From Eastwood to Sinise to Voight, long-time Republicans haven’t embraced the California standard-bearers in the midterm elections
If Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina end up beating the odds on Tuesday, you can bet Hollywood won't make their thank-you lists.
The two Republican candiates have mounted spirited challenges to their Democratic challengers Sen. Barbara Boxer and former Gov. Jerry Brown, but the industry’s band of conservatives have largely decided to sit out these hotly contested races.
TheWrap found a pathetically thin list of Fiorina donors with industry ties (only one hand necessary), and less than two dozen for Whitman (see charts).
Even Whitman's list pales in comparison to the scores of movie, music and television stars who have opened their wallets for Brown and Boxer.
Executives like Michael Lynton and Haim Saban (both well-known liberals) have given to Whitman; but they give a lot more to the other side. Best-selling author Dean Koontz has donated to Fiorina (see below), but after that the list grows scant.
Instead, right-leaning actors and producers such as Jerry Bruckheimer, Gary Sinise and Jon Voight have largely chosen to give to out-of-state Republicans like Illinois Republican senate candidate Mark Kirk or Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
At least, they're giving. Some past donors, such as Clint Eastwood and Robert Duvall, haven't written a single check.
Fiorina's campaign doesn't deny there's been a problem, but charges that it's bad politics.
In relentlessly backing the Democratic establishment, Hollywood is voting against its own self-interest, Fiorina spokesperson Andrea Saul told TheWrap.
“Despite Boxer’s decades of repaying special interests who bankroll her campaign, Boxer has been especially bad for the entertainment industry by pressing for job-killing legislation, more than a trillion dollars in tax hikes and more government intrusion into our lives while limiting our film, music, and television shows’ global reach and exposing them to more piracy by opposing free trade,” Saul said.
So what's behind the GOP money shortfall?
For one thing, this time the California Republican standard-bearers may be too far right for Hollywood-style conservatives, who like their tax cuts but don’t get as passionate about gay marriage and abortion. For instance, some Grand Old Party boosters like “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry and Bruckheimer donated to Fiorina’s Republican primary opponent, the more socially liberal Tom Campbell.
“Fiorina has run as fairly dogmatic — she’s anti-immigration and anti-gay marriage. Whitman has tilted more toward the center, but she’s still running to the right of Arnold Schwarzenegger,” Larry Gerston, professor of political science at San Jose State University, told TheWrap.
Also, “The California races are not duplicating the national pattern in that the Democrats will likely win. There are a lot of real close races across the country, and they may feel that they will have a greater impact if they donate outside the state,” Raphael Sonenshein, a professor of political science at California State University, Fullerton, told TheWrap.
Spokespeople for Bruckheimer and Sinise declined to comment, and representatives from other Hollywood conservatives did not respond to TheWrap’s requests.
Whitman has fared better than Fiorina, owing in part to her days as an executive at the Walt Disney Company and DreamWorks. What support she has in Hollywood, with donors like Disney's former Chairman Dick Cook and DreamWorks Animation President Lewis Coleman, seems to stem from the relationships she built at those companies.
It’s a far cry from when Schwarzenegger was able to exploit his industry ties to convince those in the business to cross party lines and support a Republican. Of course, it also helped that he was also progressive on issues such as abortion and gay rights.
This go-round, Schwarzenegger’s neutral position is another contributing factor to entertainment business’ tepid response to Fiorina and Whitman. The governor has declined to endorse either candidate, primarily because both have expressed indifference to his environmentally friendly policies.
“If you read between the lines, Schwarzenegger has said positive things about Jerry Brown, and they have a friendship there, and his legacy is the climate change bill, which Whitman plans to eliminate,” Andy Spahn, an entertainment industry political consultant, told TheWrap.
Beyond an on-the fence Governator, there’s also the reality that the movie business is a difficult one for conservative politicians to break into, even for big-moneyed former Fortune 500 executives.
“Hollywood is predominantly liberal in its orientation, so it’s hard for newcomers, unless they have ties to the industry like Schwarzenegger or Reagan to get attention. It takes time to build those connections, and in races like these there isn’t time,” said Republican political consultant Sal Russo.
Of course, where some see a wasteland, others see fertile ground for an ideological shift. Other Republicans, such as conservative agitator Andrew Breitbart, argue that contrary to the paltry record of donations, there are the first stirrings of a Republican revolution taking place in the industry.
“We are starting to see the beginnings of a movement that sends messages to those people on sidelines to slowly but surely come out of the closet,” Breitbart said. “A silent conservative beast is starting to awaken in this town that’s been slumbering for 40 plus years.”
The beast may be rising, but if this election is any indication, don’t ask it to give.