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Before Joe Biden entered the 2020 presidential race, Kamala Harris was the clear favorite of Hollywood’s big spenders. First-quarter Federal Election Commission filings show that through March 31, she led all rivals in contributions from industry movers and shakers.
That dynamic might have changed when Biden joined the race on April 25 – after the FEC’s latest reporting deadline. The former vice president reportedly raised more than $700,000 at a May 8 Hollywood fundraiser – money that hasn’t shown up yet in the latest FEC reports. The fundraiser was attended by such luminaries as DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, producer and executive Peter Chernin, actor-filmmaker Rob Reiner and CBS Films president Terry Press.
Pete Buttigieg, another Hollywood favorite, also entered the race late – on April 15, though he received numerous campaign contributions after he formed an exploratory committee on January 23. Buttigieg had been scheduled for a six-event fundraising trip to Los Angeles this week – including one to be hosted by writer-producer-director Ryan Murphy – that was expected to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. But the mayor of South Bend, IN, canceled the trip so he could deal with an officer-involved shooting there. The fundraiser will be rescheduled, though no date has been set.
Harris has been lagging fourth or fifth in national polls, but a well-funded campaign and a strong showing March in the California primary in March could boost her candidacy — if not for president, then as a running mate.
A review of hundreds of FEC filings also shows that Hollywood’s early money is on anyone but Donald Trump, who raised more than $30 million for his re-election but barely raised anything from entertainment industry donors from January 1 through March 31. Agents and writers – currently at war with one another – are on the same page in their opposition to the president, as are studio chiefs and all manner of producers, directors and stars they employ.
Through March 31, big-name entertainment attorneys were also big on Harris – who will still be the state’s junior senator even if she doesn’t gain the Democratic Party’s nomination. Nancy Pelosi also has been a major recipient of Hollywood’s largess so far this year.
And while Deadline has found hundreds of industry donations to Democratic candidates, an exhaustive search has turned up no major industry donations yet to ,Trump who announced the official kickoff to his re-election campaign on Tuesday. Bernie Sanders hadn’t gotten much out of Hollywood yet either through the first quarter of the year, and neither had Elizabeth Warren. It’s still early, and many of Hollywood’s most notable liberals and conservatives have yet to weigh in with their dollars, but the Hollywood spigot has definitely been turned on.
After Harris, there’s a huge dropoff in industry donations to the other presidential candidates through the end of March. Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar were running neck-and-neck for a distant second, followed by Beto O’Rourke, Cory Booker and Buttigieg further back in the pack.
Hollywood has long been a liberal town, and the big money so far this year is all going to Democrats. Even Republican congressional and senatorial candidates have been left out in the cold, while Hollywood’s heavy-hitters are sending out lots of love – and cash – to House and Senate Democrats in hopes of holding onto the House and retaking the Senate.
Harris has taken in the maximum allowable primary contribution of $2,800 from numerous Hollywood heavyweights. Her Kamala for the People campaign fund received $2,800 each from George Lucas, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Shonda Rhimes, Ben Affleck, Chris Rock, producer Brian Grazer, and Will & Grace creator David Kohan. Sally Field gave her $1,000, and Reese Witherspoon, who gave her $2,250, also contributed $2,800 to Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaign.
Harris has also received top dollars from many of Hollywood’s studio chiefs. Jeff Shell, chairman of NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment, gave her $2,800, and so did Donna Langley, chairman of Universal Pictures, and Ron Meyer, vice chairman of NBCUniversal.
Jim Gianopulos, chairman and CEO of Paramount Pictures, gave her $2,700, and pitched in another $7,500 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
Jennifer Salke, Amazon Studios’ chief, gave her $2,700. Harris also got $2,800 from Stacey Snider when she was chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox before its acquisition by Disney. Harris got $2,800 for the primary and $2,600 for the general election from Disney exec Emma Watts, and another $2,800 from Dana Walden, chairman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment. Walden also gave $2,800 to Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s presidential campaign.
Casey Bloys, HBO’s president of programming gave Harris $2,800, and before he stepped down as President of HBO earlier this year, Richard Plepler contributed $2,800 to Cory 2020 and $2,000 to Mark Kelly for Senate. Kevin Tsujihara, former chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, gave Harris $2,800 before he was ousted for sexual misconduct. Toby Emmerich, chairman of Warner Bros. Pictures Group, gave $5,600 to Amy Klobuchar’s Amy for America.
Harris got $5,600 from This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman – half for the primary and half for the general election. She got $5,400 from Eva Longoria, and $5,600 from actress-director-writer-producer Elizabeth Banks. She got $2,800 from writer-producer Steve Bing, founder of Shangri-La Entertainment; and $2,800 from producer Mick De Luca. Producer Orly Adelson gave her $2,800; Hannah Minghella, president of TriStar Productions, gave her $1,000, and so did producer Kimberly Steward , while producer Cathy Schulman gave her $500.
