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Sen. Barack Obama Pulls In $1.3 Million at Hollywood Fundraiser

Feb. 20: Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., reaches for supporters during a campaign rally in Los Angeles.AP

Checks from Hollywood's A-list stars such as George Clooney, Eddie Murphy and Barbra Streisand added up to a one-night take of $1.3 million for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who earlier Tuesday urged an audience of thousands at an outdoor rally to help him transform America.

Addressing a crowd at a South Los Angeles park during the day, Obama talked of a government that is failing the country and a slash-and-burn political culture that stands in the way of significant change.

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But with the support of the electorate, he added, he could work to resolve such issues as an unpopular war in Iraq and a public education system that he said leaves too many people behind.

"We can do all these things. I can't do it without you," Obama, tieless and in shirt sleeves, exhorted the audience as supporters enthusiastically waved a sea of blue "Obama '08" signs.

The crowd, numbering in the thousands, was strikingly large for a rally a year before the state's expected February 2008 primary.

Afterward, Obama spoke to a star-studded audience at a closed-door fundraiser in Beverly Hills arranged by three of the industry's biggest names — DreamWorks studio founders Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. He pulled in $1.3 million.

He told an audience that included Spielberg, Oscar nominee Eddie Murphy, actress Jennifer Anniston and singer Jackson Browne that they have "enormous power" that comes with "enormous responsibility" because of their impact on American culture.

"Don't sell yourselves short," he said in a 25-minute address. "You are the storytellers of our age."

Tickets were $2,300, the maximum individual donation to a federal campaign, or $4,600 for a couple. A later, private dinner at Geffen's home is being held for fundraisers who brought in at least $46,000 for the evening.

The day took Obama to widely contrasting places, although they were just miles apart. At the outdoor rally he talked at length of the struggles of common Americans, then later addressed a crowd of celebrities at a luxury hotel.

At the park, where admission was free, William Gude of Long Beach said Obama's appeal came from his outside-the-Beltway ideas and opposition to the Iraq war.

"The people with the most experience are the people who got us into this mess. Along with everybody else, I'm ready for a change," the 32-year-old personal trainer said.

"I can't take another Bush or Clinton," he added.

The fundraiser underscored the intense competition among the party's leading 2008 candidates for Hollywood dollars and endorsements. The entertainment industry is a perennial source of cash for Democrats, with big names often donating to multiple campaigns while withholding formal endorsements until later.

Spielberg, for example, is a host of the event but has not made an endorsement. Katzenberg and Geffen are backing Obama.

The movie, television and recording industries gave $33.1 million to federal candidates and parties in 2004, with much of that coming from Hollywood, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics.

Obama's display of celebrity sizzle and campaign dollars challenges any assumptions that Hollywood dollars would default to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who has longstanding ties to the industry, along with her husband, former President Clinton.

"I think this guy is for real," said longtime Democratic consultant Garry South, who is unaligned in the 2008 race. "I was skeptical at first, but something is going on here. ... Whether it can sustain itself remains to be seen."

Before the closed-door fundraiser, the Illinois senator was scheduled to speak to a crowd, potentially numbering in the thousands, at a public rally in Los Angeles.

Clinton will be pulling in Hollywood dollars next month, when a fundraiser is scheduled at the home of supermarket tycoon Ronald Burkle, a longtime friend and fundraiser for her husband.

In addition to money, the state has taken on new importance in presidential politics with lawmakers poised to move its primary to Feb. 5 from June.

Among other candidates, Republican Rudy Giuliani was in the state earlier this month. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is planning to appear Wednesday with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Los Angeles area to discuss climate change.

Obama was on a three-day swing through California, his first since announcing his candidacy. He also held a fundraiser in San Diego's upscale La Jolla section.

Beside the celebrity giving, checks have come in from studio bosses, including Paramount Pictures studio chief Brad Grey; Richard Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, and Ron Meyer of Universal Studios.