Hollywood’s Love/Hate Relationship with SuperPACs

Bill Maher is now among the top donors to Obama-leaning SuperPACs. But as the Los Angeles Times points out, Maher engaged panelists on his show on the influence of the independent expenditure committees just a few weeks ago, and Rob Reiner was dead set against them.

“This to me is one of the worst things to have happened this election cycle,” Reiner said. “When you think about what’s happened in this country in the last year. You have this huge movement with the tea partiers. You have this huge movement with the occupiers. These are disenfranchised people from both ends of the political spectrum who are very angry because they don’t have jobs. And they are not going to matter one bit in this election because of all this money that’s coming from very wealthy people …. And it’s disgraceful.”

In many ways SuperPACs are akin the soft money that flowed into the system before McCain-Feingold put a stop to them. In 1996, Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president to face reelection, came to rely heavily on unlimited soft money, which could go not to his campaign but to the party for certain vague activities like “party building.” Figures like Haim Saban and Steve Bing emerged as some of the Democratic Party’s most prolific donors, writing seven figure checks to help finance such things as the 2000 Democratic Convention and the new DNC headquarters. Both are being tapped again this cycle.

But back then there also was unease over the flow of money in politics. The Hollywood Women’s Political Committee, an org of liberal women executives and creatives in the industry, disbanded in part over the influence of money in politics, and Warren Beatty teased an independent run for the presidency largely to focus attention on the need for campaign finance reform.

This time around, with the Maher donation, Jeffrey Katzenberg’s $2 million contribution to Priorities, and a spate of other donors, show biz is again opening up its wallets. The hope among the fundraisers for the Democratic SuperPACs is that the threat from the right will be enough to convince even millionaires and billionaire good government types to put aside their ideals and step up to the plate. Maher helps them make their case, especially when you listen to the unedited remarks that he said in his Yahoo special last night. Several blogs, including PoliticsUSA, are linking to the longer footage.

He says, “I am doing this because I truly believe that the difference between a country governed by Barack Obama and one governed by Santorum or Mitt Romney is worth a million dollars, but I want to make this very key point. This hurt, okay. I am not really a millionaire, alright. And if there is one takeaway from tonight, you know for all the rich liberals out there, if Bill Maher can do it, you can do it too. If the Republican world that we have seen described in the last year in these debates and over the last hour in my performance for you tonight, doesn’t scare the shit out of you, I don’t know what does…I’ll tell you something folks who look I know look at these Republican clowns and think it’s in the bag. No, it’s not. Obama could lose. This is America. You only get two parties and half the country is f**king nuts.”

Update: Maher also tells the Times that he hopes his donation will “nudge liberals with far fatter pocketbooks.”

He told ABC News that his pitch will be, “Hey, rich liberals, If I can do this, there’s a lot of people who can do it even easier.”

Priorities USA Action sent out a tweet thanking Maher. “Thx to @billmaher for the generous donation, we’ll direct his $ to our efforts to ‘kick ass’, per his request.”


 

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