Thursday, July 29, 2004

Credited/material From

John Edwards brings us the surprising news that I'm sure will shock you - John Kerry served in Vietnam! No, really; I don't know how he kept it secret so long, but there it is - and here's what Edwards had to say about it:
If you have any question about what he’s made of, you need to spend three minutes with the men who served with him then and stand by him today.

Unfortunately, I've got my own things to do but Dean Esmay helps us out here. Remember that photo of Kerry with his swift-boat crewmen? Well, there's this interesting bit about that photo:

Of the {20} men in that photo, two of them support Kerry's candidacy: Skip Barker and Ralph Dobson, who also have been campaigning with Kerry and doing commercials for him. Two others are dead. Four have refused to make any public statement. The remaining men have all stated flatly that Kerry is unfit to serve as Commander In Chief.

Got that? Most of the guys in that photo are either dead or find Kerry despicable.

So, I guess it depends on which men you spend that three minutes with - but you have to be careful, because you've only got a one in ten chance that you'll meet up with a Kerry shipmate who thinks that Kerry should be President.

John Edwards goes on to talk about how Kerry is running a positive, optimistic campaign for President - thus proving there really is nothing a lawyer wont say in front of a jury. He does ask, as a tag line, if we're sick of the negative attacks - unfortunately, he's not asking if we're sick of the negative attacks by Democrats, but only if we're sick of some sort of mythical negative attacks against Kerry (I guess questions from Kerry about President Bush's National Guard service just slipped Edwards' mind).

In keeping with the Kerry/Edwards positive, optimistic campaign, John Edwards had this little gem:

And you know what I’m saying. You don’t need me to explain it to you, you know—you can’t save any money, can you? Takes every dime you make just to pay your bills, and you know what happens if something goes wrong—a child gets sick, somebody gets laid off, or there’s a financial problem, you go right off the cliff.

And what’s the first thing to go. Your dreams.

Got that? He's positively optimistic that if we run into a little personal financial trouble, then "off the cliff" is right where we go...guess I should have known this when during the late bathroom remodel, with all the funds committed to it, the car broke down and needed $500 worth of repairs...instead of dealing with it and working it out, I should have jumped off a cliff somewhere.

This gets into the real view the Democratic elite has of us - we're a bunch of weak-willed dolts who simply cannot get through life without our superiors in the Democratic Party holding our hand for us.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Democrat’s Biggest Money Man Has Mob Connections

By Brian Ross
B O S T O N, July 28, 2004

As Sens. John Kerry and John Edwards arrived in Boston today for the Democratic National Convention, so did the California man who is their single biggest contributor.

He is Stephen Bing, a wealthy film producer who, with little fanfare, has managed to steer a total of more than $16 million of his money to Democratic candidates and the supposedly independent groups that support them. To most of the people who track money and politics, they're like, who the hell is Steve Bing?" said Chuck Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog organization. Bing is perhaps best known for sparking a tabloid frenzy when he publicly expressed doubt that he was the father of actress Elizabeth Hurley's baby. (A paternity test proved he was indeed the father.) He repeatedly has refused to say why he is funneling millions of dollars to the Democrats. Lewis thinks it is cause for concern. We can identify who the big donors are, but how much do we really know about any of them?" he said. In fact, Democratic Party officials said they knew nothing about the man who law enforcement officials tell ABC News is Bing's friend and business partner — Dominic Montemarano, a New York Mafia figure currently in federal prison on racketeering charges.Montemarano has a long criminal record and is known to organized crime investigators by his street name, Donnie Shacks. "Donnie Shacks' main activity was murder. No question about it. That was his main function for the Colombo family and for organized crime in general. He was one of the top hit men in the New York area," said Joe Coffey, a former NYPD investigator. According to The Los Angeles Times,Bing paid Montemarano's legal fees after his most recent scrape with the law. Montemerano's lawyer said his client was an employee of Bing's. After a recent private lunch with Democratic vice-presidential candidate Edwards, Bing also declined to answer questions about his relationship with Montemarano.

"The American people have a right to know who's funding their presidential candidates and their parties," Lewis said. "The Bing situation shows us how little we really know."Throwback to Nixon Days? Campaign reform advocates say the role of secretive big money is all a throwback to the days of Richard Nixon and the scandal that grew out of the 1972 Republican Convention. The telephone company that helped pay the costs of that convention, ITT, later got favorable consideration on an antitrust issue, when it became the world's largest conglomerate. "It raised a huge public outcry and led to basic reforms which said the public funds will be used to pay for these conventions, but that's the only money you can use," said Fred Wertheimer, president and founder of, a nonpartisan watchdog organization. He added: "Today, we'll have over $100 million from corporations and other special interests helping to fund these two national conventions." For the Democrats, some $40 million in corporate money, in addition to $15 million in public funds, is underwriting their national convention — a no-expenses-spared operation. There are even two private trains underneath the convention floor, courtesy of the railroad industry, with luxury club cars serving as cocktail and cigar lounges for top Democratic officials. "This is money to curry favor, to gain influence," said Wertheimer. "The very thing that the Watergate laws were designed to stop."

World's thinnest Books

Topic: World's thinnest Books

World's thinnest Books available at a bookstore near you.

by Jacques Chirac

by Jane Fonda

by Janet Reno

by Dan Marino

by Hillary Clinton

by Osama Bin Laden

by Bill Gates


by Dennis Rodman




DETROIT: a Travel Guide

by Dr. J. Kevorkian

by Ellen de Generes

by Mike Tyson


by O. J. Simpson

And the world's Number One Thinnest Book

by Bill Clinton
with introduction
by The Rev. Jesse Jackson

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Four More Years

Four More Years

On Sunday, John Kerry asked "four more years of what?" when he was confronted with some enthusiastic pro-Bush demonstrators at one of his campaign stops, according to Fox News.

Its a valid question, of course, but one that Kerry probably doesn't want answered. While President Bush will give the best and most complete answer to this question, I'd like to take a stab at it. What we'll get with four more years of President Bush is:

1. Four more years of a President who clearly likes average Americans. This might not seem like much, but the more we look at the Democratic leadership, the more we perceive that they don't really like average Americans. We're an annoyance to them - we're the people who, with our votes, prevent the Democrats from obtaining power. The happiest day for the Democrats in the past 20 years was the day in 1992 when the anti-Democratic vote split, thus allowing the small minority who still cling to the worn-out and corrupt Democratic Party to put their man in the White House. President Bush likes us as a people - he likes to be around us, he speaks our language and he's completely comfortable in large crowds of us.

2. Four more years of a President who recognises that its the average American who makes things work. It isn't academic "experts" who move America; it isn't entertainment industry elitists; it isn't corrupt union bosses - its just normal, average, everyday Americans who keep the ship of state moving along. Given that President Bush understands this, we can look forward to four more years of a President who will return to us our resources and our power to take charge of our own destiny. He'll do this in the form of further tax cuts, more expansions of school choice and faith-based initiatives, and the little things like, say, allowing the people of the western States to have a say in what lands are placed into reserves and which lands are retained for the use by the people.

