Celebrities Donate to Many Candidates

By: AP
By: AP

WASHINGTON - The nation's capital may be Hollywood for ugly people, but Hollywood celebrities are still attracted to Washington politicians.

A host of movie stars, directors, writers, producers and singers have contributed to presidential hopefuls for the 2008 election, with many making donations to competing candidates, an Associated Press review of campaign records has found.

Actor Michael Douglas, for example, has contributed to five current and former Democratic presidential candidates. As of Sept. 30, the latest reports available, he had donated the maximum $4,600 — $2,300 for the primary campaign and $2,300 for the general election — to Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Chris Dodd, and $1,500 to Dennis Kucinich.

As in past elections, the overwhelming majority of celebrity donors contributed to Democrats, who are far more popular in the entertainment world than Republicans.

The movie, television and recording industries gave $33.1 million to federal candidates and parties in 2004, with much of that coming from Hollywood, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics. Those industries were more generous in 2000, contributing $38.6 to federal candidates and parties, the center found. In both election cycles, Democrats got the majority of the money 69 percent in 2004 and 64 percent in 2000.

Another serial donor in the current election is Paul Newman, who gave the maximum contribution to Obama, Clinton, and Dodd, and $2,300 to Richardson.

Some donors have spread the wealth around but have decided to back one candidate. Barbra Streisand gave $2,300 each to Clinton, Edwards and Obama, and $1,000 to Dodd, but recently endorsed Clinton for president.

"Madame President of the United States — it's an extraordinary thought," Streisand said in her endorsement statement.

Steven Spielberg and Rob Reiner are two other celebrities who donated to multiple presidential candidates — four a piece — before settling on Clinton. Reiner also shot a spoof video for Clinton's Web site.

Actress Mary Steenburgen gave money to both Edwards and Clinton, but has backed Clinton, a friend for three decades, from the get-go. Steenburgen, a native of Newport, Ark., met the Clintons when Bill Clinton was in his first term as governor of Arkansas.

"She's been one of my best friends for 30 years," Steenburgen said in a telephone interview with the AP.

Steenburgen is one of several actors from the HBO comedy series "Curb Your Enthusiasm" to make donations. The show's star and creator, Larry David, donated to both Obama and Edwards, but is supporting Obama, said Laura Streicher, David's assistant and an associate producer on the show. Cast members Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin and Paul Dooley all contributed to Obama.

Another actress supporting Clinton is Fran Drescher, former star of the TV show "The Nanny," who contributed $2,300 to the campaign. In an e-mail, Drescher told the AP that she considers Clinton "the best man for the job!"

"I also think that having Bill Clinton is a plus," she said. "He is one of the greatest statesmen of our time, and I believe that he — as first man — will be a most effective diplomat. Now let's get a little estrogen in the White House — couldn't hurt!"

Hollywood had a long romance with Bill Clinton when he was in the White House, but Obama has also benefited from the star treatment, most noticeably from a high-profile endorsement from Oprah Winfrey, who has donated $2,300 to his campaign. Dennis Haysbert, who played a fictional black president on the show "24," is trying to elect a real one, donating $2,300 to Obama.

Other black celebrity donors to Obama include Will Smith, Chris Rock, Sidney Poitier and Bradford Marsalis, each of whom donated $4,600, and Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Isaiah Washington, Tyra Banks, Morgan Freeman, Halle Berry, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Hill Harper, each of whom gave $2,300.

Harper, who plays Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on the TV show "CSI: NY," has known Obama for 17 years, since they attended Harvard Law School together.

"I know what kind of man he is, I know how intelligent he is," Harper told the AP in a telephone interview. "He'd be the greatest leader for this country."

But Obama's star quality transcends race. Other celebrities who have contributed to him include George Clooney, Ed Norton, Jennifer Aniston, Zach Braff, John Cleese, Leonard Nimoy and Brooke Shields ($2,300 each); and Harry Connick Jr. ($4,600).

Singer Jackson Browne has contributed to Obama, but has campaigned for Edwards along with Bonnie Raitt; the two singers are co-founders of Musicians United For Safe Energy, a group that opposes the spread of nuclear power. Raitt has donated $2,300 a piece to Edwards and Kucinich.

Another Edwards supporter, "Desperate Housewives" star James Denton, donated $4,600 to Edwards and has hosted a fundraiser for the former North Carolina senator.

The three Democratic front-runners don't have a lock on celebrity support. Actor Sean Penn, who contributed to both Edwards and Kucinich, endorsed the latter.

And Republican presidential candidates got a few donations as well: singer Pat Boone donated to Mitt Romney and former candidate Sam Brownback, producer Jerry Bruckheimer contributed to John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani got money from Kelsey Grammer, Adam Sandler and Ben Stein.

"Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels was a rare bipartisan donor, giving to both McCain and Dodd.

GOP candidate Mike Huckabee has the support of actor Chuck Norris — but none of his money, as of the latest campaign filings.


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