In a wide-ranging interview with the Guardian released Monday, top Hollywood editor Janice Min — who heads one of the entertainment industry’s most influential publications, The Hollywood Reporter — confirmed that the traditionally reliable support base for Hillary Clinton among the industry’s biggest high-dollar donors has eroded in the 2016 election cycle.
Min told the Guardian that her outlet had run stories on Hollywood’s “lukewarm” support for Clinton during the 2016 cycle, but said that generally, politicians cannot afford to ignore the entertainment industry while fundraising.
“You don’t want people to think you’ve turned your back or they’ll get very offended,” Min said.
Clinton has not turned her back on Hollywood during her latest bid for the presidency, but she has struggled to attract the same level of support that both her husband and President Obama tapped into during their respective successful campaigns.
The big-money names are still there for Hillary. Billionaire entertainment mogul Haim Saban, a longtime donor to the Clinton Foundation, announced last week that he had donated an eye-popping $6.4 million to Clinton’s 2016 effort, with the funds split up between her official campaign and the pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA. Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Star Wars director J.J. Abrams are also still on board, with each donating $1 million to Clinton last year.
Clinton also still has a relatively good deal of celebrity firepower in her corner, from old guard industry players like Barbra Streisand and Tom Hanks to younger blood like Tobey Maguire, Lena Dunham, and Katy Perry. Clinton’s one-day swing through Hollywood in May brought in $3 million from events hosted by Saban and legendary television producer Steven Bochco. The following month, Clinton returned to Los Angeles to collect checks at the homes of Maguire and HBO president of programming Michael Lombardo. In November, an event at the home of pop star Christina Aguilera brought in $1 million for Clinton’s campaign.
An October report in the Los Angeles Times found that roughly 90 percent of Hollywood campaign donations this cycle had gone to Clinton, rather than to her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Still, this election cycle has revealed some glitches in the Clintons’ traditionally reliable Hollywood fundraising machine.
The trouble began last summer, when Vice President Joe Biden was still considering whether or not to jump into the presidential race. Reports began leaking in August that several major Democratic bundlers in Hollywood were prepared to abandon their support for Clinton to back Biden.
In September, Democrat Hollywood bundler Howie Mandel (not the TV star) told the Wrap that high-profile donors in the entertainment industry didn’t “want to see” a Clinton “coronation” and that some had already been quietly giving money to the Draft Biden committee, which at the time was working behind the scenes to get Biden into the race.
“I’ve spoke to a lot of people who said to me, ‘Listen, I’ve already given money to Secretary Clinton but I’m not thrilled with her campaign and her lack of trustworthiness. If the Vice President jumps in I’m there,’” Mandel told the outlet in August.
Clinton may have breathed a sigh of relief when Biden announced a short time later that he would not seek the Democratic nomination. But a number of big-money donors have still not pledged their support for Clinton.
Last week, billionaire music mogul David Geffen — who announced emphatically in 2014 that he would be supporting Clinton’s ’16 effort, despite memorably defecting from Clinton to Obama in 2008 — told the Wall Street Journal that he is “not supporting anybody” in this year’s Democratic contest. Geffen has reportedly donated just $2,700, the maximum allowable contribution for an individual, to both Clinton’s and Sanders’ campaigns.
Geffen could support Clinton if she earns the Party’s nomination. However, there was major public falling-out between the businessman and the Clintons that happened in 2001, when then-President Bill Clinton declined to grant Geffen’s request to pardon Leonard Peltier. Geffen later told the New York Times‘ Maureen Dowd that the Clintons lie “with such ease, it’s troubling.”
Clinton has also not yet earned the support of Hollywood’s major female executives, including from industry titans like Oprah Winfrey and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. A report last month in the Hollywood Reporter found that of the top 100 female industry power players in the publication’s annual “Power 100” list, just one in four had donated to Clinton’s campaign.
No one could argue that despite the flagging support among some big-name Democrat Hollywood bundlers, Clinton holds an insurmountable advantage over Sanders in terms of pure fundraising ability within the industry.
However, Sanders enjoys a distinct “enthusiasm advantage” over Clinton among the industry’s more progressive creative community. In September, a collection of more than 120 actors, musicians, directors and other industry creatives endorsed Sanders, dubbing themselves Artists for Bernie. The group held a fundraiser for Sanders at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood last month, with comedians Sarah Silverman, George Lopez and Kevin Nealon hosting. Last week, the Red Hot Chili Peppers threw a fundraising concert for Sanders, with tickets starting at $500 a piece.
Sanders has also shown an ability to engineer well-attended public rallies; one such rally in downtown Los Angeles in September drew 27,000 supporters. Silverman introduced the candidate by praising his “moral compass and sense of values.”
For now, Clinton can take comfort in knowing that her Hollywood fundraising machine will likely continue to outraise Sanders. According to the Wall Street Journal, Clinton has raised $1.9 million in overall contributions from entertainment industry figures through the end of 2015, to Sanders’ $220,000 in the same time frame.
Then again — in what may be an omen of things to come — Sanders collected $20 million in January to Clinton’s $15 million, out-raising the Democrat frontrunner for the first time this cycle.