3. Four more years of a President who, when America is threatened, thinks not of his Party or his own political prospects, but takes to heed only what is right for America. President Bush could have taken the easy way out after 9/11...dropped a few bombs, made a few speeches and then left it at that; but that is not the sort of man President Bush is. We can rest assured that when bold and dangerous action is necessary to secure the United States and its allies, President Bush will order the necessary actions. We had 8 years of never-ending adolescence in our government - for the past three and a half years, we've had hard-nosed and strong willed adults at the helm, and its a comfort to know this.

4. Finally, and most importantly, what we get with four more years of President Bush is a continued sense that America is taking charge of its own destiny - that we are not in an era of limits, a time of American dimunation; a place where America becomes just another nation in the United Nations roster, no more important than any other. Just as back in the heady days of Ronald Reagan, the United States is once again that shining city on a hill; a beacon of strength and liberty for all well-disposed men and women to repair to. After 8 years of petty-minded navel-gazing, its great to have an America on the move, again.

President Bush is not the perfect man - just like any other human being, he is a flawed person who makes his mistakes; but what he has done for three and a half very intense years of American history is do the right things as he has perceived them. Better than the IQ of a Einstein or the panache of a Clinton, President Bush brings to the table a sterling character and a moral strength which has proved sufficient to lead us from crisis to the verge of victory. As for me, the only possible disappointment I'll have on November 2nd is the knowledge that we'll be losing this great President without fail by January 20th, 2009. He'll be hard to replace and if we're lucky, we'll get a man of half his calibre to eventually replace him.

Cellucci for Sen.? Count him out: Ambassador to step down

By David R. GuarinoRead Guarino's

Friday, July 16, 2004

Former Gov. Paul Cellucci plans to step down as U.S. ambassador to Canada early next year, prompting speculation he'll run for Senate if John F. Kerry [related, bio] wins the White House.

     But area Republicans, who have been quietly informed of the decision in telephone calls from Cellucci in recent days, said he's adamant about not running for office anytime in the near future.

     ``He doesn't have any definite plans, but he's ruled out running for U.S. Senate, though there's been a lot of gossip about him being interested,'' a longtime friend told the Herald.

     Still, other Republicans said the pressure would be intense on Cellucci if Kerry wins the presidency - since the balance of power in the Senate may be up for grabs.

     A June Boston Herald poll showed Cellucci ranked low among potential Republican candidates for the Senate seat - with Gov. Mitt Romney [related, bio] picked as the best candidate by 24 percent of voters, former Gov. William F. Weld picked by 21 percent, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey by 6 percent and both Cellucci and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card by only 4 percent.

     Allies said Cellucci won't officially resign until January or February. They said the 56-year-old former governor intends to return to his home in Hudson.

     While Cellucci won't entertain jobs until after he's left the ambassador's residence in Ottawa, he'll be in high demand in the lucrative Canadian-U.S. trade industry.

     A longtime personal friend of President Bush [related, bio], Cellucci resigned in April 2001 to take the post.

     Cellucci quickly became a source of controversy there, chiding Canadians for their lax national defense after 9/11.

     Indeed, a columnist for an Ottawa newspaper recently dubbed Cellucci ``the most combative ambassador that's ever been sent north of the border.''

     Still, friends said he always intended to serve only one term - and note he's already lasted more than the usual 18-month stint of most ambassadors.
Historian's shocker: Erin go Kerry!
By Associated Press
Sunday, July 18, 2004

DERRY, N.H. - Irish roots would be a political advantage in Massachusetts, but U.S. Sen. John Kerry [related, bio] says he's always corrected people who look at his last name and assume he has them. But a local historian thinks he might be wrong.

     Derry town historian Richard Holmes said he's traced Kerry's lineage to an Irish immigrant believed to have introduced the potato to America.

     Numerous publications have stated over the years that Kerry is Irish-American, which could help in Massachusetts, the most Irish state in the nation. Kerry said he's always corrected the misstatements. 

     Kerry's family took its name from a county in Ireland, but it was an adopted name. His grandfather, Frederick Kerry, a Czech Jew, changed his name from Fritz Kohn when he came to America.

     But Holmes said he has traced Kerry's lineage back to the Rev. James McGregor, who emigrated from Londonderry, Ireland, and founded the town that later split in two and became Londonderry and Derry, N.H.

      Holmes said he also found Kerry has a distant family connection with pop diva Britney Spears and President Franklin Pierce, a New Hampshire native.

      Eric Schultz, a Kerry spokesman, said the senator is not aware of any Irish roots.      

Plane Truth

What you won't read anywhere else but here and a couple of other places. Amazing how CNN doesn't appear to mention these facts or news items about Senator Kerry.


Plane truth: Little went right for the press

By Noelle Straub/ Campaign Diary

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Sunday, 5 p.m. EDT: Sen. John F. Kerry [related, bio] surprises reporters on his main campaign plane by announcing they are diverting to Boston for the Red Sox game; a smaller jet for overflow media is supposed to go straight to Florida. But due to a miscommunication with the charter company, the second plane also heads to Boston. Reporters realize the mistake when a screen in the main cabin tracking the plane's progress shows it heading north. Kerry aides try to convince the pilot to head for Florida. But by the time he agrees to the change they need to refuel anyway. The media plane lands at Logan and takes off again shortly for Cape Canaveral.

      8 p.m. EDT: Despite telling reporters on the main plane he will catch the first ball at the Sox game, thrown by Massachusetts National Guardsman Will Pumyea, Kerry actually makes the first pitch to him. A Kerry aide later tells reporters the plan had originally been for both Kerry and the vet to have a turn on the mound, but that in the name of scheduling, they scratched the soldier's pitch.

     Monday, 4 a.m. EDT: Kerry leaves Boston after the game and his motorcade reaches the hotel in Cocoa Beach, Fla., at 4 a.m. Staff and reporters alike get about three hours sleep, producing a tired and cranky campaign contingent.

     10 a.m. EDT: A motorcycle officer, Sgt. Eric Daddow, accompanying the motorcade crashes on the way to the Kennedy Space Center. Kerry immediately turns the motorcade around and steps out to check on the officer, who is strapped to a backboard. Kerry later tries to call him at the hospital. The officer will be fine, but may have broken a shoulder.

     1 p.m. EDT: The day becomes a technological nightmare. There's no Internet connection at the event site, preventing the media from filing stories, and the Kerry campaign plane breaks down. Kerry takes the media overflow Gulfstream to Norfolk, Va., for his next stop. The traveling press waits in Florida for a replacement.      
Sen. John Kerry gets a hug from his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry. (AP)

Teresa paves the way with love and moneyBy Andrew Miga and David R. GuarinoWednesday, July 21, 2004
On a damp May night on Nantucket nine years ago, John F. Kerry [related, bio] and Teresa Heinz exchanged wedding vows in a small civil ceremony at Heinz's oceanfront home.

     The lanky senator's new bride was one of the world's leading philanthropists, beneficiary to a ketchup fortune estimated at beyond $500 million.

