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On the stump to final curtain

CAUSE CELEBRE

October 31, 2008|TINA DAUNT

In Democratic Hollywood these days it's not enough to be the hardest-working act in show business, you've also got to be engaged 24/7 in political fundraising, personal campaigning, robocalling, image advising, party planning (and attending) and surrogate appearances in towns without even a single screen, let alone a multiplex.

Whatever the industry's travails, Hollywood has stepped up big for the most expensive election in presidential history.

The industry has raised more than $34 million for the 2008 election cycle, 75% going to Democrats. Beyond the $5.8 million for Barack Obama (and $3.2 million for Hillary Rodham Clinton), Hollywood's Dems have put together millions for a wide swath of congressional campaigns -- all backed up by the kinds of personal appearances that usually accompany the release of a major film.

"None of us want to wake up the day after the election and see there was something we could have done that we didn't do," said Marge Tabankin, a longtime Hollywood consultant and activist.

So just this week:

Matt Damon campaigned in Florida for Obama, while Kevin Costner hit the trail in Colorado for the Illinois senator and George Lopez did the same in New Mexico.

Barbra Streisand recorded an automated telephone message urging people to vote for Obama.

(If you haven't heard from Babs yet, don't worry, there's a message coming soon to a voice mail near you.)

On the Republican side, Elisabeth Hasselbeck campaigned for the John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket, telling people not to buy the hype about Palin's designer wardrobe. (After all, what is $150,000 compared with Cindy McCain's $300,000 RNC outfit?)

Sarah Silverman continued talking to younger voters, telling them to make the great schlep to Florida to talk to their grandparents about Obama. Meanwhile, Hollywood's "Bubbies for Obama," which included songwriters Marilyn and Alan Bergman and comic writer Gary David Goldberg -- went on a condo tour in the Sunshine State, reassuring older Jewish voters that Obama really does support Israel.

Those not on the trail were busy making plans for election night. Should they go to a Hollywood bash or just fly straight to Chicago (or Arizona), where their candidate will be watching the returns?

As the media tools for campaigning have moved beyond voice-over radio and television ads to YouTube, viral advertising and the blogosphere, Hollywood's importance as a repository of sophisticated knowledge and recognizable personalities that cut through the electronic white noise has increased correspondingly.

Industry know-how and celebrity face-time are almost as important as donated dollars. In fact, you can go other places for the money, but there is nowhere else to go for a friendly star.

"People are excited, and they're engaged," said former Paramount head Sherry Lansing. "This is a group that has never been passive when it comes to politics."

Noted Tabankin: "People have been working from very early on. This has been a very long cycle for everyone. The level of support has been huge in both financial support and in time to the various candidates.

"People have offered up everything from ideas on advertisements to walking door to door."

When the story of Hollywood's role in this campaign is written, the role of farsighted statesman will go to Norman Lear, who early on saw that registering young people to vote was key to the campaign process.

His nonpartisan voter registration and turnout drive, Declare Yourself, may turn out to have been one of this historic election's decisive factors. Lear emphasized the importance of the youth vote when most political professionals considered that wasted time.

Other groups with large youth constituencies, like Rock the Vote, have followed Lear's lead. And this week, the nonpartisan group Election Protection unveiled celebrity public service announcements -- starring Ashanti, Samuel L. Jackson and others -- to make sure citizens know where to turn if they have a voting problem or question. (The group set up a hotline: [866] OUR-VOTE).

And since no Hollywood drama is complete until the credits have rolled, here are some of the people who have thrown themselves into both partisan and nonpartisan efforts over the last 18 months: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Scarlett Johansson, and, just to show that, yes, Hollywood does have Republicans, Pat Boone.

So now the big question is: Will Hollywood's involvement help or hurt on election day? We'll have to wait until the last vote is counted.

This much is certain: If Obama loses, there won't be a shrink in Beverly Hills with an hour to spare.

--

tina.daunt@latimes.com

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