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CONVENTION 2000 / THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION

Gore Establishing His Own Financial Base in Hollywood

Clinton may have 'movie star' status among entertainment donors, but the vice president is building upon that legacy. He has already raised more than the president in '96.

August 18, 2000|ALAN C. MILLER and ELIZABETH SHOGREN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

President Clinton, embraced by Hollywood as one of its own, cast a long shadow over Al Gore during a convention week filled with fond farewells and fund-raising galas for the president and his wife.

But Gore, the newly minted Democratic presidential nominee, left Los Angeles early today with a strong base of financial support from the entertainment industry--surpassing even Clinton's take of four years ago.

In Southern California, records show, Gore and the Democratic National Committee so far have raised $10.3 million--a 13% increase--at a time when the DNC's nationwide fund-raising pace is lagging behind 1996, when Clinton ran for reelection.

Moreover, Democratic strategists are counting on Gore to ride a positive convention bounce that will pad party coffers in the weeks ahead.

"The reality is that the vice president has very deep and long-term relationships here," said Andy Spahn, who oversees fund-raising for DreamWorks SKG. "We all knew him before we met Bill Clinton."

Gore has been traipsing to Los Angeles to solicit campaign money since his first Senate race in 1984. And he has been an outspoken advocate on issues that matter most to affluent Hollywood Democrats: the environment, Israel and abortion rights.

The vice president also has been in the forefront of the administration's aggressive efforts to provide voter-rich California with federal grants, disaster assistance and plenty of attention. Since 1993, Gore has visited the Golden State 65 times.

Still, Gore has had to overcome significant hurdles in Hollywood, including his wife's crusade in the mid-1980s to put parental warning labels on rock music albums and his choice of running mate Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a critic of sex and violence in the media.

'It's Hard to Top Bill Clinton'

Even Gore's admirers acknowledge he cannot match the emotional bond the charismatic Clinton has forged with studio moguls, actors and glitterati.

"It's hard to top Bill Clinton," said director and actor Rob Reiner, one of Gore's most enthusiastic Hollywood backers. "He's a movie star."

Nevertheless, an analysis of federal contributions for the 18 months prior to June 30 by the Campaign Study Group of Springfield, Va., shows that Gore is more than holding his own throughout California:

* The DNC collected $13.1 million in total donations from California as of midyear, a 26% increase over the same period four years ago.

* In Southern California, Gore's presidential campaign raised more than $2.8 million in restricted "hard money" donations under $1,000, or 9.6% of its total. By comparison, Clinton's campaign raised $1.8 million in 1996.

* Gore's presidential campaign generated $443,050 from the entertainment industry in Southern California, 86% more than Clinton in 1996. He also took in $340,375 from lawyers and lobbyists in Southern California, a 66% increase, and $124,350 from real estate interests, an 82% jump.

Comparisons between the Clinton and Gore campaigns are complicated by the fact that the two are intertwined: Gore was on the ticket as well in 1996, and Clinton continues to raise large sums for the DNC this year.

Gore's entertainment money is to some extent a legacy inherited from Clinton, who worked hard to open Hollywood doors during the past eight years, said Norm Pattiz, chairman of the Westwood One radio network and a major Democratic donor.

"I think this support is Gore's to lose," he said.

Clinton--unlike Gore--quickly raised the legal maximum from individual donors for his reelection. Thus, his campaign was not as reliant on Southern California as Gore.

Entertainment Donating More

In addition, the entertainment industry--a major beneficiary of the nationwide economic boom--is contributing much more to political parties and candidates, especially Democrats. In the current election cycle, the party and its candidates have received $12.5 million from studios, TV and radio stations, the music industry, theaters and those working in the entertainment field nationally. The tally for Republicans is $6.7 million.

GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush, meanwhile, raised $4.8 million in Southern California, but this represents only 6.4% of his national total. He received $126,550 from Hollywood.

Larry Makinson, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, questioned Gore's ability to create the same excitement in the entertainment industry as Clinton.

"The sense I get from the Hollywood crowd is that they're saying goodbye to a master in Bill Clinton, and there's a lot of question as to how Al Gore is going to compare to that. He doesn't have the personal magic," he said.

But Reiner, for one, has expressed greater support for Gore than he had for Clinton. He has hosted fund-raisers for Gore at his home, stumped for him on television and even flew to Ohio to join him at a campaign event last week.

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