The California Governor’s Race: Hollywood Picks Sides

Updated

In all likelihood, Jerry Brown will get the bulk of Hollywood support in California’s gubernatorial race. But even as she pours record sums into her campaign, Meg Whitman has nevertheless drawn support from a number of top entertainment industry executives.

In the latest reporting period, which ran from May 23 to June 30, Whitman drew contributions from Terry Semel, $25,900; Jerry Perenchio, $25,900; and Mike Ovitz, $25,900. Michael Lynton, a bundler for Barack Obama during his 2008 campaign, is supporting Whitman, with a $15,900 contribution during the period, added to the $10,000 he gave to her campaign last year.

She also collected contributions from a number of video game companies, including Sony Computer Entertainment, $3,000; Sega, $3,000; Take Two Interactive, $3,000; and the Entertainment Software Assn., $23,000. It’d be more surprising if they had contributed to Brown. As attorney general, he has been defending a state law banning violent video game sales to minors, with the case due to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall. Update: So much for surprises: I’ve initially overlooked the software association contribution to Brown, apparently hedging their bets. They contributed $21,000 to his campaign in March, which is before the high court agreed to take the case.

Whitman has used her personal fortune to dramatically outspent Brown: almost $20 million during the period vs. just $230,000. (As has been pointed out, she has averaged more spending in one day than he has spent all year). But even taking out the $23 million she lent to her campaign during the period, she outraised him, $3.3 million to $2.8 million.

As he conserves resources, with some $23 million on hand, Brown has kept off the airwaves, but has been aided by union outside groups. And while industry Democrats are understandably nervous about his low-key summer approach, they take some satisfaction in that Whitman has yet to pull off a clear lead in the polls, despite spending $81 million since Jan. 1. The race is still neck and neck.

Brown’s Hollywood contributors during the period include Ben Silverman, $2,300; Jeffrey Katzenberg, $13,800; his wife Marilyn, $13,800; Ron Meyer, $10,000; Ron Burkle, $1,000; Ken Ziffren, $7,500; and Nancy Sinatra, $500. Robert Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Co., where Whitman once worked as a consumer products executive, gave $10,000 to Brown. He also gave $1,000 to his campaign last November.

Brown already has drawn substantial contributions from industry donors, having tapped them personally and at a series of fund-raisers. Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Katzenberg hosted an event for him in November.

Update: The Democratic Governors Assn., which has been supporting Brown in California via an independent expenditure org called the California Accountability Project, puts Whitman’s spending in show biz terms.

“Not since the movie ‘Waterworld’ has $100 million been spent so poorly in California,” says DGA exec director Nathan Daschle.

It should be noted that a studio would be lucky to have a tentpole budget of $100 million these days.

And: In the Hollywood Reporter, Jeffrey Ressner gets details on the latest “Friends of Abe” event. That’s the conservative org of entertainment industry professionals led by Gary Sinise.

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