The U.S Capitol building is reflected in puddle in Washington, DC, United States. (Photographer: Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg)

Milken Party-Goers Courted for Cash in Fight for Congress

(Bloomberg) -- Mike Pence wasn’t on the roster of speakers or guests at this week’s annual Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, but he was very much a presence.

The vice president was the star of a $10,000 per person fundraiser Sunday afternoon at the Malibu home of TCW Group Inc. Chairman Marc Stern. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, a conference speaker, was also there, a person familiar with the matter said.

Milken Party-Goers Courted for Cash in Fight for Congress

The following day, after a trip south to inspect construction of a replacement section of Mexican border wall, he was back in town at the Montage Beverly Hills for a fundraiser for the Republican Protect the House committee.

Attendees at a separate fireside chat at the Montage got a vice presidential briefing on trade, immigration, health care and North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un, said billionaire Tom Barrack, the Colony NorthStar Inc. chairman who hosted that event.

“The idea was to have a non-political function and let some of our friends in L.A. who are not necessarily supporters of the president get a look at the man who is one breath away,” Barrack said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “Los Angeles is a place where when you talk about Kim, they think it’s Kardashian.”

The Milken conference, attracting some 5,000 of the world’s richest, most powerful people, has become a key target for political fundraisers looking to piggyback on the event. The interest is particularly keen this year as Democrats look to retake the U.S. House of Representatives from the GOP.

14 Fundraisers

The conference, which traces its roots to the 1980s when Michael Milken was the king of junk bonds at Drexel Burnham Lambert, has always been about dealmaking. What’s changed is the range of people coming to make deals in politics, health care, virtual currencies, socially responsible investments and cannabis.

Those speaking at the conference included House Speaker Paul Ryan and former Majority Leader Eric Cantor, as well as Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker and former Democratic U.S. Representative Harold Ford, also of Tennessee.

One Milken attendee said he had heard of 14 Republican fundraisers scheduled around the four-day conference. Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was a featured Milken speaker, also attended the Malibu event.

Democrats didn’t pass up the chance to tap donors either. City National Bank Chairman Russell Goldsmith hosted a fundraiser for two Democratic Senate candidates that was attended by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, also in town for the Milken conference.

Festivities kicked into high gear Sunday with welcome receptions where Trump Administration veterans worked the rooms. Former economic adviser Gary Cohn stopped by a party sponsored by the hedge fund WorldQuant LLC. Veterans Affairs ex-chief David Shulkin, who was scheduled to speak at the conference before the president let him go in March, was seen at a mixer sponsored by the public relations firm Prosek Partners.

Scaramucci, Kanye

Anthony Scaramucci, the SkyBridge Capital founder catapulted to fame by his 10 days as Trump’s communications director, joined Barclays Plc ex-Chief Executive Officer Bob Diamond at one party. Scaramucci said he was already looking forward to bringing back his SALT conference to Las Vegas next year, and he’s thinking about inviting rapper Kanye West.

It wasn’t all parties and politics, though.

During the day, hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen held court at a private cabana near the Beverly Hilton’s pool. Jeremy Zimmer, co-founder of Hollywood’s United Talent Agency, conducted meetings with investors and financiers in his suite on the third floor.

Citigroup Inc. CEO Michael Corbat, tieless and sporting a pair of gray Allbirds sneakers, cut a casual figure at panels and media interviews. U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who spoke Tuesday, wore a red tie with little elephants on it.

HBO chief Richard Plepler was a no-show for an afternoon panel on entrepreneurship and corporate culture. He told panel organizers he couldn’t make it because he had a big deal in the works, according to a person familiar with the matter. HBO declined to comment.

Belushi, Pot

On Monday night, Hyatt Hotels Corp. heir Tony Pritzker held his annual party at his Los Angeles estate, one of the city’s largest private homes. The attendees included actor Billy Zane, who is also the founder of tech, media and research firm The Convergence Lab.

The highlight for some conference attendees will be a Tuesday night party at the $38.5 million mansion of actor Jim Belushi. It’s a mixer for investors, business people and proponents of marijuana, which is now legal for recreational use in California and eight other U.S. states and for medical purposes in 20 more.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.