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President Obama makes brief visit to L.A. for fundraiser

President Barack Obama (12102)
President Barack Obama Credit: White House

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — President Barack Obama arrived at Los Angeles International Airport today to begin a roughly three-hour visit, during which he will speak at a luncheon fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Santa Monica.

The president, after arriving in Los Angeles from San Jose, was greeted on the LAX tarmac by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The two men exchanged a handshake and quick hug before both boarded the Marine One helicopter for the commute to Santa Monica.

Obama was scheduled to depart LAX around 2 p.m. bound for Rancho Mirage, where he will hold a summit meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, with topics including Chinese cyber-attacks on U.S. corporate and national security targets, North Korea’s nuclear program and finding ways to manage differences and disputes in U.S-Chinese relations.

Tickets for the fundraiser at the Santa Monica home of Peter Chernin began at $10,000, according to an invitation posted on the website, which tracks political fundraisers.

The price was $16,200 for the luncheon and the opportunity to have a photo taken with Obama and $32,400 — the maximum allowable contribution to a national party committee in a calendar year — to be a luncheon co-chair, which also allows the donor to attend what is described as a “special discussion” in addition to the luncheon and photo reception.

Chernin is chairman and CEO of The Chernin Group, which manages, operates and invests in businesses in the media, entertainment and technology sectors.

Mayor-elect Eric Garcetti will attend the fundraiser.

“As the second-largest city in America, L.A. cannot afford to be on the sidelines when it comes to the decision being made in Washington,” Garcetti told City News Service. “I look forward to working closely with President Obama to boost L.A.’s economy and create jobs.”

Paul Scott, an electric car salesman who works in downtown Los Angeles, had planned to attend the “special discussion,” using what he described as “a large percentage of my retirement savings” for the $32,400 ticket price so he could tell Obama “about the economic benefits” of switching from oil, coal and natural gas to renewable energy.

However, Scott told NBC4 that after he wrote about his plan online and was interviewed by USA Today, he received an email from DNC disinviting him from the event and returning the contribution. It “was very disappointing,” he said.

“At the same time, I understand where they’re coming from,” Scott told the station, adding that he received a call asking him not to do any more interviews because “the right had picked it up, spun it into a pay-for-play thing.”

“I thought they should have stood up to the right and say, ‘Look, everybody does it. If  you don’t like money in politics, work to overturn Citizens United. Go to Congress and complain to them.”’

There was no immediate response from the DNC.

Citizens United was the 2010 Supreme Court decision that held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations or labor unions.

Scott told NBC4 he plans to join what organizers said would be more than 100 activists outside the fundraiser, asking Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

A rally calling for Obama to stop deportations of people who have entered the country without legal permission while Congress considers legislation reforming the nation’s immigration laws will also be held outside the fundraiser.

The trip is Obama’s 14th to the Los Angeles area since taking office and the first of his second term. He has spoken at political fundraisers during 12 of those visits, all but the first and final one before the November election, when he appeared on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

This will be the 10th trip solely for fundraising.

The fundraiser will be Obama’s third in two days. He spoke Thursday night in Palo Alto and Portola Valley at fundraisers benefiting the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.