Hollywood Steps up Donations for L.A. Mayor’s Race

Garcetti, Greuel get showbiz money

For all of the talk of how uninterested Los Angeles residents are in the race for mayor — the election is May 21, by the way — at least on the surface level, the entertainment industry has taken a big role in bankrolling and boosting their candidates of choice.

With just two weeks to go, City Councilman Eric Garcetti and City Controller Wendy Greuel are still courting donors and devoting time to raising money in a campaign that has been marked by a spurt of harsh, 30-second attack ads and an infusion of independent money.

Greuel appeared at the House of Blues on Monday night for a fundraising event co-chaired by Live Nation’s Michael Rapino and Magic Johnson, raising more than $200,000, according to one of the event’s organizers. On Saturday, Garcetti is scheduled at the Hollywood home of his finance chair, Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Eric Paquette, and his wife, Jessica Postigo, with tickets starting at $250 per person.

But the biggest contributions are being pursued not by the campaigns, but independent expenditure committees that support one or the other candidate and can collect unlimited contributions from individuals.

According to records filed with the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg each gave $50,000 in April to Working Californians, an independent expenditure committee supporting Greuel, a former DreamWorks executive. That matches contributions that they each gave, along with David Geffen, to the independent committee in January, and adds to a list of industry figures such as J.J. Abrams, Norman Lear and Jack Black who have contributed to the org. Spielberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw, also gave $50,000 to the committee earlier this week, according to city records.

The DreamWorks’ trio’s investment in the race,  and even more so the contributions from the union that represents Department of Water & Power employees, helped spur supporters of Garcetti to form their own independent committee, called Lots of People Who Support Eric Garcetti. Among them is Rick Jacobs, founder of the progressive org the Courage Campaign, who helped form the committee in February. Even though he has been critical of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates on independent spending by individuals and corporations, he has said they did not want to “unilaterally disarm” in the face of huge sums being spent on behalf of Garcetti’s opponent.

“I certainly wish there wasn’t so much money in politics,” Jacobs said. “But two weeks before the primary, what we saw were DWP union bosses putting up so much money for Wendy, and Eric didn’t have any on his side.”

Recent contributors to the Garcetti independent committee include Michael Ovitz, who gave $10,000, and Michael Eisner, who gave $25,000, along with Jimmy Kimmel and Steve Tisch.

The direct and independent money flowing to the campaign has helped make showbiz a bigger player than perhaps it has been in the past. According to a Los Angeles Times analysis of contributions, arts and entertainment donors have given $1.1 million to support Garcetti, while Greuel is not too far behind with $967,290. In fact, entertainment industry sources represent Garcetti’s largest base of contributors, and the second-largest for Greuel, after union support.

The industry’s focus on the race, suggested political consultant Donna Bojarsky, may be because Greuel once worked as a government relations executive for DreamWorks. Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen endorsed her in fall 2011, and they have encouraged other donors to step up and contribute. Bojarsky said she suspected that the level of industry involvement in the mayoral election is greater than in recent cycles, although it is not an “overwhelming” difference, and still a contrast compared to the engagement in a presidential election or even Senate and congressional races.

Garcetti, meanwhile, represents the Hollywood area, with a heavy concentration of the industry’s creative class. He has been on a whirlwind of fundraising over the past 18 months, packing sometimes two or three events into a single evening.

“What you have this time is a lot more people participating on the independent expenditure side,” said Jacobs, who added that industry donors he has approached “say they have gotten to know Eric and they have seen him in action and they view him as a far superior candidate.” The Garcetti independent committee has spent on radio spots and plans significant investment on get-out-the-vote efforts, he said.

Greuel’s supporters, meanwhile, have emphasized her credentials and her endorsement from former President Clinton, who was featured in a Greuel campaign ad unveiled last week in which he talked at a campaign appearance of how “she gets thing done.” Working Californians also released a spot, with similar footage from the same event, featuring the former president.

While Garcetti has held events focused on runaway production, and Greuel has addressed the issue, it has in no way dominated the race. Given the Hollywood interest, that may be a bit ironic, but with the candidates so similar on so many issues, the waning weeks of the campaign seems poised for a more negative tone of focus on big labor influence and runaway city budgets. It may not be the most inspirational ending, but for many a showbiz donor, the end result is what counts.

More Biz

  • Frontrunners Emerge As BBC's Tony Hall

    Frontrunners Emerge as BBC Boss Tony Hall Set to Leave Broadcasting Behind

    As the U.K. industry reacts to news of Tony Hall’s intention to depart the BBC this July, top-level executives including Charlotte Moore and Tim Davie as well as external contenders such as Channel 4’s Alex Mahon are beginning to emerge. Variety understands that Lord Hall, who has headed the BBC for seven years as director [...]

  • Recording Academy President/CEO Deborah Dugan participates

    Executive Assistant Preparing Lawsuit Against Ousted Grammy Chief

    In the latest twist in the increasingly bitter exit of Deborah Dugan from the Recording Academy after just five months, the ousted president/CEO is about to face a lawsuit from her former assistant, Claudine Little, who has retained former Harvey Weinstein/ Charlie Walk attorney Patty Glaser to represent her, two sources tell Variety. The news was [...]

  • Two Rivers Media Buys Out Parent

    Two Rivers Media Buys Out Parent Kew Media Group's Stake In Business

    Two Rivers Media has bought out parent group Kew Media Group’s minority stake in the business. Formed by former STV Productions head Alan Clements in January 2019, the production outfit behind Channel 5’s recent “Susan Hill’s Ghost Story” launched with the backing of Kew, Noble Grossart Investments and Channel 4’s Indie Growth Fund. Noble Grossart [...]

  • Grammy Awards 60th Annual Grammy Awards,

    Recording Academy Paid Millions Annually to Outside Law Firms

    Among the concerns listed in a memo sent to the Recording Academy’s head of HR by president/CEO Deborah Dugan before she was placed on administrative leave Thursday was an item about the organization’s “exorbitant and unnecessary” legal fees to outside law firms, according to sources familiar with the document. According to the most recent 990 [...]

  • Chuck D of Public EnemyGods of

    Public Enemy’s Chuck D Slams Grammys Over Deborah Dugan Ouster

    Chuck D, frontman of Public Enemy — who are receiving the Lifetime Achievement Awards at the Grammys next week — posted a long statement on Instagram criticizing the Recording Academy over its sudden ousting of new president/CEO Deborah Dugan yesterday. Dugan, who had been in the job only five months, was placed on administrative leave after [...]

  • Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons

    Spotify in Talks to Acquire Bill Simmons' The Ringer: Report

    Spotify is in early talks to acquire The Ringer, the digital content and podcast network launched by ESPN alum Bill Simmons in 2016, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. A representative for Spotify declined to comment on the report. Reps for Ringer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spotify’s [...]

  • Deborah Dugan arrives for the 20th

    Deborah Dugan's Recording Academy Ouster Follows Multiple Tussles With Board

    “Change is afoot,” Deborah Dugan said more than once during interviews with Variety in the weeks before her shocking removal from her post as president/CEO of the Recording Academy after just five months on the job. During those conversations, Dugan spoke of changes she planned to make in the Academy’s staffing organization, its Board of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content