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On the Circuit

Guide to Faces and Forces in Political Fund-Raising

June 06, 1986|MARYLOUISE OATES | Times Staff Writer

Now is the season for the political rainmaker--the magic maven of politics who can rain down money on candidates. It used to be that big givers could just write the checks--but, with federal limitations on contributions, the real monetary punch now comes from those who can raise money from many sources. Here are some of the familiar, and not so familiar, players in this year's line-up:

On the Republican side, so many years dominated by the Old Guard and Kitchen Cabinet, there are new major profiles. Foremost are Irvine Corp.'s Don Bren and philanthropist William M. Keck II. Bren broke into the big leagues with Sen. Pete Wilson's 1982 race, then ensured his expertise by hiring Wilson's campaign manager, Jack Flanagan, as his political aide-de-camp. With Keck, the big move happened this year as he signed Donald G. Livingston as his political consultant and played a major role not just in national GOP fund raising, but in Rep. Ed Zschau's successful run for the Republican senatorial nomination. (One interesting note: a campaign insider said that of the 10,000 Zschau contributors, 8,000 were "new givers.")

Among old and powerful standards are Mrs. Republican, Margaret Brock, probably the longest-established amateur political fund-raiser in the country; department store executive Philip Hawley, whose name is a near-must on invites; Southern California Edison Chair and CEO Howard P. Allen; and David Packard, the chairman and founder of Hewlett-Packard Co. The once-and-probably-future movie exec Jerry Weintraub was considered Bush's major entree to the entertainment industry--but his exit from United Artists means he won't likely be important unless he comes up with another major corporate slot. Major is the only word to describe Columbia Savings' Tom Spiegel--a "big player" other Republicans agree, and able to raise big money fast, like the $90,000 he put together for Senate Banking Committee Chairman Jake Garn of Utah at Chasen's last month. Also becoming big dealers are Stephen Dart, son of the late Justin Dart, and Kipling Agopian, a partner in Brentwood Associates. The GOP's secret weapon is professional fund-raiser Joyce Valdez--queen of the lists.

On the Democratic line-up, the most powerful slugger has to be the publicity-shy Lew Wasserman, chairman of MCA. Right beside him is Jack Valenti, who heads the Motion Picture Assn. of America, and who puts on several congressional fund-raisers a month in L.A. Norman Lear hasn't let his involvement with People for the American Way stop his monetary commitments to candidates; he and UC Regent Stanley Sheinbaum uphold the faltering tradition of the once-legendary Malibu Mafia of liberal money men.

A major new player is Ted Field, who heads up Interscope Communications and is an heir to the Marshall Field fortune. In the past year, Field has become a constant political presence, and has hired Bob Burkett, formerly with Lear, as his political operative. In an almost-all-male field, attorney Lisa Specht stands out--her punch stemming much more from a deep-rooted network among women's groups and the liberal Westside than from her partnership in the Westside political law firm of Manatt Phelps Rothenberg Tunney & Phillips. Her partner, Chuck Manatt, the former Democratic National Committee chair, maintains a bi-coastal fund-raising presence and uses Stephen Moses as his West Coast dauphin. Until Specht's run for city attorney, Carl Rheuban, the president of Deauville Savings & Loan, was almost exclusively involved in national politics via Larry Weinberg and the powerful American-Israel Public Affairs Committee. But since involvement in Specht's campaign, Rheuban's name now appears in connection with other fund-raising efforts.

The long arm of Assembly Speaker Willie Brown reaches everywhere, and will be especially felt in the expected race of New York Gov. Mario Cuomo for President. Although a registered Republican, Coastal Commissioner Mark Nathanson is a trusted Brown lieutenant with rainmaking prowess in the TV and film community. Another new name--Gene Le Pietre, the owner of Circus Disco and chair of a major dinner for Assemblyman Gray Davis.

As the season plays out, there will no doubt be new names added to the line-up.

MORE YUMMY--Saturday at the Century Plaza, the California Institute for Cancer Research's 1986 Epicurean Gala puts lots of Hollywood types where they rarely are--in the kitchen. That's right--Dinah Shore, Shari Belafonte-Harper, Emma Samms, Billy Dee Williams, Gary Franklin, and former Sen. Birch Bayh (there's a surprise) will be among those serving up the specials. Dr. Armand Hammer is this year's honorary chair and Edward White chairs the $250-a-muncher dinner. Helene G. Brown will receive the Jonsson Prize, honoring her for 30 years of volunteer service in programs advocating cancer research and education.

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