GOP hopefuls collect Hollywood checks
EmptyRepublican Rudy Giuliani once derided Hollywood in his Senate bid against Hillary Rodham Clinton. Today, as he pursues the presidency, he's collecting checks from actors Adam Sandler and Kelsey Grammer, and Paramount studio chief Brad Grey.
The entertainment industry has always been a wealth of cash for political candidates -- a whopping $27.5 million in the 2004 election cycle -- and Democrats traditionally have been the top draw. In the last election, $7 out of every $10 from the industry went to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Yet, the latest campaign finance reports show Republicans making some inroads, not only with the handful of more conservative stars but also the generous Hollywood players hedging their bets.
Of the GOP candidates, Giuliani, the former New York city mayor, counted several big and small screen donors as well as producers and studio executives.
Sandler, who shares a love of the New York Yankees with Giuliani and tapped him for a cameo in his 2003 movie "Anger Management," contributed $2,100. "Frasier" star Grammer and his wife donated $6,900. Mark Vahradian, who produced "Annapolis" for Paramount, gave $2,100. Writer-producer Lionel Chetwynd, an Oscar nominee for co-writing 1974's "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz," gave more than $4,200.
Grey, who helped the mayor negotiate a book deal, kicked in $4,200 to Giuliani's campaign. Grey, the former executive producer of a Giuliani favorite -- the acclaimed HBO mob drama, "The Sopranos," also contributed to Clinton and Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn.
Hollywood would have been an unlikely source of money for Giuliani eight years ago.
In his short-lived Senate bid, the then-mayor scoffed at celebrity culture, saying of Clinton: "She can have the Hollywood crowd." Throughout his two terms, Giuliani was no Hollywood favorite even though he sought to bring film dollars to the city.
He traded jabs with Rosie O'Donnell, criticized violence in movies and scuttled plans for the launch party for Talk Magazine, partly owned by Miramax Films, at the city-owned Brooklyn Navy Yards. Clinton appeared on the cover of the magazine's first issue.
Asked if Giuliani was looking at Hollywood differently, his campaign didn't respond directly.
"We are grateful for the support for Mayor Giuliani's leadership from across the country," spokesman Jarrod Agen said.
A West Coast trip for Thursday night's Republican debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., provides Giuliani and the other GOP candidates a chance to pick up a few more checks.
Sen. John McCain has five fundraisers in California, including a reception in Beverly Hills on Wednesday. Giuliani planned fundraisers in Los Angeles and Orange County. Mitt Romney chose another Hollywood venue to increase his visibility -- he planned to trade jokes with Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show."
In the three-month period in which the candidates raised money -- Giuliani nearly $15 million -- the Hollywood cash was more curio than cascade for the GOP. Former Reagan White House aide Kenneth Khachigian says only half-jokingly that you can count the Republicans in Hollywood on your fingers.
It's Democrats like Clinton and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama who are banking the expected windfall from the left-leaning entertainment industry.
Obama has gotten checks from Tom Hanks, Tobey Maguire, Eddie Murphy, Edward Norton Jr., Morgan Freeman and Ben Stiller, among others. In February, he held a closed-door fundraiser arranged by DreamWorks studio founders Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen.
"It's like a night at the Oscars" when Clinton or Obama hold fundraisers, Khachigian says. Because of Hollywood's liberal complexion, conservatives "just don't speak out."
An analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance, found that Democrats took in more than $4 from donors in the movie, music or TV business for each dollar contributed to GOP candidates. Clinton led the list with $837,000, followed by Obama with $687,000. Among other leading candidates, John Edwards banked $322,000; McCain $244,000 and Giuliani, $108,000. Mitt Romney had $73,000.
McCain lists a single actress, Mindy Stearns, but also received donations from producers including Jerry Bruckheimer and Lorne Michaels. Bruckheimer produced Hollywood blockbusters like "Beverly Hills Cop," "Pearl Harbor," and "Top Gun." Michaels is the creator and producer of NBC's "Saturday Night Live." McCain has been a host on the long-running show.
Romney had only a single donor in the first-quarter report listed as an actor, Tamara Gustavson, though he collected money from producers and writers.
"Our campaign has been more focused on the support of grass-roots activists and community leaders than the Hollywood community," said Romney spokeswoman Sarah Pompei.
Hollywood Republicans have been more prominent in decades past, when the GOP could count Clark Gable in its ranks, but a shift to the left took hold in the 1960s.
Largely because of President Bush, "the distance between the Republican Party and the celebrity-entertainment world is greater than ever," says Jonathan Wilcox, a GOP strategist who teaches a course on politics and celebrity at the University of Southern California.
There are exceptions to the Democratic power structure, such as Charlton Heston and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former action star who lives in Los Angeles. The governor, who is married to a lifelong Democrat -- Maria Shriver -- has Hollywood supporters from both political poles, and his re-election campaign was backed by Spielberg and Katzenberg.
One potential Republican candidate who could shake up Hollywood politics is former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, known for his role as district attorney Arthur Branch on NBC's drama "Law & Order."
Given his ties to the community, Thompson "could pull a few Hollywood people," Khachigian predicted. "But not many," he added.