NEW YORK (AP) — President Barack Obama was courting high-dollar Democratic donors Tuesday, headlining for a super PAC like the ones he once decried and appearing at a gala fundraiser for gay contributors one day after agreeing to take executive steps on workplace discrimination long sought by the gay community.
Overall, Obama was attending three events in New York, concluding the evening with a dinner at the home of Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
Obama’s attendance at the three fundraisers underscores his popularity as a draw for big donors and his utility in an election year building up the treasuries of the Democratic Party. Earlier Tuesday, Obama was in Pittsburgh promoting his economic policies and drawing contrasts with congressional Republicans, another midterm presidential task aimed at helping Democrats.
The dinner and the fundraiser for the Senate Majority PAC were closed to the media. Obama’s remarks to the Democratic National Committee’s gala for gala lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender donors, the centerpiece event, were to be public.
The president is likely to get a rousing reception at the gala for gay donors in response to his decision to sign an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Obama lacks authority to extend that protection to all Americans, but the order being drafted by the White House would affect about 14 million workers whose employers or states currently do not prohibit workplace discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. The scope of the measure was tabulated by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, which studies sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy.
Obama had resisted signing the order in hopes Congress would pass a broader non-discrimination measure that would apply to nearly all employers. While the Democratic-controlled Senate passed the legislation last year, the measure has languished in the Republican-led House and there is little sign that lawmakers will take it up in an election year.
Obama had once vigorously objected to political groups like the Senate Majority PAC that can take unlimited donations. Once primarily conduits for Republican or conservative big money, such super PACs have now been embraced by liberals and Democrats. Obama’s appearance will cap what has been a gradual acceptance of such groups.
In addition to the Senate Majority PAC, Obama has committed to attend in events for the House Majority PAC, which works to elect Democrats to the House. The super PAC announced Tuesday that Obama will travel to New York to attend a fundraiser for the group on July 17 and will also headline a San Francisco fundraiser on July 23.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said that while Obama participates in super PAC events, he does not actively solicit money for the groups.
In Pittsburgh earlier Tuesday, Obama pledged to boost American manufacturing and to give entrepreneurs greater access to production tools that would help bring their ideas to fruition.
Obama visited that venerable steel manufacturing city to showcase a workshop chain called TechShop, a variation on a tool lending library that provides high-end instruments to hobbyists, tinkerers and start-up businesses to help them realize their innovations. The tour was designed to draw attention to Obama’s own plan to make more government technology and assets available to the private sector.
“I can’t rent the space shuttle out to you,” he joked. “But there are areas where we can in fact enhance what is already being done by companies like TechShop.”
AP White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.
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