Hillary leads Hollywood fund-raising trail

Politicians are finding truth to the Hollywood maxim: Fame tops the food chain.

Superstar candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama pulled far ahead of other contenders in entertainment industry contributions in the second quarter, with Clinton again edging out Obama in the race to lure Hollywood donors.

According to preliminary figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Clinton collected $753,790 from donors in the industry to Obama’s $617,388. The numbers cover the period from April 1 to June 30.

The margin of difference between the two candidates was nearly identical to that in the first quarter. Though Clinton’s campaign got a boost of momentum in June from the high-profile endorsement of Steven Spielberg, the figures show that Obama continues to enjoy significant industry support.

As a generalization, Clinton has been drawing a sizeable share of what could be called the industry’s established, politically active class, like Spielberg and Haim Saban, while Obama has attracted progressives and newer donors from Hollywood’s creative community, like Will Smith and Chris Rock. Of course, there are exceptions.

Overall in 2007, Clinton has collected $1,563,948 to Obama’s $1,302,072.

Among Republicans, Rudolph Giuliani drew $132,865 from entertainment sources in the second quarter, ahead of John McCain with $63,525. McCain’s show business fund-raising slowed in the period, as it did nationwide, even though he still leads Giuliani in overall money raised from entertainment sources. So far in 2007, McCain has posted $293,975 in contributions to Giuliani’s $268,915.

As the year goes on, it becomes more difficult to raise money, as campaigns already have plucked what fund-raisers refer to as the “low-hanging fruit,” or those donors who are the most avid political givers.

One of the few candidates to show an uptick in Hollywood fund-raising was Bill Richardson, who collected $98,650 in the second quarter.

During the period, Richardson even beat John Edwards, who raised $85,267. Edwards had fewer events during the quarter, while Richardson benefited from fund-raisers hosted by Mitch Kaplan and Erwin More, and another by Alan and Cindy Horn. He also had a meet-and-greet at the home of Sherry Lansing and William Friedkin.

Overall this year, Richardson has raised $165,150 in Hollywood and Edwards has collected $378,342.

A spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics said that the figures are preliminary, but the rankings are not expected to change.

There are several reasons for what may strike many as surprisingly low numbers. The figures are compiled from contributions of more than $200, the threshold at which campaigns must report individual donations to the Federal Election Commission. Spouses may not be classified in the same category, nor would such professionals as lawyers. And while it may seem like entertainment industry figures dominate some fund-raisers, in truth many attendees in Los Angeles and New York come from a variety of backgrounds.

What the latest results also show is that studio chiefs, media moguls and other notable figures are still spreading their wealth and giving to multiple candidates, even as Clinton and Obama dominate giving.

Cynics may call such spreading of the wealth hedging one’s bets, but in many cases, donors are returning favors to friends who are hosting fund-raisers for other candidates.

For instance, Spielberg gave to Richardson in the second quarter even though he is endorsing Clinton. And his partner at DreamWorks, Jeffrey Katzenberg, gave to Clinton in the period, even though he is endorsing Obama.

Even Rupert Murdoch also gave to Clinton, even though he has said publicly that he doubts whether he will support her candidacy. But News Corp.’s Peter Chernin and Gary Ginsberg have each co-hosted fund-raisers for Clinton, and she has collected more than $78,000 overall from News Corp. employees.

Donors are also crossing party lines. Paramount chief Brad Grey gave to McCain and Giuliani during the quarter, adding to contributions he’s already given to Clinton and Christopher Dodd. Grey’s former firm, Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, represented Giuliani.

Multiple giving is also occurring among celebrities. Paul Newman gave to Obama, Clinton and Richardson in the second quarter and Dodd in the first. Tom Hanks gave to Clinton in the second quarter after giving to Obama in the first. The same goes for Tobey Maguire. In the first quarter, Barry Manilow gave to Edwards, Obama and Clinton and then in the second wrote checks to Joseph Biden and Ron Paul, the latter of whom has proven to be a Republican party gadfly.

Also interesting are the names who have yet to give, even though the breakneck pace of fund-raising in Hollywood has given them plenty of opportunities to do so. Among those who have yet to turn up in candidates’ fund-raising lists are Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda and Martin Sheen. Nor has mogul Sumner Redstone.

Political consultant Chad Griffin, who has been raising money for Clinton, predicted that with the primaries no longer that far away, more donors will soon start picking who they want to win and stop the multiple giving.

“People have had a good six months to watch the field of candidates,” he said. “The casting call is coming to an end.”

Clinton and Obama already are setting plans for another round of breakneck fund-raising in the months ahead.

Obama’s campaign recently announced that Oprah Winfrey will hold a fund-raiser for him on Sept. 8. And Clinton’s campaign was working on some high-profile events as well, including a fund-raiser hosted by Paradigm’s Sam Gores.

The entertainment industry is a prime source of money to the campaigns but by no means the No. 1 pool of donors. For both Clinton and Obama, show business ranks seventh among all of the industries that have given to their campaigns. Lawyers rank first.

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