     The senator's net worth on his wedding day was about $150,000, according to a former aide.
     It was a lopsided union - at least financially.

     But old friends and political pals say the marriage gave Kerry more than just financial stability. It gave him personal stability, mellowing the hard-charging Bay State senator and lending an emotional ballast to the free-wheeling style Kerry had picked up since he returned to bachelorhood 13 years before.

     Kerry's days of philandering with starlets were over.

     But also banished were the years of tight finances, hitting up real estate barons for cut-rate apartments and sweating rent checks to maintain residences in Boston and Washington.

     Teresa Heinz - she didn't take the senator's name until it was on a presidential primary ballot - was earthy, outspoken and passionate about environmentalism and public health.

     She wore an easy sophistication, a North African by birth who was devoted to using her wealth as a means to make the world a better place.

     She immediately countered Kerry's cool, aloof persona.

     ``When you live with someone, you adapt,'' Heinz Kerry told The New York Times this year. ``With my late husband, we were both kids, young, so you grow up together.

     ``With John, there were two adults. I had my baggage, my wounds, my hurts, he had his. The only difference is I came from having been married a long time, 25 years successfully married, and John had been 12 years alone. He had to learn how to share some things which he probably never thought he had to share.''

     The wealth Kerry married into was mind-boggling - even for someone born into privilege as a distant Forbes family relation.

     Today, Kerry and his wife own five opulent homes - in Idaho, Beacon Hill, Georgetown, Nantucket and Fox Chapel, Pa. - worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $33 million.

     Teresa Heinz Kerry jets across the country in her own private jet and has a bevy of staffers to run a $1.2 billion foundation with a global reach.

     Kerry has found himself on the defensive when asked on the campaign trail how, given the vast wealth he and his wife control, he can relate to the struggles of average Americans.

     The senator responds by noting it is not where people come from that counts, it's what's in their hearts and the values they care about that really matter.

     Kerry's campaign also has stressed how, despite his elite background, public service has been the core of Kerry's life - from volunteering for combat duty in Vietnam to serving as Middlesex prosecutor and then at the State House and on Capitol Hill.

     Kerry's wedding to one of the world's richest women seemed to energize him as his 1996 re-election contest with then-Bay State Gov. William F. Weld neared and the race began to draw national attention.

     The senator's commanding performance in seven televised debates tipped the balance against Weld, a formidable foe, cementing Kerry's image as a tough comeback campaigner.

     ``That was a world-class race,'' said veteran Democratic political consultant Michael Shea, who prepped Kerry for those debates. ``Republicans crawled all over him, but he summoned something in himself to win it. It put him on a track to the White House.''

     Kerry also had tapped $1.7 million in personal wealth for campaign loans and loan security that enabled him to go toe-to-toe with Weld on the TV airwaves with hard-hitting commercials.

     After the Weld race, Kerry soon set his eyes on the presidency.
     He nearly developed labor pains mulling a 2000 White House bid for months, debating endlessly with aides and allies before finally pulling the plug.

     Months later, during a tortuous midsummer wait, he narrowly missed the cut to serve as Al Gore's running mate - a blessing in disguise as it turned out, leaving him unencumbered to make his own White House bid.

     As Kerry launched his 2004 bid, his wife warned that if a rival made personal attacks against him, she would tap her vast personal wealth to respond.

     Under federal campaign law, she can fund her own independent TV ads, so-called ``issues ads,'' as long as they are not part of the Kerry campaign.

     ``Would I take it lying down?'' she said of potential personal attacks against Kerry during a Herald interview last year. ``My hunch is I would not.''

     During the bruising 2004 presidential primary race, Kerry again turned to his personal wealth, using the Louisburg Square townhome he co-owns with his wife to loan his presidential campaign $6 million in seed money.

     The money helped Kerry turn the corner in the primaries.

     Depending on how the fall race goes, the $6 million loan could be perhaps the shrewdest financial move Kerry has ever made.

Teresa Heinz Kerry then and now!!!!

Teresa's Ted K tirade

By David R. Guarino/ Herald exclusive

Read Guarino's Road to Boston Blog

Monday, July 26, 2004

Teresa Heinz Kerry, years before becoming a Democrat, railed against the party's ``putrid'' politics, said she didn't trust Sen. Edward M. Kennedy [related, bio] and angrily called the liberal lion a ``perfect bastard.''

     In comments published in a little-known 1975 book about political wives called ``The Power Lovers: An Intimate Look at Politicians and Their Marriages,'' Heinz Kerry lashed out at the senator she'll share the primetime convention stage with tonight.

     ``I know some couples who stay together only for politics,'' Heinz Kerry said at the time. ``If Ted Kennedy holds on to that marriage (to ex-wife Joan) just for the Catholic vote, as some people say he does, then I think he's a perfect bastard.''

     Heinz Kerry, then married to Republican Sen. H. John Heinz III of Pennsylvania, said she ``didn't trust'' President Richard M. Nixon but added, ``Ted Kennedy I don't trust either.''

     The combustible and ever-quotable Heinz Kerry said of Democrats, ``The Democratic machine in this country is putrid.'' Excerpts of the comments appeared in The Boston Herald American in January 1976.

     Coming a day after Heinz Kerry was caught on camera telling a reporter to ``shove it'' when the reporter questioned her on statements made in a Boston speech, the remarks could undercut Democrats' ability to showcase a positive message at the convention.

     Kennedy's office dismissed the comments as water under the bridge and said the two get along famously now _ regardless of what Heinz Kerry has said in the past.

     ``Over the years, Sen. and Mrs. Kennedy and John Kerry [related, bio] and Teresa Heinz Kerry have developed a deep friendship and strong mutual respect,'' Kennedy spokesman David Smith said in a statement to the Herald.

     ``A 30-year-old quote dug up by the Republican attack machine made long before they became friends is irrelevant.''

     Heinz Kerry's spokeswoman also said the quotes' age makes them irrelevant.

     ``You are talking about statements that are more than 30 years old. A lot has changed since then,'' said Marla Romash, a senior adviser to Heinz Kerry.

     But it isn't the first time quotes have emerged in which Heinz Kerry targets the legendary Bay State senator.

     In an interview with The Washington Post in 1971, Heinz Kerry declared, ``Ted Kennedy I don't trust, like I don't trust Nixon, although I think Nixon's done a helluva lot better than I thought he would.''

     Just last year, Heinz Kerry said she regretted the comments she had made to the Post regarding Kennedy.

     Romash noted the number of times Heinz Kerry has campaigned with Kennedy and said Victoria Reggie Kennedy will host a luncheon for Heinz Kerry this afternoon at the Museum of Fine Arts.

     ``There's a very good relationship now,'' Romash said.

     She said Heinz Kerry stood by her comments about the Democratic machine, saying state Democratic parties in New Jersey and Pennsylvania at the time were ``a big problem,'' Romash said.

