Showbizzers line up…for Arnold?

Forget the war or the White House: No issue has divided Hollywood’s liberal activists like the upcoming California governor’s race between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Phil Angelides.

Entertainment community donors who are normally slow to reach for their checkbooks for Republicans have been lining up behind Schwarzenegger’s re-election bid, much to the consternation of liberal activists loath to stray from the Democratic lineup.

The conservative Republicans who have sometimes clashed with Schwarzenegger have nowhere else to go in this November’s election, so the Schwarzenegger campaign has been laboring to make inroads in areas of support that a Democrat ought to consider the center of his base.

After all but ignoring Hollywood during his campaign to replace Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger has been reaching out to Hollywood liberals in his re-election effort. The latest bid for showbiz support (and checks) was Monday’s luncheon hosted by Sherry Lansing, CAA partner David O’Connor and Jerry Zucker at the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills.

Before a crowd that included Sony chief Amy Pascal, Warner Bros.’ Alan Horn, power broker Skip Brittenham, thesp Dustin Hoffman and tenpercenters Jeff Berg and Bryan Lourd, Schwarzenegger pitched himself as an effective but nonpartisan executive while offering some self-deprecating charm.

“When I was an actor, I would have dreamed to speak to this kind of audience,” Schwarzenegger said. “I could have financed an entire slate of pictures.”

But the real point he wanted to emphasize was that, while most in the room may consider themselves Democrats, he’s on their side on issues like the environment, gay rights and hot-button topics like stem-cell research.

The result has been a steady flow of contributions. “He cares about our issues,” said one donor who generally supports Democrats. “He takes our phone calls and access is important.”

Event is only one in a series of fund-raisers planned for Schwarzenegger. On Oct. 12, he and wife Maria Shriver — who has become a crucial point of contact with the Hollywood Dems on the re-election campaign — will attend a cocktail reception at the home of Nadine Schiff and Fred Rosen, followed by a Bel-Air Hotel dinner hosted by Jordan and John Davis. (Ticket price for both events: $22,300 per couple.) Among those hosting are Harry Sloan, Armyan Bernstein, Cindy Horn and Jon Sheinberg. Later this month, Haim Saban is planning his own fete for the governor.

“These are his friends,” said Angelides communications director Amanda Crumley. “There are no surprises here.”

Angelides has his supporters as well. Endeavor partner Ari Emanuel is hosting the candidate at his home on Sept. 29 along with Laurie and Larry David and Arianna Huffington, a former gubernatorial candidate herself, with Al Gore making an appearance.

Speaking of Angelides’ entertainment support, Crumley added, “It is deep and continues to grow because like many Californians, people in Hollywood don’t support Arnold Schwarzenegger because of his ties to George Bush and his support for the war.”

Others celebs lining up behind Angelides, the campaign noted, include Barbra Streisand, Magic Johnson, Laura Dern and Jeremy Piven.

Three years ago, when Schwarzenegger made the surprise announcement that he’d run for governor in the recall election, he was expected to tap friends from his Hollywood career to help out in his political ambitions.

But that never seemed to pan out. Within days of Schwarzenegger announcing his candidacy from Jay Leno’s couch, Rob Lowe was named as the campaign’s entertainment community coordinator, and Lourd, Schwarzenegger’s agent, was listed as an economic adviser on a handout given to the media at his first press conference.

But Lowe returned to just being the candidate’s “very good friend,” in Schwarzenegger’s words, while Lourd went so far as to direct CAA to issue a statement denying any involvement in the gubernatorial campaign. And many Hollywood figures — including Lansing — let it be known they were voting against the recall.

While some Hollywood Democrats may be more comfortable voting for Schwarzenegger now, it’s likely that, after three years on the job, he is more comfortable being associated with them as well.

“At the time (of the recall), he was more concerned about creating credibility,” Republican political consultant Allan Hoffenblum said. “And being endorsed by Hollywood actors, screenwriters and producers does nothing to help him on that line.” This year, though, he added, “Not only is he picking up the Hollywood crowd that’s traditionally been Democratic, it’s also part of the aura that he’s not just a base-Republican candidate.”

Three years on, Schwarzenegger as governor is now a known quantity, and that has been key to his pitch to the entertainment community. “When Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg endorsed the governor, it started first and foremost with their personal relationship with him,” said Andy Spahn, who consults for both men.

“The recall was roundly derided by political contributors,” said a Democratic fundraiser who works with Hollywood donors, “but I do think that Schwarzenegger has done a lot to address the issues that Hollywood donors care about, like the environment and gay rights, and has made it very difficult to draw a clear distinction between him and Angelides on those issues.”

The response from the Angelides campaign has been to emphasize that actions speak louder than words. A recent campaign spot that has aired statewide features footage of Schwarzenegger campaigning for George W. Bush in Ohio during the final days of the 2004 campaign.

The upshot, the Angelides campaign hopes, is that Schwarzenegger’s campaign swing for Bush may trump the disagreements he’s had since with the White House.

“What we have is a guy who for two years governed as a conservative Republican,” said Angelides media strategist Bill Carrick, “and he began a process of changing every single position that he’s ever had. To me, his whole transformation is incredibly unprincipled and unbelievable, and the people who’ve signed on with him have no idea what he’s going to be like.”

Though Schwarzenegger has been tacking left, after his bruising battles with more conservative Republicans in the recall like Bill Simon and Tom McClintock, leaning too far may cause headaches down the road.

At the Polo Lounge, Schwarzenegger joked that the Angelides camp was trying to paint him as just acting like a moderate. In front of the studio chieftains and power brokers, he said, “I spent many years of my life trying to convince this community that I’m an actor.”

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