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CAMPAIGN 2000

Hollywood Raises Record Sum for Democrats

Money: Generous fund-raiser comes on the heels of Gore's stern critique of entertainment industry. Bush accuses the vice president of hypocrisy.

September 19, 2000|ELIZABETH SHOGREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

If there was a question about whether Vice President Al Gore had blasted a hole in his campaign coffers with the tongue-lashing he gave Hollywood last week, the answer--a resounding "no"--was provided at a record-breaking Los Angeles fund-raising dinner Monday night.

Hosted by producer-director Rob Reiner, Warner Brothers President Alan Horn, TV mogul Haim Saban and grocery magnate Ron Burkle, the event raised about $3.5 million--the vast majority from people in the entertainment industry--for the Democratic National Committee, according to DNC Finance Chairman Joel Hyatt.

Donors wrote checks ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 to bring the total higher than any other fund-raiser at a private home, according to Democratic officials and event organizers.

"I think it does say something about the entertainment industry," Reiner said. "We have more than our own parochial interests at heart. We care about the things that everyone else cares about: educating our children, gun control and protecting a woman's right to choose."

The eye-popping fund-raising accomplishment comes just a week after Gore warned the entertainment industry to shape up within six months or he would pursue legislation to curb advertising that promotes violent entertainment to children.

"It's hard enough to raise children today without the entertainment industry making it more difficult," Gore said.

GOP nominee George W. Bush accused Gore of hypocrisy for his comments, given how much money he has raised from Hollywood.

Midway through the year, entertainment ranked fifth among industries donating to Democratic Party committees and candidates and 12th among donors to Republican committees and candidates, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that analyzes campaign finance data. The latest data released by the Federal Election Commission, which included contributions made through midyear, showed that individuals, companies and political action committees from the entertainment industry had donated $13.6 million to Democrats and $8.6 million to Republicans.

The Gore campaign said that its candidate's willingness to criticize an industry that is such a key donor speaks volumes about the difference between Gore and Bush, but it found nothing ironic about Monday night's outpouring of support.

"I presume [donors] believe that he's the best person to be the next president [and] that the agenda he's put forth is in the best interest of all the people," Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said.

Some entertainment industry donors pointed out that, even though they wrote checks, they take issue with Gore's pronouncements about their industry and the way he has delivered the message.

"His stance on Hollywood right now is something that needs some refining," said Norm Pattiz, chairman of Westwood One radio network.

Pattiz said he expects that he and other Hollywood executives will go several rounds with Gore--if he is elected--before a policy on violence in the media is adopted.

"But I'd rather do that from inside the tent than outside the tent," said Pattiz, who wrote a $25,000 check Monday night.

Event organizers, donors and other active Democrats said that they had not heard of anyone refusing to write a check because of the vice president's recent statements.

"Is there grumbling? Absolutely," said Donna Bojarsky, a Democratic activist who has long been involved in Hollywood fund-raising. "But I haven't heard anyone say they're not participating because of it."

Experts in campaign finance were surprised to hear about the flood of Hollywood money while Gore's criticism of the entertainment industry is so fresh.

"Political donors as a gene pool are not masochists," said Larry Makinson, director of the Center for Responsive Politics. "They generally like to get something in return."

Makinson said before the fund-raiser began that he would like to be a fly on the wall to hear what some of the Hollywood moguls were saying to Gore.

Democratic officials pointed out that the fund-raiser, attended by about 300 people at Burkle's mansion, occurred during a year in which fund-raising records are being broken faster than swimming marks at the Sydney Olympics.

A party fund-raiser in the Bay Area Tuesday night is expected to bring in $300,000, more than any other event in that region.

"The reality for us is we are exceeding our goals for each and every event everywhere," said Democratic spokeswoman Jennifer Backus.

Longtime Hollywood fund-raisers said that many factors have contributed to the impressive fund-raising year the Democrats are having in Southern California. The booming economy, the priming of the money pump by President Clinton in recent years and a particularly aggressive fund-raising drive by leading Democrats in the entertainment industry all have played a role.

"In the last week I've probably had four or five calls from major players from the Democratic Party--not only for this particular event but for other events," Pattiz said. The callers included other executives in the industry and congressmen, including House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), and senators. "I've never seen anything like this in my life."

Shogren reported from Washington. Times staff writer Edwin Chen contributed to this story from Los Angeles.

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