The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In 1910, when the city of San Francisco sought to reintroduce itself to the world after the 1906 earthquake, James “Sunny Jim” Rolph rallied city luminaries in the Merchants Exchange trading hall to raise funds for the Panama Pacific Exposition.
In less than two hours, the assembled guests put together a cool $4 million for the cause. Fast-forward 110 years to September 8, 2020. A different kind of earthquake (Trumpquake?) has shaken the country, and once again, the Merchants Exchange played (virtual) host to a block-buster fundraising effort.
Engineered by Merchants Exchange (and Nob Hill Gazette) owner Clint Reilly, the “Welcome Home” event for Senator Kamala Harris in support of the Biden Victory Fund turned out to be a bonanza for the Democratic ticket.
“Our goal was about $1 million,” notes Reilly. “But in just one hour, we raised $3 million.” The event, conducted by (what else?) Zoom, had all the trappings of a major media event, with show-stopping musical numbers “Home” and “Love Yourself” from Emmy-and Tony Award-winning artist Billy Porter, and an interview with the hometown VP candidate conducted by Top Chef Padma Lakshmi.
“We built a big tent and invited all ‘friends’ of Kamala to participate,” explained dynamo Democratic fundraiser Stefanie Roumeliotes. “It felt great to see the region come together — some of our chairs, co-chairs and co-hosts were some of Kamala’s earliest supporters dating back to the first San Francisco DA’s race.”
The event was a veritable who’s who of high-powered California Democrats and local heavyweights, a constellation of stars including Dagmar, Natasha and David Dolby, the Shorenstein family, former Harris campaign manager Ace Smith and wife Laura Talmus, Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris, Pac Heights power couple Julie and Greg Flynn, Another Planet impresario Gregg Perlo, megawatt lawyer Steven Kay, former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing and her Academy Award–winning husband Billy Friedkin, money manager John Osterweis, Susan Hirsch, Susan Leal, and a dizzying array of Harris supporter groups.
It was a tent so big, it had to be virtual.