'08 Candidates Tap Hollywood Cash
Jul. 17, 2007 -- Hollywood star power is lending celebrity sizzle and cash to the highly competitive race for the White House.
Tinseltown A-listers, including Steven Spielberg, Michael Douglas, Tom Hanks, Will Smith and Paul Newman, are donating big money to the 2008 presidential campaigns, heavily favoring Democratic candidates like New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, according to analysis of recently released campaign finance reports by ABC News.
The entertainment industry has long been a treasure trove of cash for political candidates, giving $27.5 million in the 2004 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Democratic candidates get the lion's share of Tinseltown's political contributions. In the last presidential election, 70 percent of the money from the industry went to Democrats.
"Hollywood has historically been one of the most tried and true ATM machines, particularly for the Democratic Party," said Chris Lehane, a California-based Democratic strategist. And in the lead up to the 2008 election, Lehane believes that anger toward the Bush administration and predictions of a Democratic presidential win are spurring the rich and famous to open their designer wallets a little wider.
Obama, a candidate who displays celebrity star power of his own, has challenged the early assumption that Hollywood types would flock to the campaign of Clinton, whose husband, former President Clinton, enjoyed support within the entertainment industry.
The latest numbers also showed that some stars who had donated early on to Obama's campaign in the first quarter were now giving money to Clinton.
Obama Attracts Actors Will and Jada Smith, Paul Newman in Q2
Among the biggest celebrity names donating to Obama's second-quarter fundraising effort are Hollywood actors Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who each gave the maximum donation to Obama - $4,600 - according to an ABC News analysis of the second-quarter campaign finance reports released Sunday by the Federal Election Commission.
The numbers include donations to candidates between April and June 2007. Federal rules mandate that individual donors may give a total of $4,600 to any one candidate - up to $2,300 to any candidate for the primary election, and up to another $2,300 for the general election. While the rules limit the amount of money any one donor can give to any one candidate, donors can give up to the maximum contributions to as many candidates as they like. Joining the Smiths, Obama's Tinseltown VIP contributors included veteran actor and director Paul Newman and his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, who each gave Obama $4,600; actor and musician Jamie Foxx, who gave Obama $2,300; comedian and actor Cedric "The Entertainer" Kyles, who donated $2,500; and actress Jodie Foster, who gave $1,000.
Controversial Actor Among Obama Contributors
One donation that may raise eyebrows is that of former "Grey's Anatomy" television star Isaiah Washington, who gave $2,300.
Earlier this year gay and lesbian rights groups demanded the actor apologize for using an anti-gay epithet while referring to cast mate T.R. Knight backstage at the Golden Globe Awards in January.
Washington later accused Knight, who announced shortly after the fracas that he is gay, of exploiting the controversy to enhance his role on the show and get a salary increase. After a firestorm of controversy, Washington was fired in June from his role as a surgeon on the show.
In the first quarter, Obama received donations from high-profile Hollywood stars such Jennifer Aniston, who gave him $2,300. Obama also took in $2,300 in the first quarter from actors Ed Norton; Eddie Murphy; Morgan Freeman; Zach Braff; Joy Bryant; Gabrielle Union; Gene Wilder; Leonard Nimoy; Rosanna Arquette; Angela Bassett; Spielberg's wife, Kate Capshaw; Foster; and actress Jamie Gertz, among others.
Are Obama's Early Donors Turning to Clinton?
But while Obama continued to bank Hollywood bucks, it's notable that some of the biggest names on the roster of first-quarter Obama donors began funneling money to the Clinton campaign in the recently completed second quarter.
Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks, "Spiderman" actor Tobey Maguire and Ben Stiller of "Meet the Fockers" and "Dodgeball" all donated to Obama in the first quarter but are now giving money to Clinton.
Hanks, a double Oscar winner for his performances in "Forrest Gump" and "Philadelphia," and his wife, Rita Wilson, both gave $2,300 to Clinton in the second quarter. Last quarter Hanks gave $4,600 to Obama's campaign, maxing out for both the primary and the general election.
"Hollywood is a place that is very cognizant and conscious of whether there is a second act or a sequel," said Lehane, a former Clinton White House staffer. Lehane suggested while Hollywood types were initially dazzled by Obama, they may fear his luster will fade like so many Tinseltown one-hit wonders.
Maguire and Stiller are both giving more money now to Clinton than they gave to Obama earlier in the campaign.
Maguire gave $2,300 to Obama in the first quarter, and followed that with $4,600, the maximum donation to Clinton in the second quarter, according to the ABC News analysis. Stiller, who starred with actress Cameron Diaz in the movie "There's Something About Mary," gave $6,900 to Clinton in the second quarter, which is considered a joint donation from him and his wife, actress Christine Taylor. Stiller also gave the maximum individual contribution of $4,600 to former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina in the second quarter. Stiller gave $2,300 to Obama in the first quarter, but nothing in the second quarter.
"They are particularly attuned to the notion that a successful presidential candidate, like a successful actor or director, needs more than just a great introduction or a great opening act," said Lehane. "That's not to say that Obama will not give people an equally stirring sequel to his first act, but people have yet to see that yet."
