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It's busy time working the money phone

January 26, 2007|Tina Daunt | Times Staff Writer

Democratic fundraiser Sim Farar, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's Hollywood foot soldier, is a busy man these days. With the '08 presidential race now underway, he's working three cellphones, especially the one he calls "the money phone."

"Dame Elizabeth Taylor was the first to call," he says proudly. She gave Clinton the maximum individual donation: $2,300.

Not everyone is so committed. For example, Steven Spielberg is helping host a fundraiser for Sen. Barack Obama's presidential exploratory committee next month with fellow DreamWorks founders David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg. But, like many in Hollywood, he's hedging his bets, hinting that he'll also lend support to former Sen. John Edwards and Clinton (who announced this week that she was joining the presidential race).

Farar, a tenacious pitchman, is optimistic that the undecideds will come around to Clinton -- if not now, eventually.

"Our doors are always wide open," says Farar, pausing a moment to take a personal call from longtime friend Tony Rodham, Clinton's brother. "I'm talking to studio people, stars, producers, agents...."

Another phone rings.

"It's the money phone," says Farar, 60. "Call ya back...."

The last two weeks, with Clinton joining the race and Obama considering a run, have had the intensity of an election's homestretch, when relationships are consummated, rather than the languorous courtship of a primary campaign.

Committed politicos, such as Farar, are pulling out all the stops at an extraordinarily early point in this election cycle not only because the '08 Democratic field is so full, but also because major states where campaigning is expensive are angling to advance their primaries. (If the Legislature has its say, California's presidential primary will be held next February.)

That means pressure to raise money is particularly intense in the entertainment industry, where Democrats rely on high-wattage star power to bring in major donors here and elsewhere in the country.

It seems everyone here wants to be part of the game, but few want to take sides just yet. "You'll see people supporting multiple candidates," says political consultant Donna Bojarsky.

And there are a number of reasons for that:

The Clintons have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with the entertainment industry, with strong ties dating back to the days when Bill Clinton was still governor of Arkansas. Although some major players have some misgivings about Hillary Clinton's presidential bid -- they don't like her record on the war and they worry that she's too polarizing -- they don't want to go against the Clinton political machine.

At the same time, they're also interested in Edwards, who wowed the industry crowd in '04, and Obama, whom they compare to a young Bill Clinton.

Political consultant Noah Mamet says he had a conversation this week with a friend who was struggling to make a decision on which candidate to support. He asked, why pick just one? "Let's support all the candidates we think would do a good job for the country," he told his friend.

Plus, he says, it gives donors a chance to get to know the contenders. Even though there is a lot of excitement here about Obama, for example, few have met him in person. For Hollywood types, he is like an unfinished screenplay.

"People are excited about him and want to see that he's able to compete," Bojarsky says.

Farar says he tells people to consider experience when making their selection. "I'm red, white and blue Hillary," Farar says. "The world today is in peril. It's a very dangerous world out there today. This is a time when experience really matters."

Farar says he became involved in politics almost by accident. A native of Palm Springs, he had spent much of his early career as a disc jockey. He worked alongside Wolfman Jack in Los Angeles in the early 1970s before deciding to go into business with family doing personal investments.

In the early 1980s, Farar and his wife were vacationing in Hawaii when they met California Sen. Barbara Boxer, who was a congresswoman at the time. Farar says he was immediately impressed.

"I told her if she ever wanted to run for higher office to let me know," he says. She did, and Farar went to work raising the money for her first Senate race. He's served as her national finance chairman ever since.

He met the Clintons and the Rodhams in 1992. He worked on both of Hillary Clinton's Senate races, helping coordinate her Hollywood support.

"I believe in her," he says. "I believe she would make a great president. I trust her, she's been a friend for many years...."

His voice trails off. Another phone is ringing.

"Call me again. I'm here."

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