When you’re in college and spring break comes around, you head for Fort Lauderdale or Palm Springs. When you’re in Congress and it’s an election year recess, you head straight for Los Angeles’ Westside.
Why? As John Dillinger famously said about banks, “That’s where the money is.”
Heading into the Veteran's Day holiday weekend, Thursday’s fund-raiser at the Beverly Hilton for San Fernando Valley congressman Howard Berman actually was something of a homecoming, and the high-octane crowd looked like a Who’s Who of California’s Democratic power elite, including Gov. Jerry Brown, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Berman’s long-time ally, congressman Henry Waxman, Los Angeles County Supervisor and perhaps future mayoral candidate Zev Yaroslavsky and deputy Los Angeles police chief and former County Bar Assn. president, Gerry Chaleff. But it also included many of Berman's entertainment industry supporters, including Fox's Filmed Entertainment co-chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos, Recording Industry Assn. of America CEO Cary H. Sherman and Oscar-winning composer Paul Williams.
Redistricting has forced Berman into what’s expected to be a record-breaking primary struggle with fellow Valley Democrat Brad Sherman, and the entertainment industry is rallying behind Berman, who is a leading congressional champion of two issues Hollywood cares about most — intellectual property rights and Israel’s security. Thursday’s event, arranged by uber-Hollywood political consultant Andy Spahn, raised $1.6 million. The power trio of Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg have also lent their support to Berman, although they were not at the event.
“Thank you for being here when I really need you," Berman told the crowd before going on to quip that he has protected the creative interests in technologies he himself barely understands. “'Like' me on Facebook, whatever that means," he said.
Brown, who enjoyed the strong support of the Westside’s so-called Berman-Waxman machine when he was beginning his own political career, told the assembled Dems that, “what you see is what you get” with Berman. "He knows what he's doing and he works for you," Brown said.
The Berman event came less than a week after Steve Bing, Peter Lowy and Michele and Rob Reiner hosted a fund-raising evening for Montana’s Democratic senator, Jon Tester, at Craft restaurant in Century City.
Tester, who eked out a narrow win over three-term Republican incumbent Conrad Burns in the Democratic sweep that carried Barack Obama into the White House, remains one of the party’s chief hopes in the Mountain West. He’s also the kind of character Hollywood loves, described by the Washington Post as “about as far from artificial as they come in Washington.” Tester is a third-generation Montana farmer, who always wears cowboy boots, grows organic crops and talks about “sustainability.” If his signature 50’s-style flat haircut wasn’t the only one at Craft last Saturday, you can bet it was the only cut of any kind that cost $8.
Spahn also recently put together a fund-raiser for Michigan’s junior Democratic senator, Debbie Stabenow. She is regarded as one of the senate’s up-an-comers and, like Tester, won her seat four years ago by defeating a long-time Republican incumbent, Spencer Abraham, by a single point. She previously served in the House, after a career in the state legislature. She’s already secured a seat on the powerful senate finance committee.
Last time around, Abraham outspent Stabenow $13 million to $8 million and, this time around, progressive organizations strongly supported in Hollywood — like the Sierra Club and Emily’s List — intend to see she’s better armed financially. Among those co-hosting the Stabenow gathering, held at the Detroit Style Coney Dog in West Hollywood, were Clarence Avant, Eli Broad and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
Meanwhile, liberal favorite Alan Grayson, who lost his Florida congressional seat to a Tea Party Republican, is in Hollywood on Saturday night. Grayson, who won quite an industry following with his fiery speeches on the House floor and provocative appearances on Real Time with Bill Maher will be seeking contributions at the home of Jerry Manpearl and Jan Goodman, where actor and comedian Rick Overton will moderate. The co-hosts include Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Michelle Phillips, John Heard, Norman Lear, Elliott Gould, Ed Begley Jr., Mike Farrell, Peter Coyote and Lila Garrett. Ilene Proctor organized the fund-raiser. A donation of $1,000 gets you an "exclusive sit down dinner" with Grayson and AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.
Look for similar offers coming soon to a Westside mailbox near you.