Last month, Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen each contributed to his 2010 AG re-election committee, money that can be folded into a gubernatorial campaign if and when Brown announces.
Both Brown and his expected chief rival, Gavin Newsom have been courting industry donors, but the real strength has been in lining up supporters who also will raise money. With their own political adviser in Andy Spahn, Spielberg and Katzenberg have been prolific in raising funds in recent cycles, and, along with Geffen, their high profile has been a bellwether in gauging a candidate’s strength in the industry.
When Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen co-hosted a fund-raiser for Barack Obama in February, 2007, it sent a powerful message throughout the business that Hillary Clinton did not have support in Hollywood locked up, despite her longtime ties to the business. The two presidential rivals engaged in a battle for industry cash for the rest of the race.
In 2006, Spielberg and Katzenberg crossed party lines and endorsed Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election bid, a blow to Democratic nominee Phil Angelides despite his campaign’s attempts to minimize the support.
So far, there has been no official endorsement of Brown. Spahn said in an e-mail: “As Jerry hasn’t announced his intentions yet, questions are premature.”
Brown has drawn on his longtime ties to the industry for support. Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff hosted a fund-raiser for him in Feburary, drawing the likes of Don Henley and Glenn Frey as donors. When he was governor, Brown appointed Geffen to the University of California Board of Regents.
Recent statewide polls show Brown leading Newsom. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Brown has raised more than $2 million in $5,000-plus donations in the first six months of the year, to Newsom’s $892,000. The Newsom campaign, however, says that it has raised a total of $1.6 million in the most recent period, including $1 million online.
Even though he doesn’t have Brown’s name recognition, Newsom has been aggressive about raising entertainment dollars and lining up a list boldfaced names. Recent contributors include Ryan Seacrest, actor Jason Lewis, Rosie O’Donnell, Neal Baer, Chris Silbermann, Heather Thomas and Skip Brittenham and Michael Lynton. Ben Silverman, Ari Emanuel and Rob Reiner were among the co-hosts at a recent Santa Monica fund-raiser, along with Eric Paquette and Yolanda “Cookie” Parker, both members of Obama’s national finance committee.
Newsom’s campaign said in a statement: “Some may focus on the big names, and we welcome their support. We’ve also earned the support of thousands of small donors, many giving online. We believe that’s our key to changing the future of California.”
In contrast to Newsom, who talks of the crisis hitting California, Brown’s comments about the governorship have been striking in how he seems to downplay the influence of the office. In a New York Times Magazine cover story, Brown said, “You’re basically a flak-catcher, or a pincushion.”
Nevertheless, political consultant Donna Bojarsky has predicted a “little Gavin boomlet” in Hollywood but harbors doubts about his electability statewide. “As time goes on, I think Jerry’s support will increase.”
Spielberg and Katzenberg each made two separate contributions of $6,500 to Brown’s committee, and Geffen made contributions of $6,500 and $500, according to records from the California Secretary of State. Also making contributions were Spielberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw, and Katzenberg’s wife, Marilyn. Other recent contributors to Brown include Hugh Hefner, David Bohnett, Michael King, Ken Ziffren and Diane Von Furstenberg.
WireImage photo: Brown and Newsom in 2004.