SAG campaigns hit the party circuit

Election brings out a flurry of fund raisers

If it’s SAG election time, it’s also party time.

For the past decade, actors have been throwing fetes to raise funds for campaigns. This year, with emotions running high and the stakes even higher, the number of events has hit a fever pitch.

More prosperous members of the Screen Actors Guild are being tapped to cough up as much as $1,000 to help support campaigns for national board seats and officer posts — and to cover the costs of mailings (and emails) to SAG’s 120,000 members.

Hosts of recent and upcoming shindigs include Diane Ladd, Tony Shalhoub, Nancy Sinatra, Gabrielle Carteris, former New York SAG president Joyce Gordon and current SAG prexy Alan Rosenberg.

Ballots were mailed to members on Tuesday (Daily Variety, Aug. 25). The election tallies will be announced Sept. 24.

On Saturday, Shalhoub will host an event at his Los Angeles home to benefit Unite for Strength.

That same day, Ladd will host a party-auction at her home in Ojai, with an $80-a-head charge to benefit Membership First and to aid patients being displaced from the Motion Picture & Television Fund long-term care facility.

Ken Howard, the presidential candidate who heads the Unite for Strength slate, said, “The costs of a mailing are staggering, so we have to do this to get the word out. But I also think it’s very worthwhile to have the chance to meet people face to face and exchange ideas.”

SAG charges candidates for use of its databases to send mailers and emails out to members. The guild makes it clear in the missives that SAG isn’t taking any position regarding the contents.

Email is the less expensive option but still runs several thousand dollars; costs stem largely from an independent contractor used to send out the messages.

Gordon hosted a dinner event Tuesday night at her Manhattan home for Howard with AFTRA president Roberta Reardon, Actors’ Equity prexy Mark Zimmerman and New York SAG presidential candidate Mike Hodge also attending.

Ladd’s event is being co-hosted by her daughter, Laura Dern; board candidates Ed Asner, Elliott Gould and Martin Sheen; plus Frances Fisher, Joely Fisher, Louis Gossett Jr., Valerie Harper, Malcolm McDowell and Doris Roberts. Ladd’s lined up performances by Charles Karel, David Pomeranz and Della Reese.

“I’m a party-giving fool, so I’m making sure there’s going to be plenty of great food and entertainment,” Ladd noted. “I think it’s so important that actors give back. And we have zilch for the campaign right now.”

Membership First is also planning a Sept. 3 fund-raiser and bocce ball tournament at the Beverly Hills home of national board members Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna.

The duo hosted an event last month at their home, where the “suggested support levels” ranged from $50 to $1,000 to benefit Membership First.

The campaign parties — which usually feature catered food and live music — are used by both the self-styled moderates and progressives. Former SAG prexy William Daniels is credited with making them a feature of the guild’s political landscape when he first ran for the top job in 1999.

“I think the Daniels campaign was a landmark in using house parties,” said longtime SAG member Gordon Drake. “It hadn’t been done to that extent previously, and it was a very effective way for us to raise the funds to get our message out.”

While actors are being asked to attend, SAG reminds members that the fund-raising is forbidden in some circles. On Wednesday, the guild’s election committee issued its standard warning that federal law prohibits any employer — including agents, managers, casting agents or producers — from contributing anything of value to candidates.

“This prohibition includes indirect, as well as direct, expenditures. The prohibition against the use of employer money includes any costs incurred by an employer, or anything of value contributed by an employer in order to support the candidacy of the member,” the missive said.

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