Joe Biden taps Hollywood orbit for $28 million fundraiser, a new record for Democrats

Joe Biden has raised $28 million heading into a star-studded fundraiser Saturday, campaign officials told CNN, as the president leans on his Hollywood friends to help boost his campaign war chest.

The president’s Los Angeles event with former President Barack Obama, George Clooney and Julia Roberts marks the campaign’s latest effort to tap into celebrity appeal to help Biden win a second term in the White House. The LA fundraiser sets a new record for Democrats, raising more than an event at Radio City Music Hall in March that Biden campaign officials said brought in the party’s biggest haul ever.

The Biden campaign ran a contest geared toward small-dollar donors to win a chance to attend Saturday’s fundraiser and meet Biden, Obama, Roberts and Clooney, who all sent emails or texts encouraging supporters to chip in. The campaign has also provided grassroots supporters at home an opportunity to tune into the event virtually with a donation of $20 or more.

“When you come up with an event like this, a concept like this, you know it’s going to be big. You know it’s going to be exciting. You know it’s going to gather a lot of attention. It’s going to raise a lot of money,” said Rufus Gifford, finance chair of the Biden campaign. “This one exceeded all of our expectations.”

It also comes as the campaign is trying to maintain its cash advantage over former President Donald Trump, who has made significant gains in his fundraising since securing the Republican nomination for president. The Trump campaign said it saw a huge boost in donations in the 24 hours after his conviction in the criminal hush money trial, bringing in $53 million.

Late night host Jimmy Kimmel will moderate a conversation with Biden and Obama at the Peacock Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday. Other celebrities, including Jason Bateman, Jack Black, Kathryn Hahn and Sheryl Lee Ralph, are also expected to participate in the evening’s program, a campaign official said.

Tickets for the Tinseltown event ranged from $250 to $500,000, with special access going to those purchasing tickets in the highest ranges, according to an invitation seen by CNN. Those donating $500,000 fall into the event chair category, which includes four tickets in the front row, a photograph with Biden and Obama, attendance at a special reception with the two presidents and tickets for the after party.

The event is modeled after a high-dollar fundraiser featuring Biden, Obama, and former President Bill Clinton in New York City, which raked in more than $26 million. Biden is set to appear at a fundraiser with Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Virginia on Tuesday.

In addition to drawing in a significant money haul, the Biden campaign is hoping Saturday’s event will amount to a show of force from the entertainment industry.

“This Saturday we are going to see an unprecedented and record setting turn out from the media and entertainment world,” Jeffrey Katzenberg, a co-chair of the Biden campaign who played a major role in Saturday’s fundraiser, said in a statement. “The enthusiasm and commitment for Biden/Harris couldn’t be stronger. We all understand this is the most important election of our lifetime.”

Biden’s advisers have already worked to tap into A-list star power to help push its campaign’s message. Robert De Niro narrated an ad for the campaign, and the longtime Trump critic spoke at a news conference outside the former president’s criminal trial in New York City last month.

On Friday, Jane Fonda joined first lady Jill Biden for an event in Reno, Nevada, geared toward mobilizing senior voters. Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, hosted a fundraiser for the Biden campaign in London this week and helped organize the three presidents fundraiser in New York City in March.

Biden’s advisers anticipate rolling out more endorsements and finding ways for celebrities to engage with the voters as Election Day nears. But many in Hollywood are wary of jumping into the political fray amid a hyper-divisive political landscape, sources have previously told CNN.

The conflict in Gaza is among the issues that have divided Hollywood. The war loomed large over Biden’s glitzy Radio City Music Hall fundraiser in March with protesters outside and inside the venue.

The Los Angeles fundraiser comes as Biden is looking to boost his campaign war chest amid signs Trump is narrowing the money gap. Biden has led Trump in fundraising for most of the year, but the former president has seen a significant influx in cash come his way since securing the Republican nomination in March. Trump outraised Biden for the first time in April.

Trump’s campaign and its affiliated committees announced they brought in $141 million in May, including $53 million in the 24 hours following his historic conviction in his criminal hush money trial. Trump’s operation has yet to announce its cash-on-hand for the month.

Biden has not unveiled his May fundraising haul, but his campaign and affiliated committees entered last month with $192 million cash-on-hand.

This story has been updated with additional information.

For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at