     ``I think there are a lot of people who would say there were problems in state parties in Pennslyvania and New Jersey,'' Romash said. ``Those problems don't exist anymore.''
Credit: Boston Hearld

Right-wing nut job, reporting for duty

By Howie Carr

Tuesday, July 27, 2004
So Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of the national Democratic committee, wants a kinder, gentler face for the party this week, does he?
     ``Hey, come over here,'' he was yelling at one of his minions yesterday, as he pointed at me. ``I want my picture taken with the biggest right-wing nut job in Boston.''
     Thanks for the compliment, Terry. I smiled for the camera.
     ``Got any good dot-com tips for me?'' I said.
     This was at the Boston Harbor Hotel yesterday morning. They have U.S. Capitol cops with police dogs at the front entrance as well as men in black brandishing machine guns. It was unclear whether the gunners were there to prevent people from getting in, or getting out.
     According to sources, who weren't getting many tips from the distinguished solons, there are more than two dozen senators at the hotel. Yesterday, one of the ones who isn't, Ted Kennedy, stumbled into the lobby with Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg.
     A hotel man smiled and said, ``Nice to have you back with us, Senator.''
     ``Fine, yes, good,'' Teddy mumbled as he stumbled ahead, stooped over, a veritable hunchback of Chappaquiddick. He'd never be able to squirm out of that Oldsmobile now. You knew it was a big event Ted was attending - he'd put on trousers.
     This is Ted's night at the convention, you know. Which probably explains why the broadcast networks are giving the whole show a pass.
     It'll be hard to top Bill Clinton, of course. And then, this morning, after last night's prime-time ragtime, he delivers a ``briefing'' on the issues, at the Wang Center.
     Clinton at the Wang. Fill in your own joke here.
     Back outside, at the Boston Harbor Hotel, I saw Terry McAuliffe talking to my 10-year-old daughter.
     ``Who are you voting for, Carolyn?'' he asked.
     ``George W. Bush,'' she said.
     ``Oh, please give John Kerry [related, bio] just four days,'' he said. ``The way things are going, you won't be able to get a job when you grow up.''
     ``Carolyn,'' I said, ``this guy used to work for Bill Clinton. You know what that means.''
     She gave him a funny look, as if she were trying to see if he had just shoved some top-secret documents down his pants. She would have told Terry McAuliffe to shove it, but the nuns wouldn't approve. It was as unthinkable as taking a child to hear Bill Clinton speak.
     At the Wang.
The Hollywood Campaign
The Atlantic
September 2004
Want big money to get elected to national office?

If you're a Democrat, you need to head for the hills—Beverly Hills.
A miner's map for the liberal Gold Rush
by Eric Alterman

