2 ultra-elite parties follow the main fund-raising event
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — If the opulent Oprah Winfrey reception and concert fund-raiser for White House hopeful Barack Obama weren’t enough, for a chosen few hundred elite donors there were two die-to-go-to after-parties.
A masseuse in a Zen garden. A big pool. Fantastic desserts. P.I.N.K. Vodka.
That’s the report from one Obama donor who, after attending the extravagant fest at Winfrey’s estate in Montecito, drove over to 936 Hot Springs Road in the same community just south of this coastal city for a party co-hosted by actor Hill Harper.
Most of the VIPs from the entertainment industry and Obama’s best donors and bundlers — about 200 — remained at Winfrey’s estate for a long night of eating under a huge tent with chandeliers.
“It was a magical night that I will never forget,” said Habitat Co. honcho Valerie Jarrett, a charter member of Obama’s kitchen Cabinet. “Oprah created a spirit and enthusiasm and pure unfettered support for Barack’s candidacy that connected with everyone. Everyone felt they were a part of this campaign.”
The guests were served at two long tables. Winfrey beau Stedman Graham headed one table, Michelle Obama another, with Obama somewhere in the middle. Among those present from Chicago, besides Jarrett, were Johnson Publishing president and CEO Linda Johnson Rice and her husband, Mel Farr; Penny Pritzker, Obama’s national finance chairman, and Obama friend and campaign treasurer Marty Nesbitt and wife Anita Blanchard.
While the dinner was going on, the Hill Harper party was taking place for about 150 guests, including a selection of Obama staffers and campaign professional fund-raisers who wrangled invites for some of “their” donors.
“The crowd was across all age groups, across all different walks of life,” said the contributor I interviewed. He said he got a 10-minute seated massage at the party. The donor said he was invited through a network of people involved in one of the regional Obama campaign fund-raisers and did not know Harper, the “CSI: NY” star who, like Obama, graduated from Harvard Law School.
“It was not a campaign-sponsored event,” said Obama spokesman Ben LaBolt.
The evening raised at least $3.2 million for Obama, but the actual take will be less because federal law mandates that the campaign — not Winfrey — pay the costs for the extravagant arrangements, including the portable toilets with running water, attendants hired to drive guests around in golf carts, rental of at least a dozen buses and — a nice touch — a red carpet for attendees to stand on while the rest went through security.
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