Biz preps campaign coin

The blooming presidential campaigns of Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama have set fund-raising swings through Los Angeles, as they tap entertainment industry donors in what will be a frenetic race for campaign money.

The DreamWorks trio of Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen sent out hundreds of invitations Wednesday for a Feb. 20 fund-raising reception for Obama’s exploratory committee. The $2,300-per-person event, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, will be followed by a private dinner at Geffen’s home for Obama’s fund- raising co-chairs. The latter are those who commit to raising $46,000 each for the evening.

Meanwhile, the Clinton campaign is planning a big gala on March 24, at a venue such as a hotel in the Beverly Hills area. That will be preceded by a visit on Feb. 11, when Clinton is planning to hold meet-and-greets at the homes of investment banker Sim Farar and of entertainment industry mogul Haim Saban. The meet-and-greets are for fund-raiser/donors who each commit to raising at least $25,000. Clinton also plans another visit to meet with donors in late Feb.

“She will be talking about her race: ‘I’m in, and I’m in to win,'” said Farar, echoing the catchphrase Clinton used Saturday in announcing the formation of an exploratory committee.

One fund-raiser/donor described the method of raising money as akin to setting up Amway distributorships. Because each donor is limited to giving at most $4,600 per candidate per election cycle, a pyramid-like network of key fund-raisers is required to round up contributions.

As such, the process of organizing the events is said to be a balancing act of egos and logistics — what one fund-raiser called “organized chaos.” Holding the Clinton event in a hotel, for instance, saves the campaign from having to soothe the inevitable animosities that would develop if one donor’s home is picked for a fete over another.

Democratic candidates’ competition to raise money in Hollywood is shaping up to be even more intense this election cycle, with so many in the race and with the huge sums needed to remain viable.

Many campaigns are trying to set up events in advance of the March 31 deadline for filing the first-quarter campaign-finance reports. When made public, these reports will show how each has done in meeting fund-raising goals.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, the first Democrat to declare, visited Tuesday and Wednesday and had meetings with such industry figures as William Morris chief Jim Wiatt, and he is planning further visits. John Edwards, who spoke at a reception at Endeavor earlier this month, is planning another visit in February.

Many in the industry are likely to contribute to multiple candidates and then wait to see who remains later in the year how the candidates come out on certain issues.

“If you are a big donor, you are likely to have a personal relationship with multiple candidates,” said political and fund-raising consultant Noah Mamet. “I’ve told donors, ‘It’s OK to choose multiple candidates. You don’t have to choose just one if you like more than one.’ ”

Katzenberg has endorsed Obama, after having contributed in the past to Clinton’s Senate campaign and her leadership PAC.

But just because someone is holding a fund-raiser doesn’t necessarily mean he will, in the end, endorse that candidate.

Geffen, who has not been very active in political fund raising since Bill Clinton was president, has not made any official statement on whom he will endorse, a spokesman said, even though his enthusiasm for Obama has been widely reported. And Spielberg has not yet made a decision, as he also has personal relationships with Edwards and Clinton.

“Steven will make a determination in a few months,” said political consultant Andy Spahn, who represents Spielberg and Katzenberg and was a key figure in setting up the Obama event.

One entertainer wasted little time in giving to Clinton; the money came via delivery late Saturday night. “The first donation we received in California was from Elizabeth Taylor,” Farar said. “It was for the maximum amount.”

(For more information, please visit Wilshireandwashington.com, Variety’s political and entertainment Web site.)

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