Hollywood’s Deep-Pocket Power Players Choose Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 11: Robert DeNiro and Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attend the The East Harlem School 2013 Fall Benefit Honoring Susan And Alan Patricof on November 11, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for East Harlem School)
Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for East Harlem School

Hollywood’s biggest Democrat power players overwhelmingly back Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race and have been writing the checks to prove it.

While socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has carved out support among the entertainment industry’s more progressive celebrities, Hillary Clinton has stuffed her campaign war chest with high-dollar check after high-dollar check.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets.org), Clinton has raked in more than $9 million from the entertainment industry in the current election cycle. By comparison, Sanders has collected a relatively paltry $653,840. Even former candidate Marco Rubio, a Republican, had out-raised Sanders by roughly four to one in Hollywood before dropping out of the race earlier this year.

Clinton’s Hollywood support is anchored by a who’s-who of entertainment industry big-shots and longtime Democrat contributors: actors George Clooney, Robert de Niro, Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand, Morgan Freeman, and power players like director Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katezenberg and billionaire TV mogul Haim Saban, and well-connected bundlers like Howie Mandel (not the TV star) and CAA agent Michael Kives.

Sanders, meanwhile, has earned the support of the industry’s more progressive celebrities, including Susan Sarandon, Sarah Silverman, Mark Ruffalo, Danny DeVito, Jeremy Piven, Rosario Dawson, Spike Lee, and members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

But Clinton simply dominates among the big-money Hollywood elite. Later this month, billionaire venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar and George and Amal Clooney will host a Bay Area fundraiser for Clinton at which two head table seats with the guests of honor will set supporters back a cool $350,000. The following night, the Clooneys will host Clinton at their Studio City home for another $33,400 per-person fundraiser. Clinton has to be elated with Clooney’s involvement; one night at the actor’s home in 2012 netted President Obama’s reelection campaign a staggering $15 million.

Meanwhile, Sanders’s trips to Hollywood have been decidedly more low-key, with fundraising events at the homes of actress Mimi Kennedy and progressive activists Betty and Stanley Sheinbaum.

Still, this election season has revealed some glitches in Clinton’s traditionally well-oiled Hollywood fundraising machine.

In August, word around town was that several major Democrat bundlers in Hollywood were prepared to abandon Clinton and back Vice President Joe Biden, who had not yet decided whether to enter the race. Bundler Howie Mandel let this news slip in September, when he told the Wrap that many big-money donors didn’t want to see a Clinton “coronation” and had been quietly donating money to the Draft Biden committee.

Of course, Biden ultimately decided not to join the fray. But Clinton has also had trouble shoring up support among some Democratic Party stalwarts, including billionaire music mogul David Geffen, who in February said that he is “not supporting anybody” in this year’s primary and donated just $2,700 to both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.

Clinton has also struggled to attract support from the industry’s biggest female power players. In January, the Hollywood Reporter found that just one in four women on its Power 100 list of the biggest female names in entertainment had donated to Clinton’s campaign. Industry titans including Oprah Winfrey and Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy have, so far, remained on the sidelines.

Clinton is undoubtedly well-positioned to mount an aggressive campaign in California ahead of the state’s June 7 primary, with the support of Hollywood firmly in her corner.

But Sanders is giving her a run for her money online, where his small-money donation machine is perhaps unlike any other seen in modern political history. The self-described Democratic socialist from Vermont raised a record-breaking $44 million in the month of March alone.

Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum.


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