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In Hollywood, Who's Giving How Much to Which Political Party?

August 18, 2000

Hollywood loves to know everyone else's business. Figuring out who's giving what kind of money to which political party has been one of this week's cocktail party games. A Washington consultant, Campaign Study Group, helped us dig up some dollar figures so we could join the fun.

No shock, the big media and entertainment companies with cable and broadcasting interests are the leading contributors to political candidates and their respective parties.

After all, they're the ones with the most at stake in Congress and at the U.S. agencies.

Right now, the proposed merger of Time Warner Inc. and America Online Inc. is being reviewed by regulators on Capitol Hill. And cable companies such as Comcast Corp. and Falcon Holding Group face endless regulatory issues. The future of powerful outfits such as AT&T Broadband & Internet Services also heavily depends on the whims of regulators.

Keen to hedge their bets, many of the big companies are doling out cash to both political parties. Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc. and News Corp., in varying degrees, are playing both sides of the aisle.

The Republican Party has its fans. A. Jerrold Perenchio, head of Chartwell Partnership Group, which operates Spanish-language network Univision, is Hollywood's leading individual Republican donor. NBC parent company General Electric is the biggest industry contributor to the Republican Party, although an NBC-specific breakout indicates the network maintains a balance in its donations (the figure is below chart threshold and therefore not shown in the chart on this page). Fox Entertainment Group and AMFM each give three times as much to the GOP as they do the Dems.

Still, this industry's reputation as a Democratic stronghold is well-earned.

Saban Entertainment founder Haim Saban may be the single largest Democratic contributor, but Time Warner, Cablevision Systems Corp., Universal Studios parent Seagram Co., Falcon Holding Group, radio empire Westwood One and cable operator Cox Communications all are showing strong support for the party.

Barry Diller's USA Networks, which is half-owned by Seagram (soon to be acquired by Vivendi), didn't give a dime to the Republicans, while contributing more than $100,000 to the Democrats. Black Entertainment Television gave a token $900 to the Republicans, compared with the $209,750 it gave to the Democrats. Sony Corp. of America, including its Columbia Pictures studio, gave twice as much to the Dems.

The line between personal contributions made by individuals and principals of a company and those made by the companies themselves can blur. Each of the tallies in the chart is made of a different mix of donors.

In the case of DreamWorks SKG, it is exclusively the partners--David Geffen, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg--and other individuals at the company who make political donations.

Andy Spahn, head of corporate affairs at DreamWorks, said the entertainment company has never made a corporate political donation. "These are personal choices made by individuals in the company and certainly reflect no business agenda of any kind."

Among Hollywood's production outfits, the largest contributors to the Democratic Party and politicians are King World Productions, Castle Rock Entertainment, Witt-Thomas-Harris Productions and Carsey-Werner Co.

And as for Hollywood's leading talent agencies and talent management companies, Creative Artists Agency, which represents such mega-stars as Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Spielberg, has contributed twice as much as its competitors with more than $130,000. All but $2,500 of it went to the Democrats.

William Morris Agency is the next biggest donor in the group, giving nearly five times as much to the Democrats than to the Republicans.

Endeavor Agency, on the other hand, shelled out $11,000 to the Democrats and $16,300 to the Republicans.


Hollywood Money Talks

The top donors in the media/entertainment industry contributing to federal parties and candidates. The tallies represent individual as well as company contributions.

(as reported by the parties to the federal government, January 1999 -- June 30, 2000)


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