Kamala Harris, Other 2020 Candidates Make Push to Showbiz Donors as First Deadline Nears

Kamala Harris Democratic candidate for US

When Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) speaks on Saturday evening at the Human Rights Campaign’s Los Angeles dinner, she’ll be sandwiching it into a prolific schedule of fundraising this weekend. She has four of them.

Sunday night at midnight is the first deadline of the 2020 presidential race — the end of the first quarter, and two weeks later campaigns will have to publicly report how much they raised in January, February and April and who gave to them.

It’s a measure of a campaign’s strength, viability and interest, and Harris likely will lead other candidates in the money primary when it comes to the amount she has raised from showbiz sources. She has been the most prolific in courting high-dollar donors at traditional fundraising receptions. Her first big Los Angeles one was at the home of Universal’s Jeff Shell and his wife Laura; she earlier this month headlined an event at the home of J.J. Abrams and Katie McGrath.

She’ll be on a blitz this weekend, apparently in the hopes of driving up her total. On Saturday afternoon, she is scheduled to attend a reception at the Pacific Palisades home of writer-producer-director Jenni Konner and writer-director Richard Shepard, with tickets starting at $1,000-per-person. Co-hosts include Ali Adler, Jessica Alba, Mindy Kaling, Kelly Sawyer Patricof and Shauna Weiss.

On Sunday, Harris will be at the home of attorneys Michael Kraut and Dan McCarty for a morning reception, then she will attend an afternoon event at the home of writer Christy Callahan and MGM’s Jonathan Glickman. That evening, her campaign is leasing the headquarters of Funny or Die for a low-dollar event, with tickets are priced at $50 per person.

Other candidates have been courting potential donors. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who is enjoying a publicity surge as the 2020 favorite longshot, is in Los Angeles on Friday in what the campaign described as private meetings before appearing on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Earlier this month, he headlined an event at Hillcrest Country Club, as part of a series of meet-and-greets a group of L.A. donors have been holding with the Democratic presidential aspirants.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who also is speaking at the HRC dinner, last week did a swing through Los Angeles and raised money at four different fundraisers, including one at the offices of agent Tracy Christian. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) headlined an event at the home of UTA’s Jay Sures.

Other candidates, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke have focused almost solely on raising huge sums online.

A number of showbiz donors say that they want to meet the candidates and see who emerges from the still-growing field, including former Vice President Joseph Biden, who has yet to announce whether he will run but who would likely be a top draw among Hollywood’s veteran political players.

But Harris has a head start in the money primary. She’s bypassing the introductory meet-and-greets that have been common in the past few months in favor of events where attendees are sure to write checks.

“She’s got a good team. There are a lot of very good people working with her campaign,” says Mathew Littman, a political consultant and speechwriter. He said that the first quarter numbers will be a sign of her support, albeit he expects a number of L.A. donors to contribute to more than one candidate.

The next three months likely will see even more competition to draw in bundlers, fundraisers and donors to a campaign.

“We are in the ‘getting-to-know-the-candidate stage right now, and pretty soon that stage will end,” he says. “That has to end pretty quickly, because all of these candidates need money.”