Obama Visits the S(lush) F(und) Bay Area
On April 20, President Obama arrived for yet another whirlwind wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am through the the S.F. Bay Area (the "S.F." in this case an abbreviation for "Slush Fund"). He comes here for fundraisers so often now that locals have started referring to San Francisco as "the president's ATM."
The "White House Dossier" blog was the only site which published the full schedule for April 20:
Obama Schedule || Wednesday, April 20, 2011
1:30 pm || Arrives in San Francisco
1:45 pm || Participates in Town Hall on bringing down the deficit
6:15 pm || Delivers remarks at DNC fundraiser – private residence; San Francisco
8:30 pm || Delivers remarks at second DNC fundraiser- Nob Hill Masonic Center; San Francisco
These events were to be followed up with yet another fundraiser at the city's St. Regis Hotel the next morning.
This report will cover each stop on Obama's visit to the Progressive Piggy Bank.
Stop #1: Facebook HQ, Palo Alto
This was the headline event which got most of the press coverage. Obama had some kind of "townhall" meeting streamed live from Facebook headquarters which he billed as a "discussion with the voters" rather than just a one-way dictation from The One to us peons. Problem is, it turned out to be such a boring, staged event with softball questions and a brown-nosing host that it had basically no effect on the culture or on anyone's perception of the president.
Any pretense of authenticity or spontaneity was wiped away in a surprisingly frank AP account of the aftermath:
Afterward, employees were quickly shuttled out as they rebuffed reporters' attempts to interview them. Facebook is known for its rigorous effort to control its media image, and Zuckerberg seldom grants interviews.
An employee offering a glowing review of his employer and Obama's visit was interrupted by a company spokesman, who declined to give media access to audience members.
It was a stark contrast to Obama's easygoing introduction...
Wow. Even the guy who was lavishing sycophantic praise on his bosses was shut up and probably later admonished for speaking without permission. One word summation: Control.
There was also a multifaceted protest outside the Facebook townhall, including a Tea Party contingent, but I skipped the event myself, so instead I'll present here a couple of snaps from dinab's Flickr set and from Nina Pelligrini covering the protest:
The crowd was a mix of Obama supporters and detractors; among the detractors, half were attacking him from the far left, and half from the right. Here we see part of a Tea Party contingent.
(Photo © Nina Pelligrini 2011)
Best use of a dunce cap I've seen in a long time.
(Photo © Nina Pelligrini 2011)
Code Pink and the Tea Party in agreement? Obama makes strange bedfellows.
Obama fans go wild as the president's motorcade drives by.
But to get the real flavor of the Facebook protest, watch this fascinating 6-minute video, featuring interviews with Obama supporters who seem to have no clue about his policies or how the economy works:
Pay especial attention to the segment starting at 2:05, in which one Obama voter proposes, in all seriousness, her solution to the U.S. going into debt: "That's an absolute shame. And I don't think we need to borrow any money. We print the money. So why do we need to borrow the money? Just print some more!" Why didn't I think of that? Economics 101!
The final segment of the video is also chilling, when Facebook commands the Palo Alto cops to keep Obama skeptics off its property, but allow Obama fans to approach freely. As the videographer points out: Facebook is now a vital communication tool in the U.S. and worldwide -- and yet its management has an obvious pro-Obama bias. How does that reflect on their policies for allowing or forbidding certain political content on its site?
Stop #2: $35,800/plate dinner, Marc Benioff's home, San Francisco
After satiating the hoi polloi with his Facebook stagecraft, Obama set off for some hardcore fundraisin' -- the real point of the visit. The first, and swankiest, of his three whirlwind back-to-back-to-back fundraisers was a $35,800/plate (not a typo) dinner at the Presidio Heights home of billionaire Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff.
This time I was waiting for him. But here there were no large crowds, no organized protests -- because the exact location of the fundraiser had never been released. I myself uncovered it through a bit of detective work, but just about everyone else there were passersby who stumbled on the event by accident.
At first, the only people on hand were a TV news crew, a schoolgirl on her way home, and a couple neighbors.
Behind barricades, an "arrival tent" had been set up in front of Benioff's home to receive the president's limousine.
I saw a mini-flurry of activity down the block. Turns out there was a second barricade where they were letting guests into the back of the house one intersection further north. I went over and encountered a lone Obama fan displaying her sign to arriving dignitaries. A small cluster of people there said Obama had been spotted getting off a helicopter down at Chrissy Field, a former military runway turned into a park nearby in the Presidio. So they expected him to show up here sometime soon. The girl with the sign said she had just made it on the spur of the moment when she heard from a friend that Obama was arriving.
A lone counter-protester came prepared with a pre-printed sign that said "Fund Schools Not War!" As far as I could tell, she was the only other person (aside from me and two TV crews) who figured out ahead of time the location of the fundraiser. She was joined by a passerby who scribbled her own quickie sign that seemed (???) to call for a primary challenge against Dianne Feinstein: "Save Social Security, Primary Feinstein 2012." (Since California confirmed its status as a solid blue state in the 2010 elections, the only way now to unseat Democratic incumbents is to defeat them in the intra-party primaries.)