Other contributors to her campaign include James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli ($2,700); Jonah Nolan, Westworld and Person of Interest creator ($2,000), and writer-director Darren Aronofsky ($1,000). Greg Berlanti, writer and executive producer of Supergirl, The Flash and many other series, gave her $2,800 and $5,600 to Klobuchar.
Many talent agency partners are also down with Harris. She got $2,800 from CAA’s Richard Lovett, and $2,700 each from the agency’s Bryan Lourd and Kevin Huvane. Lovett also gave $500 to Cory Booker’s presidential campaign, while Lourd gave an additional $1,400 to the DCCC, and Huvane pitched in $5,600 to the Mark Kelly for Senate campaign. Kelly, the former astronaut and husband of former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, is a particular favorite in Hollywood circles. He’s running to fill the Senate seat in Arizona once held by John McCain.
UTA co-president Jay Sures gave Harris $2,000, while Jim Berkus, the agency’s chairman and co-founder gave $1,000 Amy for America.
ICM Partners’ Chris Silbermann gave Harris $2,700. He also contributed $2,800 to Kirsten Gillibrand’s presidential campaign; $15,000 to the Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund; $5,000 to the DCCC; $2,800 to Democratic Sen. Chris Coons’ reelection fund, and $1,000 to Karen Bass for Congress – for a total of $29,300.
WME’s Ari Greenberg gave $1,500 to reelect Josh Gottheimer, a Democratic congressman from New Jersey.
Hollywood’s biggest donor this year to date is writer-director Joss Whedon, who gave $120,000 to One Vote at a Time, a super PAC that funds female filmmakers who create campaign ads for progressive candidates without the means to make their own. Whedon was the creator of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series; co-writer of Pixar’s Toy Story, and writer-director of The Avengers.
Big spenders can dole out more than the $2,800 they’re allowed to contribute to individual candidates by contributing to national party committees, where the limit is $35,500 a year, and to national party committee convention accounts, where the limit is $106,500 a year. But individuals, groups, corporations, labor unions and political committees can spend even more to support or oppose candidates by making so called “independent expenditures,” which aren’t subject to limits.
Shonda Rhimes is the second-biggest giver, contributing $97,800 to Democratic candidates, including $2,800 to Kamala Harris for the People and $2,800 to Gillibrand 2020. Rhimes also gave $51,700 to the Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund; $35,500 to the DCCC, and $5,000 to the Pelosi’s PAC to the Future.
David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Inc., came in third, giving $89,400 to the DCCC and another $5,000 to Pelosi’s PAC to the Future, for a total of $94,400.
Alan Horn, chief creative officer and co-chairman of Walt Disney Studios, came in a close fourth, contributing $91,500 so far this year: $50,000 to the DCCC; $35,500 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC); $5,000 to the Walt Disney Productions Employees PAC, and $1,000 to the reelection campaign of Iowa Congresswoman Abby Lea Finkenauer.
Director J.J. Abrams came in right behind him, contributing $47,950 to the DSCC; $28, 650 to the Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund, and another $5,000 to her PAC to the Future – for a total of $81,600.
Chris Meledandri, producer and CEO of Illumination Entertainment, has contributed $61,600 so far. He gave $2,700 to Kamala Harris; $2,800 each to the presidential campaigns of Gillibrand, Julián Castro, and Tulsi Gabbard. He gave $14,400 to the DCCC; $25,000 to the Nancy Pelosi Victory Fund; $5,600 to Nancy Pelosi for Congress; $5,000 to Pelosi’s PAC to the Future, and $500 to Chris Coons for Senate.
Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, gave $35,500 to the DSCC and $2,800 to Mark Kelly for Senate.
Many of the entertainment industry’s top lawyers are also supporting Harris, but none more so than the partners at the Ziffren Brittenham law firm. Founding partner Skip Brittenham gave Harris $2,800, and so did senior partner Bryan Wolf. Senior partner Cliff Gilbert-Lurie also gave her $2,800, as did partner Matthew Johnson, who also gave $2,500 to Mark Kelly’s Senate campaign; $2,800 to Joe Kennedy for Congress, and $5,000 to the Karen Bass’ Civic Action Fund. Founding partner Ken Ziffren also gave $2,800 to the Bass Fund.
Ziffren Brittenham partner Samuel Fischer also gave Harris $2,800, and contributed another $1,000 to the campaign of Alabama Democrat Doug Jones, who’s received the support of several big donors in Hollywood in the hope he can hold onto his Senate seat in that red state. Fischer also gave $2,800 each to Democratic Representatives Abbie Finkenauer and Antonio Delgado.
Howard Weitzman, of the Kinsella Weitzman firm, gave Harris $2,800, and so did Alan Wertheimer, of the Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer firm. Nina Shaw, of Del Shaw Moonves, also gave her $2,800, and so did Marissa Roman Griffith, of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld.