It's like an Academy Awards ceremony for liberals outside the Wadsworth Theater, in Brentwood, California, on a sultry night in early May, as celebrity-show television interviewers and perhaps a hundred paparazzi jostle one another and scream out the names of stars to get a smile or a sound bite. The occasion is a benefit for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental-activist organization that has become the hottest cause in Hollywood other than sending George Bush back to Crawford. And here they come, one by one: Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Short, Rob Reiner, Larry David, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., all stopping to talk to the men and women with microphones about the need to protect and defend the planet from corporate polluters and their allies. Slipping through the crowd more quietly are Michelle Pfeiffer, Tobey Maguire, and Ray Romano. Also skipping the "green carpet" and sneaking in late, wearing faded blue jeans and a black Taj Mahal T-shirt, is the playboy-producer-philanthropist Steve Bing, the largest noncorporate giver of the night. Overseeing the event is Larry David's wife, Laurie, a former TV producer and manager turned full-time environmental activist, who has been working for months to make this the biggest NRDC fundraiser ever.
Along with the stars in the 1,400-seat hall are many of the same fundraising giants who have helped establish Hollywood as the first stop for any liberal politician or do-gooder organization. The audience boasts three studio heads, including Alan Horn, of Warner Brothers. In the late 1990s, together with the director Rob Reiner, Horn helped the NRDC get off the ground in Hollywood by spending three full days taking its founder and president, John Adams, to see the heads of all the studios and persuade them to support it. They agreed, eventually, and tonight the NRDC will get $100,000 each from HBO and Village Roadshow Productions, $50,000 from MTV Networks, and $25,000 each from Fox Group and the William Morris Agency. The environmental group has come a long way since 2000, when Cameron Diaz could joke, "When asked if I was into the NRDC, I said, 'I don't know—how does one of their songs go?'"
The program is a mixture of high-minded politics and lowbrow comedy, with earnest but entertaining music in between. Afterward Laurie David, dancing on the sidelines in a slinky green Versace dress, throws up her hands as if her team had just scored the winning touchdown. The NRDC will be $3 million richer.
There really is gold in them thar hills. During the 2000 election cycle, zip-code areas on average yielded slightly more than $35,000 in political contributions, while residents of Beverly Hills, 90210, ponied up slightly more than $6.2 million. In the same year Pacific Palisades, Bel Air, and Brentwood were each good for $1.7 million to $3.3 million. In 2002 entertainment ranked first among all industries funding Democratic Party committees, and roughly 80 percent of the industry's party contributions went to Democratic candidates and committees; just 20 percent went to the Republican Party. From 1989 up to the start of the current election cycle Hollywood had given the party nearly $100 million for federal elections alone—close to the $114 million Republicans received from their friends in the oil and gas industries. Together with organized labor and the trial bar, Hollywood is now one of the three pillars of the Democrats' financial structure. Say what you will about the rigors of fundraising, it's got to be a lot more fun to hang poolside at Pacific Palisades with Sharon Stone and Cameron Diaz than at the annual AFL-CIO retreat in Bal Harbour with John Sweeney and Richard Trumka.
In the crucial currency called celebrity, the Republicans can barely scrape together two bits. True, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a Republican, and a member in good standing of the Hollywood community. And the Republicans Mel Gibson, Charlton Heston, Tom Selleck, Bruce Willis, Shannen Doherty, Chuck Norris, and Kelsey Grammer live in Hollywood. But even with the outsize presence of Schwarzenegger, what the Republicans offer isn't much. Within the industry the left-leaning is so pervasive that the former sex kitten Bo Derek, named to the board of the Kennedy Center by George W. Bush, complains that she is treated as "some hateful monster" by Hollywood liberals, and says, "I'm told I'll never work again."
Raising money in Hollywood is far more complicated than it used to be, now that campaign-finance reform has disallowed unlimited soft-money contributions. (Soft money goes to party committees and organizations; hard money goes directly to candidates.) There is no central headquarters anymore. Thirty years ago the only man you'd need to see while running for office would be Lew Wasserman, the unchallenged titan of MCA and the last "king of Hollywood," as Connie Bruck's recent biography crowned him. Wasserman, whose close friendship with President Lyndon Johnson transcended politics and commerce and whose personal power in the industry remains an unapproachable goal for any mogul today, would have a few calls made, and you'd leave with whatever he thought was appropriate. There was no sense in anyone's risking Wasserman's ire to hold on to a measly few thousand bucks—or even a few tens of thousands. Lloyd Hand, a Texas lawyer who helped with Johnson's 1964 presidential campaign, recalled in Bruck's book, "An invitation to Lew's house was like an invitation to the president's house—a command performance." Stragglers would get a call from Wasserman's social-affairs assistant, Ann O'Connor, asking, "Are you taking a table? May I report to Mr. Wasserman that you will be doing so?"
Wasserman, who died in 2002, was also a talent spotter. The producer Sean Daniel, who worked for him, tells a story of the day in the late 1980s when Wasserman summoned him to meet a young Arkansas governor about whom, Daniel says, "Lew had heard good reviews" and who was "going somewhere." Speaking at Wasserman's memorial service, Bill Clinton later said he had been amazed that Wasserman would want to "spend forty-five minutes talking to a politician from a state that for all I knew, he'd never even visited." Indeed, Clinton recalled that when he asked Wasserman what he might do to make Arkansas more attractive as a movie location, Wasserman, "in very elegant and brief language," said, "Not much." Nevertheless, Wasserman took a liking to the young governor, and said to Daniel, "Let's see if there's a picture we can shoot down there." That was the only signal necessary. Biloxi Blues, starring Matthew Broderick and directed by Mike Nichols, was shot in Arkansas in 1987.
By the mid-1970s a range of alternatives to the Wasserman-centered power structure had begun to appear. There had been an explosion of young wealth in Hollywood, and a sense that the establishment, tied to the Johnson-Humphrey wing of the Democratic Party, no longer represented the industry's voice. The center of gravity shifted toward the "Malibu Mafia," which during the seventies was led by Norman Lear and the Hollywood activist and fundraiser Stanley Sheinbaum, and, later, toward a group of young actors and donors called "Network," which was centered on Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, and operated from the couple's Santa Monica home.
Beginning in 1984 something like one-stop shopping was available at the Hollywood Women's Political Committee (HWPC). Sure, the members might subject candidates to some tough questioning. These hard-nosed women, led by Fonda, Barbra Streisand, the songwriter and current president of ASCAP Marilyn Bergman, the producer Paula Weinstein, and others, took their roles seriously. The vetting was guided by Marge Tabankin, the pro who ran the committee. But if the HWPC approved a candidate, there was serious money to be had. In 1996 the HWPC raised more than $4 million in a single night for Bill Clinton's re-election. Just a year later, though, the committee shut down. Its members no longer wished to contribute to the "money merry-go-round" they believed had become one of the central problems of American politics.
It was a worthy, if quaint, sentiment; but money didn't stop being necessary. Today money and influence in Hollywood are more diffuse. One option for political supplicants, of course, is to find people with so much money that they barely even notice when they give some of it away. Ask about Hollywood donors capable of giving millions (not just a million here or there but millions and millions over a sustained period of time, to more than one candidate or cause), and the same names come up again and again. There is the investment banker Ron Burkle, a former supermarket czar who, individually and through his company, gave more than $1.5 million in soft money during the 2000 and 2002 election cycles, before gifts of that size were outlawed by McCain-Feingold. (Under that law hard-money political contributions are limited to $2,000 for a single candidate, once during primary season and once during the actual campaign, with a two-year cap of $95,000 per donor on hard and soft money for all candidates and committees.) There is Haim Saban, an Egyptian-born, Israeli-reared entrepreneur who made a fortune on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Saban put up more than $7 million to pay for the construction of a new Democratic Party headquarters in Washington, D.C., just in time to beat the restrictions on soft-money giving. In all he donated $10 million of soft money to the Democratic Party during the 2002 election cycle.
