Thursday, March 1, 2007

And the Political Contribution Goes To…

Reposted from Capital

By Lindsay Renick Mayer

February 28, 2007 Academy Awards acceptance speeches have a reputation for turning political—certainly former vice president Al Gore’s Oscar win provided a front-row seat to the intersection between Washington and Hollywood—but this year’s nominees would not appear to be especially active political contributors.

Only three of the actors, actresses, directors and producers nominated for the prestigious film award this year spent any amount of their riches on political contributions in the 2006 election cycle, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Yet Tinseltown is a major part of an industry that traditionally has played a significant role in financing federal campaigns.

The entertainment industry contributed nearly $23 million to candidates and parties in 2005-2006 election cycle, 63 percent of which went to Democrats, according to information available Jan. 22. The industry has historically favored Democrats and has ranked among the top 12 most generous industries to give political contributions since 1996.

The biggest contributors in the industry don’t just include those working in film. Cable companies such as Comcast and media conglomerates such as Time Warner topped the list of 20 largest total contributions from employees and PACs in the 2006 election. Disney and the National Cable & Telecom Association are also on the list. And the industry’s biggest givers are not usually the stars who stroll down the red carpet, but instead producers and studio heads working behind the scenes.

Among the actors, actresses, producers and directors to be nominated for the Oscar this year, director and producer Steven Spielberg was the most generous political contributor, giving—along with his wife, actress Kate Capshaw—a total of $37,400 to Democrats, including Sens. Claire McCaskill, Jon Tester, Sherrod Brown and a contribution of $5,000 to Sen. Barack Obama’s political action committee. Spielberg was a co-producer of “Letters from Iwo Jima,” which lost this year’s best motion picture award to “The Departed.”

Clint Eastwood, who directed “Letters from Iwo Jima” and lost the best director award to Alejandro González Iñárritu for “Babel,” contributed $1,200 to the Directors Guild of America’s PAC. Marc Turtletaub, who produced “Little Miss Sunshine,” contributed $10,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Little Miss Sunshine” was also up for best motion picture.

Others in Hollywood were far more prolific givers in the most recent election cycle. Stephen Bing, owner of the production company Shangri-La Entertainment (producer of “The Polar Express”), topped the list of Californians in the entertainment industry. His nearly $142,000 went entirely to Democrats. In the 2004 election cycle, Bing gave nearly $14 million to progressive issue advocacy groups.

Others on the 2006 list of top contributors in the entertainment industry from the Golden State include the chief executives of Warner Brothers and Universal Studios, film directors Rob Reiner and James Brooks and TV producer Norman Lear. Laurie David, wife of “Seinfeld” creator Larry David and a producer of Gore’s Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” gave more than $76,000 to Democrats. And singer and actress Barbra Streisand also makes the list of top contributors in Hollywood, having given at least $85,450 to Democrats. Only two of the top 20 contributed almost entirely to Republicans.

Al Gore used the Academy Awards to jokingly announce his candidacy for president (an announcement that was interrupted by the ceremony’s orchestra), but the declared 2008 presidential candidates are already seeking Hollywood’s support. In the 2006 cycle, when she was running for re-election to the Senate, Hillary Rodham Clinton received the most contributions from the industry of any candidate–nearly $529,000, three times more than the closest recipient. But fellow senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has already surpassed Clinton’s 2006 haul from Hollywood by bringing in a hefty $1.3 million at a single fundraiser, upstaging the former first lady in the early months of the campaign.

For a list of the contributions click here.

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