Jeanne Newman, of Hansen Jacobson Teller Hoberman Newman Warren Richman Rush Kaller & Gellman, also gave $2,700 to Harris, while founding partner Craig Jacobson contributed 2,800 to Klobuchar.
Scott Edelman, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, gave Harris $1,000, while partner Orin Snyder gave $2,800 to Gillibrand and gave another $1,000 to Mark Kelly’s Senate campaign.
John Lavely, of Lavely & Singer, gave $5,600 to Beto O’Rourke’s presidential campaign – more than anyone else in town. He also contributed $2,700 to Katie Hill for Congress; and $2,315 to the DCCC.
Karen Johnson-McKewan, of the Orrick law firm, gave $1,000 each to Harris and Gillibrand.
Patty Glaser, the head of Glaser Weil’s litigation department, is one of the few Hollywood Republican donors so far this year. She gave $2,800 to Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and $2,800 to the Republican’s Take Back the House 2020.
Charles Ergen, co-founder and chairman of the Dish Network, split his ticket, giving $5,600 Republican Sen. Cory Gardner, and the same amount to Democratic Sen. Ed Markey.
Other notable donors include:
• Barbra Streisand – $5,800 to Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey’s reelection committee
• Steven Spielberg — $5,000 to the DGA PAC
• Ron Howard – $1,200 to the DGA PAC
• Kevin Bacon – $2,800 to Cory 2020 and $5,000 to Swing Left, a progressive group formed after Trump’s election
• Ken Burns – $2,800 to Mark Kelly for Senate
• Rosario Dawson, Cory Booker’s girlfriend – $2,068.25 to Cory 2020
• Susan Sarandon – $2,800 to Bernie 2020; $500 to Tulsi Now; $2,800 to Marie Newman for Congress
• Jane Fonda – $1,000 to Amy Klobuchar; $1,000 to the Congressional Black Caucus, and $5,600 to Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal’s reelection committee
• Queen Latifah – $600 to Cory 2020
• Bradley Whitford – $2,000 to Pete for America; $500 for Warren for President; $1,000 to Mark Kelly for Senate
• Kristen Bell – $2,800 Katie Hill for Congress
• Jane Lynch – $2,500 to Mayor Pete and $5,600 to Eric Swalwell for Congress
• Lily Tomlin – $1,450 to Emily’s List, a PAC that helps elect pro-choice Democratic women candidates; $2,000 to New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, and more than $1,000 to several other Democratic PACs
• Chelsea Handler – $500 to Gillibrand
• Ashley Judd – $500 to the Democratic National Committee
• Seth MacFarlane – $5,000 to DNC PAC and $5,600 to Rhode Island Congressman David Nicola Cicilline
• Director Richard Linklater – $2,500 to Beto for America
• Dana Delany – $500 to Warren for President
• Nicole Richie – $1,000 to longshot Democratic presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson
• Actress Shailene Woodley – $1,000 to the Friends of Bernie Sanders and $1,777 to Bernie 2020
• Screenwriter John August – $500 to Warren for President; $500 Beto for America, and $500 to Pete for America
• Ilene Chaiken, executive producer of Empire and The Handmaid’s Tale – $1,500 to Pete for America; $1,000 to Kamala Harris for the People, and $250 for Rep. Adam Schiff
• MPAA president Charles Rivkin – $1,000 to Mark Kelly for Senate
• Michael Schur, creator of Parks and Recreation – $2,800 to Warren for President; $1,000 to Pete for America, and $1,000 for Kamala for the People
• Chris Albrecht, former president and CEO of Starz – $5,600 for the reelection of Congressman Hakeem Jeffries
• David Linde, CEO of Participant Media, gave $5,600 to Ted Lieu for Congress; $1,000 to Adam Schiff for Congress, and $1,000 for the reelection of Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley
• Lin Manuel-Miranda – $5,600 to Florida Congresswoman Debbie Mucarsel-Powell
• Mark Ruffalo – $448 to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; $264 to Pramila Jayapal for Congress, and $214 each to Tammy Baldwin for Senate; Katie Porter for Congress, and Barbara Lee for Congress
• Producer Lauren Shuler Donner – $1,350 to Emily’s List
• Wanda Sykes – $500 for Kamala Harris
• Glenn Close – She hasn’t contributed the most – but she’s contributed the most often. She’s made 29 contributions this year totaling $1,241 – $201 to the Friends of Sen. Chris Murphy and the rest to the DSCC
• Laurie David, Oscar-winning producer of An Inconvenient Truth – $2,800 to Kamala Harris; $2,800 to Pete for America; and $500 to Doug Jones for Senate
• Producer Gigi Pritzker – $2,800 to Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper
• Singer/songwriter Joy Villa – $115 to Donald J. Trump for President
• Pat Boone – $100 to the Republican National Committee.