ABC News’ Devin Dwyer (@devindwyer) reports:
With the spotlight on Iowa and tonight’s Republican debate, President Obama traveled to New York City for two star-studded fundraisers that raised more than $2.3 million for his re-election campaign and the Democratic Party.
Obama attended an intimate reception with 15 donors at the Ritz Carlton in Manhattan, and later spoke at a gathering of 50 high-profile Democrats at the West Village home of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Tickets for both events were $35,800 per person, according to a Democratic official, the maximum legal contribution to both a candidate and political party combined. All money benefits the Obama Victory Fund.
Spotted in the crowd at the Weinstein event were actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin, a member of Coldplay; comedian Jimmy Fallon; fashion designer Vera Wang; singer Alicia Keys; and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The fundraiser was co-hosted by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, who is also one of Obama’s top financiers, bundling more than $500,000 in contributions from friends and associates for his re-election effort this year.
The president, fresh off an afternoon trip to Michigan to talk about the economy, spoke about “frustrations” with Washington politics and alluded to a difficult week of economic news that included the first ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating and wild swings on Wall Street.
Obama invoked Martin Luther King, Jr., for whom a memorial will open on the National Mall later this month, as a poignant example of how he – and the country – can preserve through a difficult time.
“I think that we forget when he was alive there was nobody who was more vilified, nobody who was more controversial, nobody who was more despairing at times. There was a decade that followed the great successes of Birmingham and Selma in which he was just struggling, fighting the good fight,” the president said.
“What he understood, what kept him going, was that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. But it doesn’t bend on its own. It bends because all of us are putting our hand on the arc, and we are bending it in that direction, and it takes time. And it's hard work. And there are frustrations.”
Obama has come under increasing pressure, including from some supporters, to redouble his effort to invigorate the economy. Some critics have questioned whether the president should be fundraising at all, or headed off to Martha’s Vineyard for a family vacation next week.
White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed those criticisms today, telling reporters, “I think that Americans understand that our political system functions the way it does, and that candidates have to raise money.”
“I certainly expect that members of Congress are doing the same thing, as well as presidential candidates,” he said.
As for the vacation, Carney has said the president believes Americans won’t fault him for spending time with his family.
For his part, Weinstein told the president he'll provide some entertainment for the First Family’s week at the beach: a preview copy of Meryl Streep’s new film “Iron Lady,” in which she plays Margaret Thatcher.
The Weinstein fundraiser was the 40th Obama has attended this year.