Obama Is Happy to Reach for the Stars

Posted August 5, 2008 at 11:06am

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is catching Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in some polls, but the stars appear to be aligning for Obama. The terrestrial types, at least.

The McCain campaign last week released a commercial implying Obama is a glitzy flash in the pan, linking him to lowbrow celebrities, but Obama is shrugging it off with a series of fundraisers this month — featuring celebrities. Most, though, do seem more substantive than Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, who were featured in McCain’s ad.

Roll Call has learned that big money powwows scheduled for this month include a cocktails-and-dinner soiree that was held Saturday with Matt Damon, Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck, and upcoming events with Ellen Pompeo and Justin Chambers of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Bruce Hornsby, Star Jones, Caroline Kennedy and Scarlett Johansson.

One might also toss in “dinner and a conversation” with Al Gore, the former vice president who has transformed himself into the first global warming rock star. And, though they are below some people’s radar, Leon Fleisher, Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman will appear at a September event for higher-brow gawkers.

It’s not exactly clear where all the money is going. The Obama campaign did not respond to requests for comment. But the ticket prices for the events frequently match the annual contribution limits for a federal candidate, a PAC supporting a federal candidate, state and local parties, and national parties — which are respectively $2,300, $5,000, $10,000 and $28,500.

To the extent market principles apply here, there may be some ruffled celebrity feathers over ticket prices. It takes the combined star power of Damon, Garner and Affleck to equal that of Caroline Kennedy — both events cost $10,000. And Kennedy’s event is just a brunch while the Damon-Garner-Affleck affair is a dinner.

The top price to mull the issues of the day with Pompeo and Chambers is $10,000, though you can get through the door for as little as $250. The most you will have to pay to get Scarlett Johansson’s observations is $2,500, or you can listen — or just stare — from afar for $250. Fleisher, Ma, and Perlman will set you back $5,000, though they’ll be forced to play for their supper.

Sitting through the discussion with Gore only costs from $1,000 to $4,600.

Cocktails with former Sen. Tom Daschle, (D-S.D.), who has never won a Nobel Prize or an Academy Award, is $500.

Bruce Hornsby is charging a top price of $10,000 for his performance, though he will have Michelle Obama on hand to goose his cache, because he hasn’t had a hit album in two decades. On the other hand, and perhaps a little mysteriously, a reception with Star Jones, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has a top price of $28,500.

If you want to be stuffy about it and talk issues with someone who actually knows issues, you have the option of a “health care policy discussion with Carol Fulp and Professor David Cutler” for no more than $150.

“He’s the biggest celebrity in the world,” the McCain ad said of Obama. Maybe, maybe not. But the price to be a “celebration co-chair” at Monday night’s “Birthday celebration with Sen. Obama” was $25,000.