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Hollywood rallies for Sen. Clinton

June 03, 2005|Anne-Marie O'Connor | Times Staff Writer

Conservatives may strive to portray New York Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as a polarizing figure, but she unified Hollywood Democratic political donors at a series of fundraisers that netted an estimated $1 million in a single evening, hosts estimated Thursday.

In an industry where Democrats still like to describe themselves as in recovery from the reelection of Republican President Bush, the Clinton California swing this week was clearly a shot in the arm and spurred the inevitable talk of a possible presidential bid.

From a $1,000-per-person soiree at the home of Warner Bros. chief Alan Horn to a late-night Young Hollywood shindig co-hosted by such performers as Christina Aguilera, Scarlett Johansson and Jake Gyllenhaal, organizers of the Wednesday night events had to turn away aspiring guests.

One dinner at the home of radio syndication billionaire Norm Pattiz was expected to bring in $450,000 for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, organizers said. Clinton appeared at the event with Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

"Mrs. Clinton is someone who has been a fighter on Democratic issues," said Chad Griffin, a former Clinton White House staffer who is now a political consultant in Hollywood. "She has been seen as someone who has been willing to stand up and speak her mind on the issues, and stand up to the president."

Clinton's 2006 Senate reelection effort was listed as the beneficiary on invitations to the cocktail reception at the home of Cindy and Alan Horn. The guest list included a familiar roster of Hollywood Democratic fundraising heavyweights: Norman and Lyn Lear, Bud and Cynthia Yorkin, Hollywood political consultant-at-large Marge Tabankin, and DreamWorks' Andy Spahn.

The dinner at the Pattiz home hosted a lively discussion of issues including stem cell research, Social Security, Iraq, health care and Democratic prospects for the midterm elections, according to another Hollywood political consultant, Donna Bojarsky, who attended.

There was also an event with former Clinton White House staffer John Emerson, now an investment banker and chairman and chief executive of the board of directors of the Music Center.

Hosts said a late-night event at the home of Roland Emmerich, the director and executive producer of "Godzilla" and "Independence Day," was packed. The 27 people listed on the invitation as $1,000-per-person co-hosts included young actress Lindsay Lohan. Other guests paid $125 or $250.

Clinton staffers declined to provide details about the fundraisers. Like many Republicans, Democrats are often reluctant to spotlight their connections to wealthy political donors -- particularly those in Hollywood -- and the senator is attempting to burnish a more populist image amid speculation that she might make a bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

In Clinton's case, her foes seized on her ties to the "Hollywood elite" after David Rosen, a former top aide, was charged with deliberately concealing more than $700,000 in financing for a star-studded Mandeville Canyon fundraising gala for her 2000 Senate campaign. Rosen was acquitted of those charges May 27.

Ann Lewis, the communications director for Clinton's Friends of Hillary political action committee, said she does not release any details of Clinton's fundraising events at private homes anywhere.

Lewis would say only that the Clinton campaign was taking fundraising for her reelection "very seriously, because Republicans and independent committees are planning to spend a lot of money against her." Most of the checks to Wednesday's events were made out to Friends of Hillary, in support of her senate reelection bid.

But the fundraising swing, which occurred during the congressional recess, spurred speculation about a possible 2008 Clinton presidential run.

"I think she can win the Democratic nomination in a heartbeat," said a veteran fundraiser who hosted one event in his home. "I question whether she can win the presidency."

"It seems to be the Republicans who are talking her up more than anybody. That's who they'd like to face," he said. "There are some very high-powered Democrats in this town who were off to Chappaqua [the Clintons' home in New York] the minute we lost the election, looking to Hillary as the savior.

"If she's that good," he joked, "she could coach the Lakers."

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