political notebook

Obama walks fund-raising tightrope

ATHERTON, Calif. — Making a down payment on his vow to go all in for Democrats in 2014, President Obama courted well-heeled donors in California on a two-day fund-raising jaunt that required him to walk a fine line: Berate Republicans too much, and Obama could put fragile prospects for achieving his second-term goals in jeopardy.

Obama’s California swing kicked off a concerted effort to help his party win back the House and keep its Senate majority next year. It is a mission that, if successful, would improve his playing field and help him secure his legacy during his final two years in office, a lame-duck period in which a president’s influence quickly ebbs.

Obama struck a careful balance Thursday, telling donors at a luncheon in Silicon Valley that he would continue to reach out to Republicans to advance the interests of the middle class and those aspiring to join it.


‘‘Having said that, though, there are still some really big arguments that we are having in Washington,’’ Obama said. ‘‘And I believe that Democrats represent those values.’’

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Obama’s appearance at the lunch, where supporters paid $1,000 to attend or $5,000 for a photo with the president, capped a four-event fund-raising blitz that started Wednesday in San Francisco, where Obama raised $3.25 million for the House Democrats’ campaign committee.

The short-term pitfalls of the campaign effort are clear. Obama has spent much of the past month pursuing warmer relations with Republicans in Congress whose votes he needs to enact his agenda. Republicans on the receiving end of Obama’s ongoing ‘‘charm offensive’’ — the president will dine with Senate Republicans next week for a second time — say his partisan tone when he leaves Washington makes them question his sincerity.

‘‘He’s doing a pretty lousy job of it,’’ Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican Party, said in an interview. ‘‘If he was someone who was as conciliatory as he proclaims to be, you would think he would have a few decent relationships with Republicans, but he doesn’t. Instead, he spends most of his time campaigning.’’

Democrats need to pick up 17 seats next year to regain control of the House — no small feat, considering that a president’s party tends to lose House seats in the midterms during a second term.


In the Senate, Democrats are defending 21 seats, including seven in largely rural states where Republican Mitt Romney defeated Obama last year. Republicans must flip just six seats to claim the majority.


Kerry, 2 Cabinet secretaries agree to take pay cuts

WASHINGTON — Three Cabinet secretaries became the latest senior administration officials to give back part of their salaries, in the spirit of government spending cuts.

The announcements that Secretary of State John F. Kerry, the richest Cabinet member, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will voluntarily reduce their pay came a day after President Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said they would return 5 percent of their paychecks to the Treasury.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Kerry, however, will give his 5 percent to a charity for department employees. She said he already makes significant charitable donations.

Kerry makes $183,500 this year. His donation is worth $9,175.