In February 2017, Hollywood was gripped by a spirit of resistance to the Trump administration. Endeavor bosses Ari Emanuel and Patrick Whitesell pledged to do their part to fight back by organizing a political action committee.
The committee, Endeavor Action, took in almost $300,000 in 2017 and 2018, and distributed about half that money to 44 Democratic candidates around the country. The committee told its donors that it helped raise more than $1.5 million in total, including co-hosted fundraising events where donors contributed directly to the candidates.
But as the presidential race heats up this fall, the Endeavor PAC has gone dormant, according to its campaign finance reports.
The committee has run up against an activist movement, led by the organization End Citizens United, to get corporate money out of politics. The Democratic presidential candidates and more than 50 members of Congress have pledged not to accept contributions from corporate PACs.
Endeavor Action is not technically a corporate PAC, as it can solicit contributions from outside the company, but candidates have been returning its money anyway.
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Three presidential contenders — Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke — returned contributions from Endeavor Action that were sent last year to their Senate campaign accounts. Several contributions to other candidates — including Jacky Rosen, Donna Shalala, M.J. Hegar, and Elissa Slotkin — were also returned or voided.
The committee had almost no activity in the first six months of 2019, raising just $2,100 over that period, while giving out a mere $1,200 on net. As of June 30, Endeavor Action had $138,000 in the bank.
An Endeavor Action rep said that the slowdown in the first half of 2019 was due to donor fatigue following the intense midterm elections. Given the reluctance of many Democratic candidates to accept PAC money, the rep said the committee would focus on indirect contributions this cycle, raising money through co-hosted events.
One example is an upcoming fundraiser for Mark Kelly, a Democrat running for Senate in Arizona who has pledged not to accept corporate PAC contributions. Endeavor Action — which again, is not technically a corporate PAC — is co-hosting the event, with the funds going directly to the candidate’s campaign without passing through the committee’s account.
In this fashion, Endeavor Action predicts that it will help raise more in 2020 than the $1.5 million figure from 2018.
The PAC was affiliated with another fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at the Beverly Hills home of billionaire Haim Saban on Nov. 5. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries attended the event, and Emanuel was listed as a co-host.
Endeavor Action is not getting involved in the presidential race, though several presidential candidates have held forums at the WME offices this year, including Pete Buttigieg, Booker, Michael Bennet and Andrew Yang.
Emanuel and Whitesell both backed Hillary Clinton in 2016, but are going separate ways this time around.
Emanuel has given $2,800 to Harris.
Whitesell has given $2,700 to Booker, and will be hosting a fundraiser for the New Jersey senator on Saturday, according to a copy of the invitation. The event will be held at the home of Gersh Agency co-president Bob Gersh and his wife, Linda. Hosts commit to raise $5,000 to $10,000 for the campaign, and will get a picture with the candidate. The other hosts include Sean Bailey, the president of film production at Disney, and his wife Charmaine; and Noah Mamet, a key fundraiser for President Barack Obama and a former ambassador to Argentina.
Joe Biden, Harris, and Andrew Yang will also be holding fundraisers in L.A. this week.