President Barack Obama collected $3.5 million to $5.5 million at back-to-back fundraisers Sunday evening in Silicon Valley's toniest cities, on the eve of a town hall meeting on his American Jobs Act plan at the business networking site LinkedIn.
This is the president's second visit to the Bay Area in six months, and his sixth visit since taking office. He's here to take advantage of the generous fundraising support he receives: Contributors from the area's three major cities coughed up $35.5 million for his 2008 campaign, and at least about $2.2 million for his re-election as of June 30.
Air Force One landed shortly after 5:30 p.m. at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale. From there, the president was whisked to the Woodside home of Symantec chairman John Thompson. A crowd of about 400 had paid at least $2,500 a head to get in, $7,500 if they wanted a photo with the chief executive.
Along the way, more than 100 conservative protesters carrying signs and chanting "one-term president!" greeted the president's motorcade at Sand Hill Road and Whiskey Hill Road.
Owen Jones, 59, of Fremont, held a sign saying, "Illegals cost U.S. trillions -- no more freebies for illegal aliens."
A member of the Golden Gate Minutemen, Jones said he has spent 40 years as a union carpenter watching his trade and his livelihood "stolen by illegal immigration."
Another protester's sign carried the sentiment that "Our grandkids can't afford 4 more years of buffoonery."
"This is my concern now because I have a 6-month-old grandson," said the sign-holder, Diane Wall, 66, a Novato resident and member of the Bay Area Patriots. "The poor tot is going to be paying and paying and paying."
There were a handful of people along the road to support Obama. Leslie Alperin, 54, brought her 7-year-old daughter, Lily, from Berkeley to get a glimpse of the president. "She wants to be a girl Obama when she grows up," Alperin said.
Another backer, Olufunke Grace Bankole, 32, of Woodside, said, "He has a hard job, and we still support him. He inherited a mess, and he is doing the best he can."
From Woodside, the president was driven just about four miles to the Atherton home of Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, where 70 people had paid $35,800 each to dine with him. That's the maximum contribution of $5,000 to his re-election campaign, and $30,800 to the Democratic National Committee.
The president arrived at the dinner about 7:40 p.m., passing about two dozen local residents who had gathered on Alameda de las Pulgas but no protesters. Some speculated on what they would have told the president had they been invited to the dinner.
Brad Ross, 14, of Atherton, said he would tell Obama to "cut down on the number of troops in Afghanistan, and get rid of the Bush-era tax cuts."
A 55-year-old Menlo Park man who wouldn't give his full name said he would urge the president "to be aggressive and move toward not letting the Republicans get away with stuff."
Unlike April's fundraisers in the Bay Area, the press was barred from Sunday's events.
Reporters will be able to observe President Obama speaking and answering questions about job creation Monday in a town-hall style meeting at the Mountain View headquarters of professional networking site LinkedIn. Questions will come from company employees and LinkedIn members, some of whom will submit their queries online.
Similarly, the president had held a town hall at Facebook's Palo Alto headquarters before his trio of San Francisco fundraisers in April.
LinkedIn has launched an online community focused on job creation and the economy; people are invited to submit questions for the town hall, contribute comments, and share content with their own network. The group also will serve as a platform for LinkedIn users to continue the discussion on putting America back to work, letting members engage with the White House and administration officials even after the town hall. LinkedIn has more than 120 million members worldwide.
"There's no better way to connect " with people across the country in the context of their jobs, in the context of their businesses," White House Office of Digital Strategy Director Macon Phillips said on a conference call with reporters Friday, noting LinkedIn has members all over the nation, in all business sectors.
LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, on the same call, said questions for the president were pouring in at a rate of one every five seconds Friday morning. He said the company will pick questions representing the most members' concerns to pose to the president on Monday.