Hollywood democrats take initiative

Whitford, Lear rally troops for electoral battle

HBO is starting production on “Recount,” the tale of the contested 2000 presidential vote, but Hollywood’s Democrats are already digging in for another electoral battle yet to come.

Backers of an initiative to change the way that California counts its electoral votes haven’t even collected enough signatures to get it on the ballot, but the effort already has drawn opposition from Bradley Whitford, who helped create a Web ad against it, and producer Steve Bing, who is expected to lend his considerable financial support. Norman Lear already has chipped in $50,000 to try to stop the effort.

The idea is to stop it before it starts. (And it may be working. Two prominant politicos working on the initiative resigned late last week, casting doubt on the ablitity of backers to gather enough signatures to get it on the June 2008 ballot.)

The initiative, led by an attorney for the state GOP, would switch California’s method for picking its 55 electors from a “winner-take-all” system to one where presidential candidates are awarded electoral votes based on who wins each congressional district. California has been a Democratic stronghold, so such a change could cost the nominee 20 electoral votes.

In Whitford’s ad, made for the progressive Courage Campaign, which is led by producer Rick Jacobs, the actor calls the initiative an effort “to steal the next presidential election before the campaign even begins.”

“The Republicans, because they do not have a majority of Americans on the issues, have become dependent on these kind of shady strategies,” Whitford said last week.

Meanwhile, an opposition group, Californians for Fair Election Reform and led by prominent Democrats, has already started running radio ads. The group has the backing of Bing, who has shown his willingness to fight initiative battles to the bitter end. Last year, he spent almost $50 million on an environmental initiative that would have taxed oil companies. It failed, but not before oil companies were forced to shell out more than $100 million.

This story was updated on Sept. 30.)

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