One candidate seeking to return to Washington has raised more money from Hollywood than any other: Barbara Boxer.
That’s no surprise, as her entertainment connections run deep and she’s been holding entertainment-centric fund-raisers for this race for years now.
What is a bit curious is how little industry support has gone to Boxer’s Republican challenger, Carly Fiorina.
Fiorina has not collected contributions from entertainment industry figures even at the same level as her fellow Silicon Valley veteran, Meg Whitman, running as a Republican in a tight race for governor against Democrat Jerry Brown.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Boxer has raised $712,712 from showbiz sources for her re-election bid, compared with less than $39,000 for Fiorina.
The caveat is that the figures were based on campaign finance reports as of June 30. The latest figures were due on Oct. 15, and the CRP usually takes several more days to conduct a new analysis; Fiorina is expected to have added to her showbiz pot.
But it’s very doubtful that the dynamics will change much.
Boxer has been on a fund-raising tear through Hollywood, with barely a week going by when she hasn’t held a significant event, often with the support of studio moguls. On Oct. 17, she was due to appear at a fund-raiser at the Malibu home of
Universal Studios’ Ron Meyer and his wife, Kelly, with singer-songwriter Jackson Browne providing an acoustic performance. Co-chairs include Warner Bros.’ Alan Horn and his wife Cindy, as well as Steven and Dayna Bochco and Pierce Brosnan and his wife Keely. In July, Fox’s Tom Rothman and his wife Jessica hosted a fund-raiser for Boxer, with Vice President Joseph Biden adding to the draw.
On Oct. 22, President Obama will raise money for her at a reception at USC, having been to Los Angeles in April on her behalf, followed several days later by first lady Michelle Obama, appearing at an event at the Wilshire Ebell in Hancock Park.
Industry money is even being raised for producer Robert Greenwald’s independent effort to produce anti-Fiorina viral videos through his Brave New Films; the latest is a project called “Carly Fiorina Is a Job Killer,” featuring interviews with former Hewlett Packard employees.
Hollywood’s leftward tilt makes it difficult for any Republican to make significant fund-raising inroads, and the fact that the race has been so close may have triggered among the industry’s donors a greater sense of urgency to contribute to Boxer. She has a slight lead in recent polls, but this is also a very volatile year.
The Fiorina campaign sees the gulf between her Hollywood support and that of Boxer as easy to explain. “Barbara Boxer is a career politician who has been stockpiling funds for six years, while Carly is a political outsider,” says Andrea Saul, a spokeswoman for the campaign, while also arguing that Boxer has been “bad for the entertainment business” by “pressing for job-killing legislation, more than a trillion dollars in tax hikes and more government intrusion into our lives while limiting our film, music and television shows’ global reach and exposing them to more piracy by opposing free trade.”
Rose Kapolczynski, Boxer’s campaign manager, says Boxer “is pleased to have earned the support of industry leaders, many of whom are Californians who support her on a wide variety of issues. Senator Boxer recognizes that entertainment is a critical economic engine for California, and she has worked hard on causes important to the industry, including halting runaway production and cracking down on overseas piracy.”
Others attribute the gap in support to a matter of contacts and, certainly among Boxer’s supporters, personality. Fiorina doesn’t have as strong ties to the industry as Whitman, relationships that can sometimes help in winning over converts who normally side with Democrats. Whitman, who had a brief tenure at Disney and even interviewed for the top job there in 2005, courted donors from the first stages of her campaign, winning early support of such figures as Terry Semel, Harry Sloan and even Michael Lynton, the latter of whom was a bundler for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential bid. Fiorina launched her bid later. In May, Semel, Sloan and attorney Bruce Ramer held a meet-and-greet for a Senate candidate in the GOP primary, but it was for Tom Campbell, not Fiorina.
Certainly another difference is in the way Whitman and Fiorina have campaigned: Whitman has tacked to the center as Nov. 2 approaches, calling for a one-year suspension of the state’s global warming law but opposing Prop 23, which is more likely to delay it far longer. Fiorina, by contrast, supports Prop 23, as well as offshore oil drilling.
“I think it was a matter of opportunity,” says Sam Haskell, a longtime supporter of Republican candidates and chairman of the Miss America Organization. “Whitman, because of her job at eBay, dealt with entertainment executives and then drew on her contacts. She knows everybody. Fiorina does not.”
There’s also competition, given that there are only so many GOP donors in Hollywood, and as the campaign progresses, Fiorina is competing with candidates across the country for a smaller pool. “At a certain point you have to make the decision, ‘Where is the most likely place where you are going to get the most money?'” notes producer Craig Haffner, who has long been active in supporting Republican and conservative candidates. “To a certain extent, that is just the pragmatic business of politics.”