Clinton Attracts Tom Hanks, Tobey Maguire, Paul Newman and Danny DeVito Lehane suggested actors, actresses and directors had been closely watching the debates and liked Clinton's strong performances.
"These people evaluate performances as part of their life," said Lehane, "and she's done extremely well over the course of the debates and that's generated a strong second wave of support for her in the second quarter."
Clinton attracted second-quarter financial support from Paul Newman and his wife, Joanne Woodward, who each gave the $4,600 maximum. Woodward also gave Obama $4,600 in the second quarter.
Danny DeVito and his wife, Rhea Perlman, who played the role of Carla on "Cheers," both gave Clinton $2,300 in the second quarter, as did "The Nanny" actress Fran Drescher and television actress Joely Fisher. Actress Lily Tomlin gave Clinton $2,000, and civil rights activist and actress Ruby Dee gave Clinton $250.
In the first quarter, Clinton received money from Candace Bergen, Chevy Chase, Mary Steenburgen, Christine Lahti, Kate Capshaw and Jamie Gertz, among others. Michael Douglas, Val Kilmer Give to Richardson
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson got a Hollywood boost in the second-quarter. Richardson, who has yet to beat the top three candidates - Obama, Clinton and Edwards - in poll numbers or fundraising cash, attracted A-list actor Michael Douglas, who gave an additional $3,100 in the second quarter, maxing out this year at $4,600 for the governor.
Actress and singer Bette Midler of the movie "Beaches" also maxed out, giving Richardson $4,600 in the second quarter. Perhaps Midler, a comedian, appreciated Richardson's humorous, self-deprecating "job interview" TV ads, spotlighting his long resume.
Other Hollywood types giving $2,300 each to Richardson in the second quarter include actor Edward James Olmos, actor Val Kilmer, as well as Newman, Spielberg and Capshaw and former studio head Sherry Lansing. Writer and producer James L. Brooks and actress Jodie Foster each gave Richardson $1,000.
Model Christie Brinkley and "Just Shoot Me" actress Wendie Malick each donated $500 to Richardson's campaign.
Edwards, Dodd, Kucinich Not Forgotten by the Stars
Celebrities donating to Edwards in the second quarter included Oliver Stone, the Oscar-winning director of "Platoon," who gave $500.
Actress Mary Steenburgen, who gave Clinton $4,600 in the first quarter, gave Edwards $2,300 in the second quarter. Ben Stiller also gave $4,600 to Edwards in the second quarter and "Desperate Housewives" actor James Denton contributed $2,300. Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd received $1,000 from "3rd Rock From the Sun" actor John Lithgow.
The campaign of long-shot Democratic candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, received $1,600 from actress Shelley Morrison, who played Rosario on the television sitcom "Will and Grace." "Baywatch" actress Alexandra Paul donated $1,300 to Kucinich, and longtime "Days of Our Lives" soap opera actress Deirdre Hall gave $1,000.
Hollywood Surprises on Candidate Donor Lists
Long-shot Democratic candidate Mike Gravel, the former Alaska senator, appears to have a fan in movie actor Mark Ruffalo, who has starred in various Hollywood films including "Just Like Heaven," with actress Reese Witherspoon and "13 Going on 30," with actress Jennifer Garner. Ruffalo gave Gravel $700 in the second quarter, which brings his total campaign donation to $900 for Gravel.
Ruffalo may be a fan of Gravel's unorthodox campaign videos, posted to YouTube. In one video, Gravel does some acting of his own, staring silently into the camera and throwing a large rock into a pond. Gravel has explained the video ad is "a metaphor" for his campaign, depicting the ripple effect of what one citizen can do to effect change.
Among some of the more surprising household names on the second-quarter candidate donor lists was Marla Maples, best known as the ex-wife of real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who gave Clinton $1,000 in both the first and the second quarters.
Pauly Shore, the comedian adept at surfer-speak, most famous for his successful MTV show "Totally Pauly" show and movie "Encino Man," donated $1,000 to Clinton's campaign in the second quarter.
Republicans Largely Left Off Hollywood Money Train
Hollywood usually bestows riches on Democratic candidates, but Republican candidate and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani received $4,600 from actress Melissa Gilbert, best known from her days starring on "Little House on the Prairie."
Giuliani also received $1,000 from actor Tony Sirico, who played mobster Paulie Walnuts on "The Sopranos." In the first quarter, Giuliani received money from Kelsey Grammer, $2,100 from Adam Sandler and $750 from Ben Stein.
Lehane says the amount of donations from Hollywood suggests the industry is paying attention to an election filled with many different characters as candidates.
However, he warns not to read too much into Hollywood stars maxing out their contributions on various candidates. While it shows an interest for change in Washington, Lehane argues the money is just a drop in the bucket for the rich and famous.
"As crazy as this may sound, a $2,300 contribution is what folks will spend on a dinner out in L.A.," said Lehane. "While the contributions are significant, that's what they all spend on going out for an evening."
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