David Geffen, record mogul, appears poised to become David Geffen, high-profile activist.
On Wednesday, he confirmed that he has hired Bob Burkett as president of the Geffen Foundation, a private endowment organization, and executive vice president of public affairs for the Geffen Co., his entertainment firm.
Burkett, a well-known political operative and co-chair of the Democratic Party Victory Fund, previously coordinated political activities for entertainment executive Ted Field, who is one of the most powerful behind-the-scenes figures in Democratic politics.
"I see myself getting as involved as it's possible to get in promoting public policy," Geffen said in an interview. "And I think that I can be very effective in that area."
Geffen, whose fortune is estimated at about $1 billion, would not say how much money he intends to devote to causes. But he listed AIDS, abortion rights and other civil liberties issues among his pet projects.
Last year, he donated $1 million to AIDS Project Los Angeles, the largest individual gift ever received by the group. Geffen was also one of the organizers of a $4-million benefit staged by APLA last year.
Burkett, 47, spent the last seven years helping Field carve out an influential political position as senior vice president of corporate affairs for Field's Interscope Communications.
In addition to supporting Democratic candidates, Field bankrolled a myriad of liberal causes, including the successful effort to block the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork.
While he is a longtime supporter of candidates and causes, Geffen's political activities have been mostly behind the scenes until recently. He gave $100,000 to the Democratic National Committee last year.
Geffen also was a strong backer of President-elect Bill Clinton, and was part of a select group of entertainment executives invited to speak at Clinton's economic summit meeting last month.
Geffen made his fortune in the record business, selling his company to MCA Inc. in a deal that eventually returned him more than $700 million.
He was one of two honorees at the November APLA benefit, at which Geffen declared: "As a gay man, I've come a long way to be here tonight."