600 Report” just says the second fundraiser would be in “a private residence,” while no location for the first one is given at all. The Boston Globe was similarly vague, as was the White House official schedule.
Not a single media outlet revealed the address of the Billionaires Row fundraiser.
With all this confusion and error-filled reporting, which can only be sorted out in retrospect, how did I know where to go?
Well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? I’ll just have to fall back on the reliable, “I have my sources.”