The Power of Money

That, and other news in Monday’s Political Panorama.


The $26 million that Hillary Clinton collected in the first quarter of this year not only shattered records, but it also means that one-tenth of it came from her March 24 gala at the Ron Burkle estate. The $2.6 million from that event wasn’t all entertainment money, as a cross section of L.A. elites were present. And more than one-third of her haul came same week, when Clinton also held high profile events in Washington and New York. Another $10 million was rolled over from her Senate re-election campaign last year.

The Barack Obama campaign has yet to release its figures, but there were some reports that it would be close to $22 million — which would show that he is close to keeping pace with the Clinton camp.

Expect both campaigns to spin the issue quite a bit in the next few days, emphasizing not just how much was raised but the number of people who contributed, as well as how much was raised on the Internet. Clinton’s camp said that of its 50,000 donors, 80 percent gave less than $100 each. But rivals will surely point out that she was most aggressive in collecting $4,600 checks from well-heeled donors, banking money not just for the primary but for the general election. Her campaign didn’t release a breakdown of those donations.

John Edwards raised more than $14 million, twice what he had raised at this point in his 2004 campaign. Among the second tier of candidates, Bill Richardson topped with $6 million, followed by Chris Dodd with $4 million and Joe Biden with $3 million.

Clinton’s haul is big, but some say that it isn’t big enough to knock out her chief rivals.

On the GOP side, the big surprise was Mitt Romney’s $21 million take, followed by Rudy Giuliani with $15 million, and John McCain with $12.5 million. The big surprise was Romney, but it’s doubtful how much entertainment industry support. His recent fund-raiser thrown by developer Rick Caruso drew mainly financial types and other developers. The one name on the host committee that even approached having an entertainment connection was EBay’s Meg Whitman. Still, when Romney visited in December, he held a meet-and-greet that was co-hosted by Jeffrey Katzenberg, even if the Dreamworks partner was not going to endorse him.

The Hotline’s Marc Ambinder sizes up who exceeded expectations (Obama, Richardson), who met them (Clinton, Romney, Giuliani, Edwards) and who failed to reach them (McCain, Dodd, Biden). Arianna Huffington chides the media, and Drudge Report, for missing the real story: That Obama is keeping pace with Clinton.

A Marathon of Telethons: The upshot of all this? The race is well on its way to being the most costly ever. Suddenly, quarterly deadlines, once a bit of campaign finance arcana, are widely reported. The campaigns themselves blasted supporters with e-mails on Saturday, urging them to contribute (“Will you be the one that gets us across the finish line?” Edwards’ campaign manager David Bonior said in a last minute e-mail plea for donations). It had all the feeling of a public television pledge drive. And given that much of the money will go to 30-second spots, it might as well have been a telethon for commercial broadcasting.

Just so things don’t get too cyncial, the Edwards camp’s Jonathan Prince noted, “History has clearly indicated that having the most money is not the key to winning the nomination.” Edwards raised the most money in 2003, but went on to lose the nomination.

What It Means for Entertainment: By April 15, all of the campaigns are required to file their finance reports, which will point out not just how much cash they have on hand but who gave what to whom. In entertainment, I am told there will be a few surprises in who has given. But just about everyone who follows this stuff says that the reports will show giving to multiple candidates. Even David Geffen, who co-hosted the Obama fund-raiser, also wrote a check to Edwards.

The fund-raising will continue. Clinton is planning another one in late May at the home of News Corp. COO Peter Chernin, with Steven Spielberg among the co-hosts, and Obama has been expected to attend fund-raisers hosted by Lawrence Bender and Irena Medavoy. But in many cases, events will start to be smaller, and for lower-dollar amounts. Many people are maxed out to one particular candidate, so campaigns have to find new networks of donors.

Supreme Court Rebuffs Bush: In a 5-4 vote, the court decided that the EPA does have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars, despite the Bush administrations argument that it didn’t fall within the federal government purvue. The case was one of the court’s major rulings on global warming, even though the politics have changed since the justices decided to review the case. As the AP reports, all of the major presidential candidates are further along than the Bush administration. At a screening of “An Inconvenient Truth” last November, just days after the court heard arguments, Al Gore was somewhat mocking of the administration’s position, but he refused to offer a prediction on how the court would decide. “I don’t have much luck with the court,” he quipped.

Gridiron Gang: Vice President Dick Cheney poked fun at himself, as well as his predecessor, at Saturday’s Gridiron Club dinner, a D.C. gathering of journalists, politicians and celebrities. On the fact that he was even there. “Usually, I’m resting comfortably at George Washington University Hospital.” He did get a few biting remarks in and riffed on the amount of energy Al Gore uses at his home. “Many argue that global warming is man-made. And it looks like they found the man.”

Back to 2000: Sydney Pollack will direct HBO Films’ “Recount,” about the figures and intrigue surrounding the 2000 presidential election. It will be shown next spring, well in time for the 2008 election.   

Thompson’s Lesser Roles: In advance of a possible presidential run, The Washington Post takes a look at Fred Thompson’s forgotten work, movies like “Aces: Iron Eagle III,” “Curly Sue” and the 2004 TV movie “Evel Knievel,” in which he played a womanizing casino magnate. The net effect on his campaign: Zero. Remember “Bedtime for Bonzo.” Plus it’s doubtful that any of these movies will be rerun, given equal time provisions. Better yet, they probably wouldn’t be rerun, period. 


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