And then there is the dashing Steve Bing, who manages to maintain his boyish, almost adolescent good looks despite a few lines on his face and a head of closely cropped gray hair. A film producer and real-estate heir, he has been nicknamed "Bing Laden" and called a "spermicidal maniac" by London tabloids, owing to his various romantic entanglements. (When the actress Elizabeth Hurley announced that she was pregnant with Bing's child, he issued a news release claiming that she had chosen "to be a single mother" and stating that their relationship was a non-exclusive one. He began proceedings to force a DNA test, which resulted in his accepting responsibility for the child. Bing also sued the billionaire corporate raider Kirk Kerkorian for invasion of privacy after Kerkorian had an employee grab some dental floss out of Bing's garbage in an attempt to prove that Bing was the father of his ex-wife's daughter.) The eyebrow-raising details of his private life notwithstanding, Bing is particularly popular in Hollywood because he is uninterested in receiving credit for his generosity. One fundraiser says, "My dream is to be able to say, 'Oh, just shut up and write the goddamn check, will you?'" This is what Steve Bing does. And what checks they turn out to be! Rob Reiner says that when the NRDC needed $1.7 million to finish building its Santa Monica headquarters, he made a single call to Steve Bing, asking him to meet with John Adams. Bing agreed, and soon after the money was there. (Bing would not talk about this, or anything else about himself, when asked.)
The Center for Responsive Politics calculates Bing's (pre-McCain-Feingold) 2002-cycle donations to the Democrats at $8.7 million. Recently George Soros came to Hollywood to raise money in a series of private billionaire-to-billionaire meetings for America Coming Together and The Media Fund, the coordinated anti-Bush organizations created to fit within the strictures of campaign-finance laws, to which he has promised $10 million. A kind of shadow Democratic Party, ACT and The Media Fund (under the joint fundraising umbrella of Victory Campaign 2004) are 527 organizations: they independently raise and spend money to identify voters and buy air time for advertising. These and other 527 organizations, on the left and the right, have come in for a lot of heat, because contributions are unlimited so long as the organization does not communicate with any candidate or official party committee—and everyone suspects that the concept "does not communicate" has been vitiated by Talmudic parsing. I'm told that after seeing Soros, Bing upped his contribution from $2 million to nearly $7 million, just like that. No wonder the constant refrain from the politically connected in Hollywood is "What we need more than anything is more Steve Bings."
Or Barbra Streisands. Famously, Barbra Streisand does not shut up and do anything. She is constantly giving speeches, faxing memos, and updating her political views on>. Loathed on the right, Streisand is sometimes ribbed even by writers on the left. (After hearing her speak at the Kennedy School at Harvard, Frank Rich joked, "It's not enough for Ms. Streisand just to make her movies better anymore—there's a whole country out there.") But the money she raised through her benefit concerts made her for years perhaps the single biggest individual funder of liberal causes in America—at least until George Soros got into the act. In 2000, on the night Al Gore was nominated, she headlined a benefit for the Democratic National Committee in Los Angeles's Shrine Auditorium, which grossed $5.2 million. A single performance for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2002 raised about $6 million. A June concert at which she sang lyrics to "People" revised by Alan and Marilyn Bergman (calling Donald Rumsfeld "the spookiest person in the world" and saying she was "scared out of my Wolfowitz") raised $5 million for the DNC and John Kerry. Streisand remains the object of considerable affection in Hollywood. The fact is, most people there agree with what she says, and she puts her money where her mouth is.
The dirty little secret of Hollywood is that with few exceptions, stars don't pay. They show up, look pretty, and on occasion even demand a check themselves. This goes unchallenged and usually unmentioned by most of Hollywood, because nobody has any interest in calling attention to it. The stars don't want the public to know that they stiff the candidates and causes with which they are associated. The fundraisers for these candidates and causes have no desire to alienate the very people they spend so much time begging for a drop-by. Agents and managers who arrange the appearances are accustomed to getting all kinds of goodies in exchange for a sprinkling of their clients' fabulousness.
The only celebrity donors who come close to Streisand's level of financial commitment are Robert Redford and Paul Newman, and neither one of them seems to want much to do with Hollywood. Meanwhile, Streisand—acting on the advice of people such as her longtime friend Marilyn Bergman, a member of Streisand's foundation board, and her friend and adviser Marge Tabankin—every year sends out scores of checks that together total anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million, to such advocacy organizations as the Center for Public Integrity, which documents corporate and political malfeasance, and Homies Unidos, a group in Los Angeles that tries to keep kids out of gangs. If you want to get inside Streisand's political pocketbook, you have to go through Tabankin, who receives on the order of a thousand requests a year.
Scenes like the NRDC fundraiser arouse no end of hostility and mockery within the media, and especially among conservatives. After a recent celebrity-filled preview of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, Bill O'Reilly said the access of Bush-fighting Hollywood activists to the "profitable and pervasive" "celebrity media" was a "Leni Riefenstahl Third Reich propaganda proposition, where what they say and do is put in everybody's face." When in 2002 it was revealed that Al Gore had consulted with Rob Reiner before giving a speech on Iraq, the columnist Charles Krauthammer observed that while Bush was relying on the likes of Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld, Gore was "huddling with Meathead"—a reference to Reiner's role as Archie Bunker's son-in-law on All in the Family The New Republic's literary editor, Leon Wieseltier, has complained of "insulated and bubble-headed ... Hollywood actors [who] are even more out of touch than elected politicians." Hollywood's high profile makes any dumb remarks very, very public. Consider the pop star Jessica Simpson's recent comment to Gale Norton, who had been introduced to her as the Secretary of the Interior: "You've done a nice job decorating the White House."
Yes, Hollywood's wealth notwithstanding, its activists are by and large liberal. Like an Ivy League humanities department or a folksingers' convention, Hollywood attracts that kind of people. They give their dollars to protect the environment, to secure a woman's right to abortion, to promote the rights of gay people to marry, to help prevent the spread of AIDS in Africa, to oppose virtually every aspect of President Bush's foreign policy. By mainstream American political standards, the groups that compete with one another to be the group in Hollywood—the NRDC, the ACLU, People for the American Way, Artists for a New South Africa—are all quite liberal. In Hollywood circles, though, supporting such groups is no more controversial than heading up a campaign for a cancer clinic in Nashville or for the Museum of Modern Art in New York. And exactly why so many people in the media find it less objectionable, say, for the CEO of General Motors to lobby for relaxed auto-emission standards than for an actor or a director to contribute to a campaign for clean air is not immediately apparent. Indeed, among the tiny percentage of Americans who do contribute large amounts of money to political campaigns (the number who give a thousand dollars or more to any candidate hovers around one tenth of one percent of the population), Hollywood contributors are almost alone in not trying to buy themselves anything so concrete as a tax break or a watered-down regulation. Although the entertainment industry itself does have corporate PACs, which do the industry's bidding and spread its wealth accordingly, most of the contributions handed out by individual members of the entertainment industry are ideological money that buys them nothing.
Former senator Gary Hart—who made the Hollywood rounds numerous times as a candidate, topping off his campaign accounts before heading back to the hustings—says that right-wing attacks on the "Hollywood connection" have little impact. Although Hollywood was once viewed as the sin capital of America, Hart says, Ronald Reagan's presidency neutralized that notion: "After all, he came out of that industry, so how could his admirers continue to demonize it?" Hart recalls that when he ran for the Senate as a "rookie," in 1974, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson came to conservative Colorado to campaign for him, and no one made it an issue. He says, "The only danger [is] if you give the appearance of having been captured by Hollywood, and you have become starstruck. Otherwise, I think we're beyond that."
The famously misanthropic comedian Larry David says that the biggest surprise he's had since growing into a "rich prick" (following a lifetime as a "poor schmuck") is his discovery of altruism in the people who contribute to the causes of his wife, Laurie. He is, he claims, "amazed at how generous these people are." "In business," he says, "they've earned the reputation of being selfish and ruthless. You would expect artists to give. But all the executives—you wouldn't expect them to be generous, would you?"
The billionaire entertainment mogul David Geffen raised about $20 million for the President and his party during the Clinton years—perhaps as much as anyone else in the country. All he got was a sleepover in the Lincoln Bedroom and the knowledge that he was part of the inner circle of Clinton's "go-to" guys in town—hardly the sort of quid pro quo one suspects when the President's friend and top contributor is, say, Enron's Kenneth Lay. Of course, for an openly gay man of modest birth (Geffen's parents sold bras in Brooklyn), such attention may not be negligible. Roger Lowenstein, a former scriptwriter for L.A. Law who is married to a former studio executive, speaks of what he calls the "mutual masturbation that goes on" between Hollywood and Washington "they each want that thing that the other has and they can't have." Hollywood yearns for gravitas, Washington for glamour.
