EXCLUSIVE: Hillary Clinton is in town this weekend for another series of fundraisers, but some of Hollywood’s biggest Democratic donors will be at the White House tonight. With investment opportunities and face time front and center, Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger and wife Willow Bay, Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings and Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos and DreamWorks Animation boss Jeffrey Katzenberg are among those breaking bread with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Madame Peng Liyuan at the state dinner, I’ve learned.
The White House isn’t expected to release the official list of about 200 guests who will be joining the Chinese leader, his wife and President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama until later today. Empire co-creator Lee Daniels revealed on The View this week that he was going to the dinner as well — with his mother as his date. Legendary Pictures’ Chairman and CEO Thomas Tull will be in attendance tonight too.
The dinner with the leader of the huge movie and media market comes on Day 2 of Jinping’s official state visit to Washington D.C. With entertainment by singer Ne-Yo, tonight’s the 9th such full-on pomp and ceremony meal of the Obama administration. (UPDATE, 3:45 PM: The White House has released the official guest list for tonight’s state dinner and there are a few more Tinseltown and industry types sitting down with the American and Chinese Presidents later on. As well as those we named earlier, a fictional President will in the house with Mark Cuban, who played the POTUS in the latest Sharknado sequel and whose Shark Tank series comes back tonight on ABC. Also attending is Comcast/NBCUNiversal Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and his wife Aileen, Apple boss Tim Cook, Disney and Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter with Nancy Lasseter, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and CNN’s Jake Tapper and wife Jennifer)
For the Netflix execs, the streaming service’s expansion into the Chinese Mainland is still not a done deal even as it prepares to set up shop in Hong Kong and Taiwan in early 2016. And even if Netflix does set up shop in China in the next year or so, it’ll face state competition of sorts with the announcement earlier this summer of Beijing Gehua CATV Network Alibaba and National Radio and TV Network linking together on a streaming venture of their own. No strangers to getting close to the Commander-in-Chief, Sarandos and wife Nicole Avant have been hefty donors to Obama over the years. Avant was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas in 2009 by the President and served as the representative to the island nation until November 2011. Ambassador Avant will not be attending tonight’s state dinner, sources tell me.
Tonight’s toasts and meal for Xi Jinping is far from the first time that Iger has attended such a sit down at the White House. The repeat donor for the President’s campaigns, and a relied upon deep pocket for Democrats in general was a guest, with Bay, at the January 20, 2011 state dinner for Jinping’s predecessor Hu Jintao. With its $5.5 billion Disney Shanghai theme park and resort set to open in the spring of 2016, the House of Mouse has become a major American player in the Middle Kingdom on many fronts – especially though building the necessary strong relationships in political circles.
DWA’s Katzenberg, another repeat state dinner guest, is also going to be attending the event tonight. The biggest bundler for Obama in 2012 and an avowed Hillary backer, the DWA boss was at the very first state dinner the Obamas hosted on November 23, 2009. Other members of the Hollywood crew that night for then Indian PM Manmohan Singh strategically included Steven Spielberg, WME chief and brother of the then White House Chief of Staff Rahm, Ari Emanuel plus Jennifer Hudson, David Geffen and M. Night Shyamalan. And of course, as Deadline exclusively revealed, Katzenberg and Spielberg had a private and off the schedule meal with Obama when the POTUS was in L.A. on a fundraising spree of his own in late June. Katzenberg political advisor Andy Spahn will be at the White House dinner tonight too
As has been the norm for most of the state dinners hosted by this White House, more Hollywood attendees are expected to on the official guest list. All those potential donors in proximity on Friday could provide a good opportunity for Vice-President Joe Biden as he mulls a possible 2016 race of his own. The VP will need to grab some cash from the Hollywood ATM to put up a reasonable spending effort against the fortified Clinton war chest.
The Chinese leader and his wife won’t be hanging around D.C. late tonight as they are flying up to NYC right after the dinner.