Hollywood's preferred 2020 Democrat? Many, for now

Tina Daunt And Maloy Moore, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

When former DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg agreed to co-host a high-wattage Hollywood fundraiser this week for Joe Biden's presidential bid, people may have assumed the former vice president was his pick for 2020.

Hollywood's key fundraiser has donated the maximum allowed, $2,800, to Biden. But he's given the same to Kamala Harris, and to Pete Buttigieg, and Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet, Beto O'Rourke, Steve Bullock, John Hickenlooper, Julian Castro, Seth Moulton and Jay Inslee, according to campaign finance reports.

Why donate to 14 candidates? Katzenberg "wants to see the process play out," said Kevin Ryan, a partner at the firm Gonring Spahn and Associates, which advises the Hollywood dealmaker. Katzenberg will support whichever Democrat wins the nomination, Ryan said.

Katzenberg isn't the only one using this tactic. Hollywood power players are all in with Democrats' efforts to oust President Trump in 2020, with many donating to the campaigns of at least three contenders. Among those opening their checkbooks early: director Rob Reiner, who gave the maximum to Harris, Buttigieg and Biden; producer Stephen Bing, who gave the maximum to Harris, Buttigieg and Marianne Williamson; and actor Bradley Whitford, who gave varying amounts to Booker, Warren, Castro and Buttigieg.

Overall, the entertainment industry has donated more than $2.2 million to Democratic presidential candidates so far this year, according to a Times analysis of filings released this week. During the second quarter, the industry raised more than $1.2 million for the candidates, with a large portion going to Buttigieg, who brought in $402,000. Harris received nearly $280,000, bringing her total raised in the industry to more than $833,000. Biden, who held his first 2020 fundraiser in Hollywood in May, collected about $170,000.

Entertainment executive James Costos, who is co-hosting Biden's Thursday night Hollywood fundraiser, sent out an email last week stating that he and his husband, interior designer Michael Smith, were supporting a number of candidates instead of just one. Costos, who hosted Biden's May event, has given to O'Rourke, Buttigieg, Booker, Klobuchar, Harris and several others -- but he is doing the most for the former vice president.


"We know some people have already picked a candidate, however we have opted to support several, because they each bring a unique voice to the party," wrote Costos, who was ambassador to Spain under President Obama.

"At this time, we cannot afford to divide amongst ourselves; there are enough people out there already doing that for us," he wrote. "Everything we do today to help Democratic presidential candidates get their messages out, brings us closer and closer to regaining leadership in Washington."

The strategy, particularly from Katzenberg, is notable. He declared support early for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and assured Hillary Clinton three years before the 2016 election that he would endorse her. He rallied people in the industry to get behind Clinton, while opposing an effort by United Talent Agency co-president Jay Sures to get Biden in the race.

Biden has four fundraisers in the area in the next two days. The Thursday event was to be held at the Los Angeles home of Sony Motion Picture Group Chairman Tom Rothman and his wife, actress Jessica Harper. Others hosting the event include industry dealmakers Peter Chernin and Amy Pascal, agent Bryan Lourd and Warner Bros. Pictures Group Chairman Toby Emmerich.


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