Included in the trove of emails posted by Wikileaks from an apparent hack of the Democratic National Committee is a chain that illustrates the cozy relationship between top Democratic politicians, the Obama White House, and Ticketmaster/Live Nation President, CEO, and Director Michael Rapino.
That’s “cozy” only to a point, however, as the notoriously hot-headed Rapino petulantly responds to an invitation to a state dinner last May by saying thanks, but it’s not the right state dinner.
Reviled by many music lovers for its monopolistic practices, Ticketmaster/Live Nation long has had a close relationship with the Obama administration. Despite Congressional hearings in 2009 that found many artists and politicians on both sides of the aisle condemning the move, the Obama Justice Department approved the merger of the two mega-companies, consolidating the power of what some call “the Death Star of the concert industry.”
In Chicago, Ticketmaster/Live Nation won a sweetheart deal to operate the FirstMerit Bank Pavilion on Northerly Island, and it now owns a controlling share of Lollapalooza, which has an equally exclusive long-term lock on Grant Park. Ari Emmanuel, the brother of former Obama chief of staff turned mayor of Chicago Rahm and one of Hollywood’s leading talent agents, sits on Ticketmaster/Live Nation’s board of directors.
The chain of emails begins on May 10 as Lindsay Rachelefsky, head of Sky Advisory, the Democratic consulting firm charged with fostering the party’s relationships and fund-raising in Hollywood, writes to Rapino asking if he’d received his invitation to the White House for the dinner President Obama and First Lady Michelle were hosting on May 13 for five Nordic states. The 12th state dinner of the Obama administration honored the leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden.
“Hi there,” Rachelefsky writes. “You should have received an email invite to the State Dinner on Friday. It would have come at the beginning of last week. Are you and Jolene able to attend?” (Rapino’s wife Jolene Blalock is a former model, actress, and Vulcan first officer on Star Trek: Enterprise.)
“Cannot attend this one – nor widely motivated to fly in for Nordic state dinner,” Rapino peevishly replies. “But I know they are trying to make it up to me – I assume Jeffrey Katz called Valerie who emailed me last week – bc I would not donate to his party said I was done with demo party bc they should have invited me to the Canadian state dinner given I am Canadian.”
“Jeffrey Katz” may refer to Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks and an ardent Democratic supporter, while “Valerie” might be top Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett. The Obama administration had hosted a state dinner for then newly-elected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a few weeks earlier, on March 10, 2016.
“Yeah. I submitted you for that dinner actually,” Rachelefsky replies, attempting to smooth the waters. “I don’t get information unfortunately on how they make their decisions. And… I get why flying to DC to eat herring probably isn’t super motivating.”
“U R great,” a seemingly mollified Rapino writes. “I know I got booted before over some union BS.”
According to the official list of attendees, Rapino did indeed pass on chomping herring with the President. But the emails don’t end there, as Rachelefsky forwards the Ticketmater/Live Nation chief’s response to Jordan Kaplan, National Finance Director for the DNC.
“U r the best,” Kaplan responds.
Concludes Rachelefsky: “I would love for him to tell Valerie off.”
Media representatives for Ticketmaster/Live Nation and the DNC did not respond to requests for comment.