An explosives-sniffing dog checked out every single arriving vehicle, no exceptions.
A White House staffer checked every arrival against an official guest list.
Even if you arrived on foot, you still had to be on the list, and were given a once-over by the Secret Service.
I began to notice that the White House staffer was being very lackadaisical about protecting the list. She often stood just a few feet from us rubberneckers with the list dangling in plain view. Could I resist snapping a couple pictures of it? Of course not!
The guest list
I already made a separate blog post about the guest list; click here if you want to read it or link to it as a stand-alone entry. Otherwise, just keep reading below since I've pasted that separate post in its entirety here. (And if you've already read it, then skip the next few photos and scroll down for the continuation of this report -- there's plenty more!)
Obama’s $3 million S.F. dinner — the complete guest list
Craig Newmark, Cissie Swig, Steve Westly and will.i.am each happily dropped $35,800 to dine with President Obama at billionaire Marc Benioff's San Francisco home Wednesday evening. These are just some of the 85 famous names on the fundraiser's guest list which was plainly visible to rubberneckers as attendees checked in. Combined, Obama's take for the 90-minute event was a cool $3 million -- or $3,043,000 to be exact (85 guests x $35,800 each).
The record-setting price tag for the dinner was part of Obama's highly profitable fundraising swing through the San Francisco Bay Area on Wednesday, April 20.
A small cluster of onlookers -- a few Obama fans, a few protesters, but mostly local residents who happened to pass by -- watched and waited on the sidewalk at the intersection of Presidio and Pacific avenues for the President to arrive. While his motorcade was delayed for hours, a steady stream of well-dressed guests showed up and were let in one by one. Each name was checked on a master list of attendees held by a staffer who (unintentionally, one presumes) allowed nearby rubberneckers to get a glimpse of it as she flipped the pages.
The photographs below were taken of the fundraiser's official guest list as the staffer checked the ID of each arrival. In total, 85 entries are visible on two different pages, though only about 50 of the names are fully legible.
Craig Newmark is the founder of craigslist and is a well-known internet entrepreneur. Cissie Swig is a wealthy philanthropist and a member of San Francisco's famous Swig clan. Steve Westly is a California politician, candidate for governor, venture capitalist, and ardent Obama supporter. And will.i.am is a musician and producer, best known as the leader of the Black Eyed Peas.
Several other famous names are on the list. Readers interested in seeing who can afford to spend $35,800 for a 90-minute dinner can scan the photos below.
The full list of legible names (and the rest of this report) is presented after the photos.
[Click on each image to see it in higher resolution.]
List of attendees at Marc Benioff's $35,800/plate Obama fundraiser:
Here's the only report I could find from a pool reporter allowed into the event. A snippet -- yes, that really is the "Stevie Wonder" on the list!:
The press corps was ushered into a large tent set up in the courtyard in the middle of Benioff's block-wide residence, to find Stevie Wonder entertaining the crowd; his final song was a new one composed for the occasion, entitled "Ten Billion Hearts," about joining together to heal the world.
The President was seated at Benioff's table; Wonder returned to sit at the President's side as Benioff introduced POTUS, saying that in a time of many crises, "we have the right person to lead us here." Recording artist Will.I.am was seated at the same table.
...and the rest seemed to be not much more than a boilerplate stump speech. But...will.i.am at the table of honor?
Amongst the celebrity names, I personally only spotted one arriving -- Craig Newmark, founder and namesake of craigslist.
He may not be that well-known in the rest of the country, but around here he's an A-list celebrity. As he first arrived (on foot), a woman screamed "Oh my God -- it's Craig!" Down-to-earth guy that he is, he came over and chatted to her, and as you can see, she was absolutely starstruck.
Even the cops wanted to shake his hand. Of all the billionaires and celebrities showing up, Craig Newmark was the only person the police acted like fans around.
As the minutes passed, the crowd began to swell -- a little. From 10 to maybe 20 people. The girl with the pro-Obama sign became a prop used in souvenir photographs by passing tourists. (And notice the teenagers in the background mugging for the camera.)
A dour-faced single-payer advocate showed to up express her displeasure with Obama's half-measure health care reform.
Another passerby came over to investigate the hubbub, and I have no real reason to post her picture except to lure in as much male Web traffic as possible. In fact, I might as well not even write a caption for this picture, because I know you're not reading it.
I waited as long as I could for Obama, but from overhearing snippets of conversations between the Secret Service and police, I scried that he wasn't going to show up anytime soon, despite being just a short distance away. It never was explained how he spent the intervening three hours between landing at Chrissy Field and showing up at the Benioff residence which is only a five- or ten-minute drive away.
Anyway, I bailed out before the president showed up (not that there was going to be much to see anyway -- I knew from experience that his limo with tinted windows would just drive into the tent and we'd never even get a glimpse of him; the spectacle surrounding the president is the point, not Obama himself), and headed over to the site of the main protest action -- the Masonic Auditorium on Nob Hill, which was the public event next on Obama's schedule, after the private dinner.