By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN
STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Tea party protesters and film stars were on hand Monday to greet President Barack Obama, who came to Connecticut to raise money for his re-election campaign.
The Democrat was the main attraction at a $500 per person fundraising reception at the Stamford Marriott, which drew several hundred people, including top state Democrats such as Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Reps. Jim Himes, Rosa DeLauro and Chris Murphy. Later in the evening, the president attended a $35,800 per person dinner at the Westport home of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, where the hosts include actresses Anne Hathaway and Joanne Woodward and writer Aaron Sorkin.
Both events were expected to bring in at least $2.5 million for Obama’s campaign.
Outside the Marriott, where there was a heavy police presence, about 75 protesters were on hand chanting “hey, hey, ho, ho, Barack Obama’s got to go.” In support of the demonstrators, 64-year-old Palin Smith of Woodbury brought the crowd 100 sandwiches from Chick-fil-A, the fast-food chain at the center of a national debate over gay marriage. The company’s president recently touched off the skirmish when he told the Baptist Press that Chick-fil-A was “guilty as charged” for backing “the biblical definition of a family.”
Jim Berger, a 65-year-old retired small business owner, traveled from Valhalla, N.Y., for the rally. He voiced concern about the level of government spending during Obama’s first term.
“We’ve spent trillions of dollars,” he said. “We have no jobs to show for it. The economy hasn’t improved.”
Adam Fetcher, deputy national press secretary for the president’s re-election campaign, said Obama believes “there are steps we can take to support a strong business climate, like investing in education, energy, innovation and infrastructure.”
The president made that point during his address in Stamford, promising that “after a decade at war, I think it’s time to do some nation-building at home.” He said he’d like to spend those resources on schools, roads and employing veterans.
Obama later urged the crowd to help him “finish what we started in 2008” and “show the world why the United States of America is the greatest nation on earth.”
Weinstein told the audience at his Westport home, where two Academy Awards sat on the mantle, that Obama showed he was “not afraid to throw a punch. Witness the raid on Osama bin Laden. You can make the case that he’s the Paul Newman of American presidents.”
The president’s presence was also felt in Fairfield County, where state officials closed Sherwood Island State Park in Westport on Monday “due to a special event.”
State Republicans pounced on the decision to close the state park in the middle of summer.
“It is the arrogance of power and crass partisanship to shut down Sherwood Isle at the height of the summer vacation season and dislodge all these families,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said in a statement. “It is outrageous that the Democrats turn Sherwood Isle into a personal heliport for the president so that he can be ferried back and forth to hobnob with millionaires and billionaires for the day.”
Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola, Jr. said the closure came on a day when temperatures climbed in the 90s.
“And while 50 guests pay $35,800 per person to hobnob with President Obama and movie celebrities and Governor Malloy at Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s six-acre beachfront estate in Westport, area families and their children will not be able to go to the beach today because the President’s helicopter is parked there,” Labriola said in a statement.
Obama’s campaign referred comment to the Secret Service, which says it works hard with state and local authorities to minimize the public impact and to make any necessary closures and inconveniences as brief as possible.
“It’s a huge honor to have the president in the state,” said Elizabeth Larkin, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Democratic Party. “It is unfortunate that it’s inconveniencing some people in the Fairfield County area. There are always inconveniences though whenever a president visits due to security measures.”
Associated Press Writer Susan Haigh in Hartford contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)