Obama set to rake in millions, despite criticism of fundraising during tumult
SEATTLE — Republicans and some political pundits have taken sharp aim at President Barack Obama for maintaining his fundraising schedule amid a period of global unrest.
Not among those complaining? Democrats who stand to benefit from the millions of dollars in campaign cash Obama will help pull in this week during a three-day West Coast swing, bringing him into the homes of entertainment and real estate bigwigs in Seattle, the Silicon Valley and Los Angeles.
Based on descriptions of Obama’s fundraisers from Democratic officials, Obama could raise north of $6 million during the trip, which comes at the same time as an Israeli ground invasion into Gaza and international outcry over the downing of a jetliner over Ukraine.
That figure is based on estimates of attendance at Obama’s five fundraisers, using the highest in a range of possible ticket prices. The total sum could be far less.
Obama’s latest fundraising swing, along with a pair of fundraising stops last Thursday, have come under scrutiny from Republicans who say it sends the wrong message for the president to be engaged in starkly political activities during times of crisis.
“I don’t understand this president,” Sen. John McCain said on Fox Sunday. “The crisis on the border and he did the fundraisers, the fundraisers in New York while there are major major conflicts, not to mention the loss of American lives reported. I do not understand it.”
Obama first learned of the Malaysia Air crash during a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the White House Thursday, deciding afterward to stick to his pre-planned schedule that including the fundraising events in New York.
White House officials maintain it was the right decision for Obama to stick to his plans that day, which also included a stop for hamburgers in Delaware. They say the President can undertake the tasks necessary of the commander-in-chief wherever he goes using secure equipment and a retinue of staff.
Indeed, during his trip last Thursday Obama phoned world leaders from the road and convened a meeting of his national security team, huddled back at the White House.
The same resources are available during Obama’s swing down the West Coast, which includes only one public event at a college campus in Los Angeles on Thursday.
Josh Earnest, Obama’s press secretary, said Monday Obama would return to Washington “if it becomes clear that there’s a need for him to come back to the White House in order to fulfill those functions” of being president.
“Right now it’s not apparent that that’s the case,” he said.
The White House did nix an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, saying they had looked at taping with the comedian this week but “elected not to do it at this time.”
Obama’s first stop in the Pacific Northwest will bring the President to the home of developer Bruce Blume and his wife Ann. That gathering will benefit the Democratic National Committee.
Later he’ll headline an event hosted by Jim Sinegal, a co-founder of wholesale giant Costco, that benefits the Senate Majority PAC. It’s just the second time the President’s headlined a fundraiser for the major outside group supporting Democratic Senate incumbents and candidates running this year.
Obama will pass the hat around this week for House Democrats at an event outside San Francisco, and again for the DNC at the homes of “Scandal” creator Shonda Rhimes and Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino in Los Angeles.
Here in Seattle, residents say they’re more concerned about the wildfires raging in the interior of Washington State than the crisis in Gaza or the plane in Ukraine. Fueled by a dry, hot summer, fires are spanning almost 250,000 acres and driving hundreds of people from their homes.
Nearly 650 residents of Pateros, situated on the Columbia River in northern Washington, were evacuated over the weekend when flames began spilling down hillsides, eventually burning most of the town’s homes to the ground.
Obama wasn’t scheduled to publicly acknowledge the natural disaster during his stop in the Pacific Northwest Tuesday.
CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta contributed to this report.