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CAUSE CELEBRE

Hollywood ponders ballot choices

Democrats in the industry watch for signs of who may emerge as the party's candidate for president. Choice fundraisers await once the campaign coalesces.

October 20, 2006|Tina Daunt | Times Staff Writer

The news that former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner had ruled out a presidential run in 2008 hit Hollywood at cyberspeed.

Within minutes of the announcement last Thursday, e-mail messages were popping up on music executive Nicole Avant's computer screen.

"People are upset," she told colleague and fellow politico Herb Trawick later that evening at a gathering for economist Jeffrey Sachs at the home of News Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin.

It's no secret that members of the entertainment industry worry that the polarizing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) would ultimately lose to a Republican if she ran in a presidential election. Two years out, they have been busy scouting for other Democratic candidates.

Warner seemed like a good choice to some, until he pulled the plug. (An entertainment industry fundraiser for Warner and his political action committee, Forward Together, was abruptly canceled this week in the wake of his announcement. It was scheduled to be hosted by entertainment lawyer Skip Brittenham and his wife, actress Heather Thomas.)

With Warner out of the race, Trawick asked: "Who else is on the bench?"

It didn't take long to find out the answer.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana was in town. And Avant and Trawick were on his list of people to call on.

What to discuss? Some like it hot

Who knew that Republican political strategist Mary Matalin listens to Green Day on her iPod?

Or that Jon Bon Jovi is a political junkie (he's performed at several events for former Vice President Al Gore over the years).

Welcome to the American stew, where celebrity, government, pop culture and public policy mix.

This week, a group of Washington hipsters (political insiders from both parties) launched a website -- called Hotsoup.com -- to serve as a virtual town hall. It's a place where the online community can engage in discussions about the hot topics of the day with some of the country's most influential people. All issues are on the table: healthcare reform, political corruption, immigration and, yes, pop culture.

Former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney are set to join in discussions in the coming weeks, as are former U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft, Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, Sen. John McCain, Matalin and Bon Jovi.

The online talks will also include input from a variety of others, such as cyclist Lance Armstrong, "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson and Applebee's Chief Executive Lloyd L. Hill.

"People are hungry for an opportunity to voice their opinions on a wide range of issues in a community of people who influence others," Hill said. "A website that puts those influencers on an even playing field could have enormous impact."

Hotsoup.com founders include Matthew Dowd, chief strategist in President Bush's 2004 reelection campaign; Mark McKinnon, media advisor for Bush's presidential campaigns; Allie Savarino, an Internet advertising consultant; and three partners in a Democratic consulting firm: Joe Lockhart, former Clinton White House press secretary who became a senior aide to Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004, and Carter Eskew and Michael Feldman, advisors to Gore.

Ron Fournier, the former chief political reporter for the Associated Press, will serve as the website's editor.

Late-night musings from Mr. Leno

Mark Foley. North Korea. The Democrats fighting to win the House and Senate. Jay Leno decided it was time to go nuclear.

A monologue sampling:

"What a crazy week this has been. I don't know who Americans should be more afraid of being attacked by -- terrorists from the Middle East, a dictator from North Korea or a congressman from South Florida."

And ... "It's interesting. The president's approval rating is at an all-time low, North Korea's setting off bombs, Iraq is a mess, the Foley scandal keeps getting worse. Even the Democrats might not be able to blow this election."

The column explores the intersection of celebrity and politics. Tips and comments can be e-mailed to tina.daunt@latimes.com.

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