Elections ’10: Who’s $upporting Whom in Hollywood

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It’s not unusual for the town’s Republicans to hide in the closet as campaigns gear up, but this election year they’ve locked the door behind them

It’s not unusual for Hollywood’s Republicans to hide in the closet as campaigns gear up, but this election year they’ve locked the door behind them.

With Democratic donors going all out to support their top-of-the-ticket candidates in the November elections, Sen. Barbara Boxer and would-be Gov. Jerry Brown, Republicans have been far less helpful to their opponents, Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, according to the most recent contribution records.

Indeed, the disparity between Boxer and Fiorina is especially striking, given the anti-incumbent mood sweeping the country this year and the expectation for big Republican gains in the mid-term elections.

Boxer, who is seeking a fourth six-year term following 10 years in the House, has more than 40 Hollywood donors for every one of Fiorina’s.

Among Boxer’s supporters are dozens of well-known industry figures, including Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barbra Streisand, Robin Williams, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kevin Kline, Sally Field, Christopher Guest, Don Henley, Bob Iger, Ron Meyer, Peter Chernin and J.J. Abrams.

(More donors? See who's supporting Boxer and Fiorina.)

A review of the latest FEC records showed only two donations for ex-Hewlett-Packard CEO Fiorina from people in entertainment, and not the biggest of names — Mindy Stearns ("Bridezillas") and James A. McIlwain, a Telemundo ad sales director.

It’s slightly better in the governor’s race. Brown has a 3-1 donor edge in Hollywood support over Whitman, the former eBay CEO — with many of the same contributors Boxer has. Among Whitman’s biggest supporters from the industry are Michael Ovitz, Michael Lynton, Tommy Mottola, Richard Cook and Elizabeth Gabler.

A number of well-known Hollywood Republicans, like Jerry Bruckheimer, Gary Sinise, Patricia Heaton, Jon Voigt and Kelsey Grammar have so far kept their distance from Fiorina and Whitman, according to the donor lists.

Efforts to reach them were unsuccessful. A spokesperson for Sinise said he would not comment. Representatives for the four others did not respond to requests for comment.

“One has to entertain the possibility that Republican donors in this community are just not happy with the two Republican nominees,” Andy Spahn, a political advisor whose clients include Spielberg, Geffen and Katzenberg, told TheWrap.

Spahn said longevity in politics works to the Democrats’ favor in the elections this year, anti-incumbency fervor notwithstanding. Brown, after all, has a political pedigree even longer than Boxer’s. California’s Attorney General since 2007, he was governor from 1975 to 1983 and mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007. He also ran three times for President.    

“These are two candidates who have deep and long-term relations in the Hollywood community,” Spahn said of Boxer and Brown. “They have lots of friendships, and that translates to lots of support.”

By contrast, said Sal Russo, a Republican political consultant, Fiorina and Whitman “are both new to politics, and neither of them has come into contact with a lot of Hollywood people.”

Adam Mendelsohn, a Republican strategist and political advisor to Schwarzenegger suggested that Republicans and young Hollywood talent have had “less and less in common over the last 20 years.”

But why more Republican executives aren’t donating is another question, he said.

“Talent is self-explanatory,” he said. “But over the last 10 years, the Republican party has not done a good job branding itself to make up for it with Hollywood executives.”

(More donors? See who's supporting Boxer and Fiorina.)

Julie Sonderlund, a spokeswoman for Fiorina, said, “Hollywood is not exactly the typical donor base for Republicans, especially in primaries.” She said Fiornia has received “some support” from the industry and expects it to grow as the election approaches.

The Whitman campaign did not respond to several requests for comment.

Of course, when discussing Republicans in Hollywood, the old question of discrimination against the right comes up.

Andrew Breitbart, an L.A.-based conservative publisher and commentator, blames failure of Republicans to contribute to candidates on “paranoia, like you wouldn’t believe.” Most Hollywood Republicans are scared to contribute, let alone speak out in support of their candidates, he said, “fearful of repercussions on their careers.”

A Republican consultant involved in one of the campaigns who asked not to be identified said Hollywood Republicans have grown so fearful of adverse employment consequences that they arrange “secret meetings, and urge each other not to say anything about them.”

Asked how they support their candidates, the consultant said, “They encourage other people to give money.” 

“That’s just laughable,” countered Spahn. He pointed to actor-turned-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Republican who enjoyed wide support in Hollywood from donors of both parties.

That’s in part, Spahn said, “because they were comfortable with the positions he was taking on issues like climate change. This year, the Republicans have two inexperienced candidates with no track record in public office and without deep, long-term relationships in the industry.”

Of course, it’s still early, and there’s time for more names to start attaching to the  Whitman and Fiorina rosters.

The current list of senate contributions reflects donations made through May 19, or 20 days before the June 8 primary. The next reports become public later in the summer. Donations to the gubernatorial candidates are updated daily.

Donations typically slow during the summer months, then pick up after Labor Day, when campaigns begin the final push.

By federal law, donors can contribute a maximum of $4,800 per election, or $2,400 for a primary and another $2,400 for the general. Donors to Brown and Whitman can spend no more than $25,900 per election, or $51,800 total.