Needless to say, Hollywood offers nearly limitless opportunities for anyone seeking to expose hypocrisy in the lifestyles of the rich and progressive. Laurie David, who dedicates herself to fighting for improved fuel-economy standards and reviles the owners of SUVs as terrorist enablers, gives herself a pass when it comes to chartering one of the most wasteful uses of fossil-based fuels imaginable: a private plane. (She's not just a limousine liberal; she's a Gulfstream liberal.) One night I visited the home of the former TV star Heather Thomas (The Fall Guy) and her husband, the entertainment lawyer and philanthropist Skip Brittenham. I drove past SUVs and assorted luxury vehicles on what felt like a quarter-mile-long driveway to a mansion large enough to house one of the small Amazonian villages the Brittenhams want to save. Just the energy consumed by the house and all the vehicles would power a sizable chunk of Amazonia. And this was nothing next to the Sunset Strip home of Stewart and Lynda Resnick, where I attended a book party for the journalist and progressive candidate-conspirator-hostess Arianna Huffington. Guests picked at smoked-salmon and caviar hors d'oeuvres beneath twenty-foot ceilings supported by towering Greek columns. Each gilded room was larger than most New York City apartments. The house would not be out of place if plunked down as an extension of Versailles, save for the enormous bust of Napoleon in one of the salons. The Resnicks, Lynda told me, are the "largest farmers in America"; they are the country's biggest grower of fruits and nuts, and a member of the Sunkist cooperative (she urged me to try the selection of new Sunkist beverages at the well-stocked bar); they also own the Franklin Mint. Later I listened to her refer to the celebrity-laden crowd as "disenfranchised."
On occasions when I've mentioned such contradictions and blind spots to smart Hollywood fundraisers, the response has been not so much explanation or excuse as a plea for indulgence—as if one were, after all, dealing with children, children who are very good at sharing.
Speaking in broad terms, and allowing for considerable overlap, four kinds of people make the fundraising wheels spin in Hollywood: actors who dedicate themselves to political causes, raising money and consciousness without contributing large sums themselves; activists who seek to harness the money and the publicity of celebrity for liberal causes and candidates; private political consultants, who help rich donors navigate among the various groups and candidates seeking their largesse; and, finally, players—the major funders who raise or pay up the millions that make the game worth it.
The Actor
Actors with causes are nothing new. Whether for reasons of public image, a desire for credibility, or the simple calculation—"If my privacy is going to be invaded and I'm going to be treated as a commodity, I might as well take advantage of it"—described by Susan Sarandon, the actor as spokesperson is a Hollywood phenotype. This sort of public figure inspires a degree of cynicism—quite properly, given how little is often required of the actor in terms of knowledge or commitment. Actors can often do as much harm as good to their causes. Madonna, for instance, did not turn out to be a terrifically effective spokesperson for Rock the Vote when it was later revealed that she had not bothered to vote in previous presidential elections. In an ad she was shown bikini-clad and flanked by two male dancers who alternated spanking her, illustrating her slogan "If you don't vote, you're going to get a spanking."
One of the most sought-after liberal actors in Hollywood right now is Brad Whitford, who plays Josh Lyman, the deputy chief of staff on The West Wing. He and his wife, Jane Kaczmarek, who plays the mom on the popular Fox sitcom Malcolm in the Middle, function as a kind of political unit on the Hollywood political-social scene. One night not long ago I was asked by a couple of liberal organizations to give a talk about the media and George W. Bush at the home of Ted Williams, the former CEO of Bell Industries, and his wife, Rita; Whitford and Kaczmarek happened to be listed as the evening's "conveners," meaning that they came over after work to schmooze with the guests and introduce the speakers. Like most actors, they don't have "real" money by Hollywood standards, and hence do most of their giving by just showing up or by signing letters and helping to attract the truly rich people they know.
Whitford and Kaczmarek are not strongly identified with any one cause or organization. Whitford later told me that the couple treat their celebrity as a commodity and look for ways to "spend it as wisely as we can." They began with children's charities such as Cure Autism Now and the Children's Defense Fund, and moved on to a variety of causes and groups, including clean elections, gun control, abortion rights, Death Penalty Focus, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Refugees International, and the NRDC.
A few days later, sitting in his trailer on the set of The West Wing between takes of a scene in which Josh is trying to keep his cool after a terrorist attack on his assistant, Whitford ate fried chicken and mused on the state of American politics with an easy charm that a political consultant would kill to capture. He said he finds it "kind of pathetic" that he is not only often asked to make appearances with Democratic candidates but also encouraged to run for office himself. (His reply: "I don't want to have to act that much.")
As Whitford was speaking, I recalled a time before the 2000 Democratic convention when I walked into a party at a beach house in Malibu and did not immediately find anyone I knew. Eventually I spotted one familiar face, though I couldn't remember why or how I knew its owner. I went over to say hello anyway, covering up the way one does. About twenty minutes into our talk I owned up to my confusion, and the man I was speaking with politely explained that this happened all the time. Few people know Brad Whitford, but everybody "knows" Josh, as I thought I did that night. It happened again when Whitford introduced me to the rest of the show's cast members on the set. When we exchanged pleasantries, they were out of character. As a fan of the show, I know these people, even though the people I know do not really exist. That feeling is worth many millions in political donations.
Whitford told me that he and his wife "max out" in every election with hard-money contributions to candidates, but that those checks are insignificant compared with the amount they regularly raise by agreeing to grace an event with their presence. He will "strongly encourage" friends to give, Whitford said, but he has not yet taken the step of making fundraising calls himself. He has, however, made his own anti-Bush commercial. Excitedly he described the ad: Cue mansion with palm trees in the background, music swelling as in the post-9/11 Bush commercials. Whitford greets the viewer: "Welcome to my home. Hi. I'm very fortunate to be working on a television show right now. In this age of terror and soaring budget deficits, when our President has proposed cuts in veterans' benefits and funds for children, I got a tax cut of over a hundred thousand dollars! Support the Hollywood elite. Please. Re-elect George Bush."
The Activist
Although most of "above the line" Hollywood—the line is the one separating management and creative talent from the production side of filmmaking—seems to share a set of political attitudes, those who actually spend time putting their ideals into practice are quite rare. A familiar complaint is that the same people show up at the meetings, whatever the issue. The filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who has recently decided to dedicate a considerable portion of his time to helping progressive organizations with various film projects, is everybody's idea of a committed activist. So are Alan Horn and his wife, Cindy; Horn founded Castle Rock Entertainment with Rob Reiner and others before becoming the president of Warner Brothers. Julie Bergman Sender, a former producer, has inherited political activism from her mother, Marilyn Bergman, and can be found at nearly any political gathering. The producer Sean Daniel and his wife, Ruth Hunter, a staffer for the NRDC, are likely to be asked to help with any new political effort, as are their friends Phil Robinson, the producer, and his partner, the singer Carole King. The actors Mike Farrell, Heather Thomas, Danny Glover, Ed Begley, and Ed and Cindy Asner (her business card actually reads "political activist") all get involved, organizing pressure groups, study sessions, lobbying trips, and, occasionally, demonstrations, and enduring the inevitable snarky comments from the right. But in the past year or so, much of the focus has been on Laurie David.
A pretty, brassy Jewish girl from Merrick, Long Island, whose close friends describe her as "pushy," David is one of those people who carry energy as if it were a communicable disease. I first met her early last year, in Washington, at a political meeting where I was speaking and she was working the room, having accompanied her friend Arianna Huffington on a networking trip. Laurie Lennard was a booker for David Letterman and then a personal manager and a producer; she produced a short-lived sitcom for the comedian Chris Elliott, called Get a Life, just when her husband's Seinfeld was becoming the most successful sitcom in the history of television. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., her friend and political ally, likens her to "one of those [Hollywood] producers who are always saying we'll order up a helicopter to get the shot."
