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CAUSE CÉLÈBRE / TINA DAUNT

Money flows freely for Barack Obama's inauguration bash

Steven Spielberg is among celebrities who have given money.

January 02, 2009|TINA DAUNT

The election may be over, but the Hollywood ATM is still kicking out the cash. And if all goes as planned, the entertainment industry money will help put on an inaugural bash like never before.

According to records posted on the Internet by President-elect Barack Obama's transition team, the inaugural committee is raking in the cash through private donations to help fund items such as fireworks and American flags for what's shaping up as the Biggest Show on Earth. Bigger than the Golden Globes, "American Idol" and, gasp, the Academy Awards put together, this historic inauguration is the kind of event everyone in Hollywood wants a piece of -- and they're willing to pay.

Consider:

Steven Spielberg has donated $50,000 -- the maximum that Obama's inaugural committee would allow -- for the events. So did Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Stone, Bradley Whitford, Tom Hanks and Ron Howard. Jamie Lee Curtis kicked in $25,000, as did Magic Johnson and director-producer Reginald Hudlin.

In return for their generosity, the donors will receive a number of prime tickets to inaugural events. No sense in missing out if you have cash on hand.

What's stunning about the latest give is it comes on top of what many believe was a record fundraising season in Hollywood, when the donating started before the last midterms and continued through the last frenzied week before election day. Half the town maxed out ($4,600 per person) in campaign contributions to Obama and then kicked in $28,500 more to the Democratic Party.

This cycle's roster of big givers reads like a who's who of successful Hollywood -- from the executive suites to the names you see when in the credits roll. (And remember, these are post-Bernard Madoff dollars.)

The execs and other notables who gave between $25,000 and $50,000 for the inaugural include former Motown chairman Clarence Avant (his daughter Nicole is key in Obama's fundraising efforts); entertainment attorney Skip Brittenham; music legend Berry Gordy; James Lassiter (Will Smith's longtime business partner); Dodger owner Jamie McCourt; Matthew Palevsky (son of big-time art collector Max); mega-producer Robert Zemeckis and his wife, Leslie; and "Friends" creator Marta Kauffman.

DreamWorks animation head Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife, Marilyn, gave a total of $100,000. George Soros gave $50,000, as did four members of his family.

Democratic strategist and Obama fundraiser Kerman Maddox gave $50,000. And he said this week he was thrilled to do it.

"Being involved with Barack Obama's campaign was the most exciting political endeavor of my entire life," said Maddox, who is taking his wife and 2-year-old son to the inaugural.

"Because of the historic significance of the campaign and the thrill it gave to my parents' generation, many of whom were raised in the segregated South, I would not miss the inaugural for anything in the world. If I had a million dollars to give Barack Obama, I would."

A campaign contribution can buy you face time with the candidate at a fundraising event. But inaugural donations buy you invitations to the parties that celebrate the handoff of power in the world's most powerful nation. A front-row seat at the Oscars may be more coveted -- but only a little.

'Haunting images' prompt action

Emile Hirsch proved to be one of Hollywood's most promising young actors with his performance in "Into the Wild," the movie based on Jon Krakauer's bestselling book about the life and tragic death of Christopher McCandless in Alaska. He also had a small but powerful role in "Milk," playing a supporter of slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk.

Hirsch, 23, says a trip to Congo with Oxfam last year -- to witness the brutality against women and children -- sparked his drive to raise awareness about that deadly conflict.

After returning, Hirsch said in a statement that he "will never forget the haunting images I saw."

Hirsch will join several Hollywood activists, including Robin Wright Penn, Maria Bello, Mia Farrow, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Joel Madden, on Jan. 14 in Hollywood to speak out against the violence, in particular the sexual assaults committed against girls and women in Congo. The gathering is sponsored by TheCommunity.com, the social networking site owned and operated by Napa resident and human-rights activist Mary Wald.

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tina.daunt@latimes.com

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