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Obama courts dueling industries after piracy flap

india Updated: Feb 16, 2012 19:03 IST

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President Barack Obama traveled to California on Wednesday in the wake of an anti-piracy fight that pitted Hollywood against Silicon Valley, looking to smooth feathers and charm both sectors that are vital to his re-election campaign.

Obama was careful not to mention the sensitive intellectual property issue in his public remarks to evening fundraisers in Los Angeles that drew Hollywood stars, including included George Clooney.

But behind closed doors, the president was expected to face pointed questions about anti-piracy bills supported by the film industry that fell apart in Congress last month after White House officials raised concerns about them.

Hollywood studios and unions are among Obama's most steadfast supporters - among his top donors is producer Steven Spielberg - and they have strongly backed the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act as a means of giving teeth to a U.S. crackdown on stolen material sold on foreign websites.

But three top aides to the president warned in a mid-January blog post the legislation reached too far and could hurt free speech, adding to criticism voiced by tech firms including Google (GOOG.O) and helping derail the bills on Capitol Hill.

With his California fundraising swing, Obama is seeking to reassure Hollywood titans he understands their piracy worries and will not side with Silicon Valley at all costs, while also seeking to raise money from the tech sector.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One on Wednesday that Obama "enjoys support from people in both industries" and was committed to finding a way to crack down on intellectual property theft while shielding online freedom.

"It's a both/and, not an either/or proposition," he said.

The entertainment and tech sectors dominate the Californian economy, the biggest state economy in the United States and the ninth largest in the world, ahead of India, Canada, Russia and Spain.

Three-Day Tour

How the industries allocate campaign funds could be pivotal to the November 6 vote, and both sectors are expected to maintain a strong lobbying presence in Washington in light of Congress' focus on issues like Internet privacy, counterfeiting and cyber threats.

Obama raised an estimated $3 million at Wednesday evening's twinned fundraising events, held outside and inside the elaborate home of soap opera producer Bradley Bell.

In his remarks to the outdoor event featuring actors Jack Black and Rashida Jones and the rock band Foo Fighters, Obama repeated several times "We've got more work to do" as president - a sentiment certain to underline his re-election campaigning this year.

"We're not done," he told the cheering crowd of 1,000, who paid $250 to $500 to attend.

The 80 people dining inside with Obama paid $35,800 a plate, with the funds raised going to his re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Obama acknowledged in his remarks during the event, which was open to the media until the question-and-answer session started, that there was unfinished business from his 2008 promises.

Listing the still-open U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, lingering housing market weakness and continuing climate-change pressures, Obama said he was determined to keep pursuing his agenda.

"One of the things that has happened over the last three years is the recognition that nothing beats persistence," he said in his appeal for support as the November election nears.

The president is staying the night in Los Angeles at the Beverly Hilton, where pop star Whitney Houston died last week.

On Thursday, he will attend more campaign events in Corona Del Mar and San Francisco, a computing and Internet sector hub. He ends his three-day tour with a fundraiser in the Seattle area on Friday after a visit to Boeing.

The Democrat is well ahead of his White House rivals in filling his campaign chest, including Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, according to federal election filings.

Last week, Obama announced he would support a "Super PAC" working to raise extra money for his re-election drive.