Hollywood is keeping a close eye on a handful of political races going into Tuesday’s midterm elections. The money has been forked over, the cocktails have been thrown back and now it’s time to see if famous donors have provided enough impact to influence voters.
“Hollywood has two things politicians need: financial and social capital,” Daley said.
It’s not just local elections that have showbiz backers trying to get their skin in the game. Outside of California, some of Hollywood’s elite are tracking results and pushing hard for certain candidates.
In the home stretch before Election Day on Nov. 4, TheWrap breaks down the seven races that the industry is definitely paying attention to.
1. Rep. John Kline (R-MN) vs. comedian Bill Maher (L-HBO)
Hollywood’s been throwing money at politics for decades, but a television host waging war against one specific candidate? That’s a whole new bag of bananas.
For months Maher has used his HBO show “Real Time” to shine a light on Congressman Kline’s voting record. “John Kline is so symbolic of so much of Congress in that he just wins by being an incumbent who hides,” Maher told TheWrap earlier this month. “People don’t know who he is, don’t know how he votes, don’t know what he’s all about — and that’s just the way he likes it.”
Maher hopes to unseat Rep. Kline on Tuesday, but Daley believes the TV host’s crusade has been successful regardless of what happens at the polls.
“Bill Maher’s effort to expose the record of Rep. Kline is reminiscent of Tina Fey’s depiction of Governor Palin, which made the actor one of the biggest players in the 2008 presidential race,” Daley explained. “Win or lose on Tuesday, Maher has successfully created a national conversation out of the actions of an obscure Minnesota Representative.”
2. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and a bunch of attack ads vs. Democratic hopeful Alison Lundergan Grimes
DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg and Miramax Films co-founder Harvey Weinstein famously hosted a star-studded cocktail party for Alison Lundergan Grimes back in June, knowing she was the best chance to unseat Republican Minority Leader McConnell. The execs reportedly helped raise around a million dollars for her war chest in one evening, with donations coming from celebrities as varied as Barbra Streisand, Ben Affleck, will.i.am and Eddie Murphy.
But her Hollywood endorsements would not go unnoticed.
An organization called “Kentuckians for a Strong Leadership” called Grimes out for “pocketing millions from Hollywood liberals.” They blasted her in an unorthodox attack ad, which skewered a slew of big names and contained awful puns like “[she] took a ‘Titanic’ contribution from James Cameron – a Canadian who can’t even vote in this country!”
See the political ad above.
3. Henry Waxman’s vacated House seat (California 33rd)
After forty years in the House, Rep. Henry Waxman of Calif.’s 33rd District has finally hung up his hat. The fight to replace him is between State Senator Ted Lieu (D) and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s prosecutor Elan Carr (R).
Considering the winner’s constituents will include residents of Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Malibu, you can bet the industry is tracking this one.
4. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) vs. Tom Poetter for Ohio’s 8th
Hollywood dollars tend to go to like-minded liberal Dems, but the Republican Speaker of the House tops the list of conservative candidates receiving showbiz money, pulling in more than $250K from TV, movie and music donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Included in that is $107,775 from Comcast, which is much appreciative of Rep. Boehner’s vow to eliminate net neutrality rules from the FCC.
5. Sen. and former “Saturday Night Live” star and writer Al Franken (D-MN) vs. Mike McFadden
Former “SNL” star Amy Poehler and three-time host Jon Hamm have each thrown fundraisers for Franken, who collected $232,000 from entertainment sources. Franken is leading in recent polls but considering his narrow 225-vote margin of victory over incumbent Norm Coleman back in 2009, surely he and his famous backers are paying close attention to how he’s tracking the second time around.
6. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) vs. Cory Gardner
Udall is currently neck-and-neck with his Republican challenger Cory Gardner. Steven Spielberg, Streisand, Rob Reiner, Ed Zwick and Alan Horn have all opened up their wallets for Udall, who has brought in $170,332 from the industry, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
A fundraiser for Udall was held in August at Bouchon Bistro in Beverly Hills. The event was co-hosted by attorney Tom Hoberman, Clarity Partners’ Barry Porter, and Dr. Howie Mandel (not the comedian.)
7. Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA) vs. Carl DeMaio for California’s 52nd
DeMaio is hoping to become the first openly-gay Republican candidate to win a seat in Congress, but that’s not the only thing about this election that would make for a good movie. DeMaio’s campaign has been surrounded by scandal since the candidate fired his former aide, Todd Bosnich, for allegedly plagiarizing a report on congressional pensions. Bosnich, who is also openly gay, then accused DeMaio of sexual harassment, recalling a specific instance when he walked in on DeMaio masturbating in his office.
DeMaio also accused Bosnich of burglarizing his campaign headquarters and stealing a “campaign strategy book.” DeMaio suggested that Bosnich leaked the information inside that book to Peters. The controversy has carried over into the candidates’ debates after DeMaio refused to shake Peters’ hand on two separate occasions.