After a year-long hiatus, former President Barack Obama waded into the political fray this week, stopping by Silicon Valley to raise money for the Democratic Party ahead of the 2020 election.
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Obama headlined a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee in Los Altos Hills, California on Thursday, one day after the fifth Democratic presidential debate in Atlanta. Ticket prices to the event ran from $10,000 to simply attend the afternoon reception, to $355,000 to “chair” the event, according to Recode, which obtained an invitation.
The event took place at the home of Karla Jurvetson, a psychiatrist who donated nearly $7 million to Democratic groups during the last cycle, making her one of the top political donors in the country. The event raised more than $3 million for the DNC, according to the New York Post, citing a senior party official.
The former president was joined by Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, who interviewed him in front of guests, including Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry and his wife, Ayesha, an actress and television show host, according to Recode.
Other attendants included CEO of Integrated Archive Systems Amy Rao, former Ambassador to Belgium Denise Bauer and former Twitter executive Katie Jacobs Stanton.
"This is not about as much of your income you can give up this year," Rao, the Democratic fundraising powerhouse said during the event, according to Recode. "This is a wealth election. This is about sitting down, looking at your personal wealth and saying what percent of it you are willing to put on the table to make sure that we win."
Rao's comments highlight the growing divide in the Democratic Party over the idea of a wealth tax, endorsed by two major candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, as well as billionaire Tom Steyer, as well as the acceptance of money from big donors.
Sanders and Warren have eschewed Silicon Valley fundraising.
Rao implored donors to give "so much that it hurts."
"It's only money," Rao said. "You’ll never miss it. Especially if it was in your savings account. You’ll never miss it."
Other candidates, including South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Obama’s Vice President Joe Biden have welcomed fundraisers in the Bay Area, trying woo big tech donors.
Obama has not appeared at an open-press political event since the 2018 midterm elections, although he’s spoken at some non-political events.
His presence in the country’s tech hub comes amid a growing fracture in the Democratic Party between progressives and moderates. Warren has vowed to break up some of the country’s biggest tech companies, including Amazon and Facebook.
Obama delivered a message to Democratic voters anxious about the primary amid rising panic that a progressive candidate will not be attractive enough to moderate voters to unseat Trump next November.
“Everybody needs to chill out about the candidates but gin up about the prospect of rallying behind whoever emerges from this process,” Obama said in response to a question about the primary, according to the Post.