Center stage

A moderate approach pays off with Democratic support.

"The center is where it's at," according to California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has never been much of a conservative, politically speaking, and that might explain why he was able to garner significant support during his fall re-election campaign from many famously Democratic denizens of Hollywood.

Schwarzenegger's 2006 campaign benefited from donations from the family trusts of Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, each of whom contributed the maximum amount allowable: $22,300.

In fact, a search of public databases of those who gave money to Schwarzenegger and his Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides, reveals a whole lot more entertainment-industry support for former actor Schwarzenegger than for his challenger.

Sure, Angelides scored some coin from some of the Democratic party's celebrity stalwarts such as Larry David, Rob Reiner and Barbra Streisand, but Schwarzenegger's donors, beyond Spielberg and Katzenberg, included Jerry Bruckheimer, James Cameron, Brian Grazer, Dennis Hopper, Sherry Lansing, Haim Saban, Steven Tisch and Jerry and David Zucker.

Lansing, in fact, even co-hosted a September lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel, offering dozens of top Hollywood insiders the opportunity to get to know the governor and, perhaps, encourage them to vote for him. She guesses that many of them did.

"There were about 50 who were all well-known Democrats, and the governor was amazing," Lansing says. "All we were saying was, 'Listen, the governor is here. You can ask him any question you want.'"

Lansing, a lifelong Democrat, said she took a hard look at Schwarzenegger at the behest of Paul Wachter, who serves on the University of California Board of Regents, as does Lansing.

Asked to support the governor, Lansing's immediate response was: "I can't. I'm a Democrat."

Wachter countered with, "You're on a lot of bipartisan education and health commissions. What's the point of doing that if no one is ever going to cross party lines?"

And besides, he asked her, "What is Arnold doing that you don't like, and what is Angelides doing that you do like?"

"I was stumped," Lansing recalls. "So, I did what you typically do in movie fashion. I said, 'I'll get back to you.' Then I went home and thought. I thought a lot."

Lansing says that it was primarily Schwarzenegger's crossing of party lines in embracing public funding of stem-cell research that encouraged her own crossing of party lines.

In July, shortly after President George W. Bush vetoed legislation to provide federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, Schwarzenegger authorized up to $150 million for the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, a state agency that Lansing is involved with through her Sherry Lansing Foundation.

"I thought it was the bravest, most courageous thing I had ever seen," she says of Schwarzenegger's defiant support for CIRM.

"It was time for me to vote for the man, not the party, and vote for what I believe in without being afraid," she says. "I called Paul Wachter back and said, 'I'm in. And I'm not just in to sneak into the booth and vote for Arnold. I really want to help.'"

Lansing, 62, says it's the first time she's voted Republican. "It's been very liberating," she notes. However, she quickly adds, "But I'm still a Democrat."

Lansing's openness notwithstanding, many of the 50 celebrities and executives known to have attended her September meet-and-greet with the governor balked at the chance to comment for this report. Some even returned phone calls simply to ask that their names not be mentioned. (Sony's Amy Pascal, Warner Bros.' Alan Horn and Dustin Hoffman were among those in attendance.)

Rob Lowe, on the other hand, has been in Schwarzenegger's corner from the very beginning, when the body builder-turned-actor announced in 2003 on NBC's "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" that he was going to be a gubernatorial candidate.

Lowe, a registered Independent who befriended Schwarzenegger and his family eight years ago on the ski slopes of Sun Valley, Idaho, says some Hollywood liberals actually supported Schwarzenegger the first time around, but they kept a low profile.

"Clearly, some were there earlier than others," says Lowe, who continues to be a passionate supporter of the governor.

In those early days, Lowe did a lot of "networking" on behalf of the Schwarzenegger campaign, with mixed results.

"Any time someone has an 'R' next to their name in show business, there's an element of radioactivity," Lowe says, half-joking.

"If a guy is doing great things for the state, I don't care if they're a Democrat, a Republican or a Martian, I'm going to vote for him," Lowe adds. "But sadly, Hollywood is not exactly a bastion of individual-think."

Lowe posits that Schwarzenegger might be getting Hollywood support -- and support in general -- because Californians are "tired of the tyranny of the fringes," so they're happy to embrace a centrist.

Even bona fide liberals like George Clooney have found occasion to support the green governor: Clooney was on hand at the Burbank Hilton as Schwarzenegger signed a 2006 bill allowing California's state pension systems to divest of investments in Sudan.

David Zucker, whose brother, Jerry, co-hosted the luncheon event with Lansing and CAA partner David O'Connor, is a longtime supporter. "I've always considered myself a JFK Democrat. Right now, that means you're a Republican," David Zucker says. "I've been dragged kicking and screaming into the Republican party."

David Zucker has cut four humorous commercials critical of various elements of the Democratic party, all of which are popular draws on YouTube.com.

"Even my far, far left friends laugh at them. They say, 'I wish I could agree with you,'" he notes.

For David Zucker, the important issues are environmental policy, taxation and the war on terror, areas he says Schwarzenegger has been handling with aplomb.

"I changed my thinking after 9/11," he says. "I saw a lot of Democrats doing a lot of handwringing about how we brought this attack on ourselves. Obviously, not everybody, but certainly, the Michael Moore-Jimmy Carter-John Kerry wing."

David Zucker says Schwarzenegger is acceptable to Hollywood liberals because he is "safe" and "user-friendly."

He says that, unlike Republicans in general, Bush in particular, Hollywood insiders feel comfortable admitting -- to each other, at least -- that they voted for Schwarzenegger.

"He's like a Republican with training wheels," David Zucker says.

"The reasonable ones, like Katzenberg and my brother, will pick the candidates closest to their views. If that means voting for a Republican, they'll do it," David Zucker adds. "The other ones, the far lefties who want higher taxes and a complete liberal agenda across the board -- they voted for Angelides."


Gov. Schwarzenegger inauguration

comments powered by Disqus