At the final rehearsal for the big NRDC show, a day before the event, I saw what he meant. David simultaneously encouraged the performers and gave them criticism on their presentations; worked with the writers to make last-minute improvements; and directed celebrity traffic (would Leonardo DiCaprio mind waiting five minutes for his run-through while Meg Ryan practiced her introduction of Robert Kennedy?). When Eric Idle rehearsed "The FCC Song," whose chorus includes the line "Fuck you very much, Dickhead Mr. Cheney," David handled the taste problem with tough-minded finesse, and Idle did not perform in the show.
David's enthusiasm for environmental activism puzzles some who have long known her (David herself talks, somewhat lamely, about a lifelong obsession with litter)—including her husband, who told me he had detected none of it until his Seinfeld earnings made her a rich woman. (Her line on this topic is "I want to thank my husband, whose disdain for mankind has allowed me to work on its behalf.") "I heard nothing about the environment for all our lives," Larry David says, "and now this. I wish she would at least take back her own name." As for professional advice, Larry's only note to his wife on her public-speaking engagements, he tells me, is "Not so Jewish." Laurie David credits Alan Horn and Rob Reiner with awakening her interest in the NRDC. A meeting was arranged with the group's president, John Adams, at Reiner's Beverly Hills office, and she was sold, she says: "John was like a rock star to me." Two weeks later Adams returned to L.A. with Robert Kennedy in tow to have breakfast with the Davids and cement the alliance.
David's combination of moxie and money has made her the It Girl of Hollywood progressive politics. She invited John McCain to dinner so that she could try to talk him into switching to the Democratic Party. (She failed.) John Edwards, a guest early in his presidential candidacy, was interrogated on his so-so environmental record. And then there are the fundraisers. In March the Davids hosted 200 people at a $1,000-a-plate party for Barbara Boxer, California's junior senator, who is up for re-election this fall. Larry David says that he forgot about the Boxer event, only to come home and see "all these cars parked." "Next thing I knew," he says, "Bill Clinton was showing up. I'm proud of my wife and I do support her, but there are other houses out here. Sometimes I think she thinks this is the only house in L.A. But what do you want me do? Stay up in my room? I do roll my eyes a lot.
"Most of Laurie David's efforts are directed toward the NRDC and its campaign for stricter fuel-economy standards. But like every other liberal except perhaps Ralph Nader, David knows that the biggest target of all is George W. Bush, and she recently threw herself into a leading role in organizing Hollywood to support America Coming Together. Before joining ACT's finance committee, David sought entrée with a donation of $100,000. A number of Hollywood activists think she is taking a larger than warranted role, given that her wealth would allow her to be far more generous. These people, none of whom are willing to be named, told me that David tried to get away with giving ACT a mere $10,000, but was told that ten times that amount would be the minimum for the role she planned to play. (The biggest funders of ACT and its related organization, The Media Fund, are Soros and his philanthropic partner, Peter Lewis, who have given about $5 million each, and Bing, who has given $6.9 million.)
The question of just how much is enough is tricky in the Hollywood community. Nobody knows exactly how much money anyone else has. For instance, most media reports put Larry David's take from Seinfeld's syndication at around $250 million. Laurie says this figure is vastly inflated: "Maybe we'll get that much over the next hundred years." But Rob Reiner, whose Castle Rock Entertainment produced the show, told me he imagined that the figure could go even higher. Moreover, nobody knows just how much anybody is giving to anybody else, especially because a lot of people prefer to give quietly, so as not to inspire requests from others. Then there is the question of relativity. For most of us, donating $2,000 to a candidate or a cause would mean taking the money from somewhere else—skipping a vacation or buying a less fancy car. But if we had a portfolio of $50 million or $100 million, we wouldn't even notice. Who is to decide what is appropriate? Rob Reiner told me of the time Representative Jane Harman sat on his couch and asked him for $25,000 for her campaign for the California governorship, because "that's what Steven Spielberg is giving." Reiner says he replied, "Well, I'm going to give you even more than Steven gave." Harman's excitement level no doubt rose, only to fall when Reiner said she'd get $5,000. "That was five times to me what twenty-five was to Steven," he told me, laughing.
Talking to me in his office over salad and CNN, Larry David admitted that if he were married to someone else, "chances are [the NRDC] would never have seen a nickel from me." Playing to type, he went on, "Personally, I would give money away to people, because then I could get the personal satisfaction of playing the benefactor and have the obligation for the rest of my life. I would enjoy that." In the same spirit, he took the opportunity to deny that he bought his high-mileage hybrid Toyota Prius (for which he is held up as a role model) for any noble environmental reasons. "The Prius is the only car that didn't have that console in the way, which gives you more legroom. That's why I bought it. I liked the legroom and I liked the way it looked. The gas mileage was last on my list. If anybody says I bought it for [Laurie], I'll punch them in the mouth."
When I asked Laurie David about the dispute over her ACT donation, she did not exactly deny the story, but she did say that she is still learning how to give away money and thinks that $100,000 was "an appropriate number." She continued, "Larry and I didn't have two nickels together when we got engaged." When, suddenly, they had gazillions of dollars, she needed to learn how to write "a thousand-dollar check, then five, then ten, then a hundred, then half a million." "Then," she said, "you learn how to give million-dollar gifts to things you really care about."
David's high profile notwithstanding, there is on occasion something a little ingenuous in her approach. She told me, for instance, that she will never again support Tom Daschle, the Senate minority leader, because he voted in favor of Bush's energy bill. When I pointed out how important its ethanol provisions were to Daschle's South Dakota constituents, David was unmoved: "That energy bill is evil. What is this guy doing with his life? Sometimes the stakes are so high you take the hit. And this was one of those cases."
Adamantine adherence to political principle is nothing new, of course. Ronald Brownstein, a Los Angeles Times political reporter, recalls in The Power and the Glitter, his history of the relationship between Washington and Hollywood, that in the mid-1980s Hollywood liberals' "ideological purity" often put them on a collision course with even the politicians they championed. I called Barney Frank, the liberal Massachusetts congressman and expert legislative strategist (who is considering a Senate run should John Kerry become President, and hence was considering a trip to Hollywood), to ask him whether he thought it was a good thing for liberals to play this kind of hardball against their own. He had a strong opinion. "I think it's a mistake for Laurie David to tell Tom Daschle she won't support him because of the energy bill," he said. "It's never going to change his mind. Nobody is going to allow themselves to get in trouble at home to get Hollywood money. Money is a means to the end. Votes are the end. You'd have to be a terrible politician to confuse those two things."
The Consultant
In a town where people have agents, publicists, and managers on call, not to mention manicurists, pedicurists, and plastic surgeons, it is not such a stretch to have a personal political consultant. If a celebrity or a producer is giving a ton of money away, it hardly makes sense to do so without the guidance of someone who understands how to make that money go the furthest.
It is the consultant's job to know which organizations are doing the most innovative work and who are the rising stars of the Democratic Party. The policy institutes of the East Coast corridor do not play the same role in Hollywood that they do in Washington—bringing policy wonks and politicians together. Few people in the movie business are interested in the intricacies of policy for policy's sake. The issue at hand is always who can make something happen, and who therefore deserves to get the check. The heads of certain liberal think tanks in the East—Lawrence Mishel, of the Economic Policy Institute; Bob Greenstein, of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; John Podesta, of the recently formed Center for American Progress (where I am a senior fellow)—often strategize on the phone with Hollywood consultants, and occasionally make the trek to Los Angeles for a fundraising dinner. But this is nowhere near as intimate as the relationships these same people have with reporters, editors, and like-minded policymakers in Washington, New York, and Boston. When it comes to policy, Hollywood is willing to sign on the dotted line and leave the deep thinking to others.
Richard Foos, for example, made millions when he sold Rhino Records to Warner Brothers and started a new production company. He always gave a certain amount of money to politicians and causes. This year George W. Bush inspired him to step up his political giving, and he is planning to triple his donations. Foos knew he didn't know all he needed to about how to make his money work the way he wanted it to. Fortunately, he had already become friendly with someone whose life's work is directing such giving: Marge Tabankin.
Tabankin is the dean, or perhaps the den mother, of Hollywood political consultants. An activist since the 1960s, when she worked with the community organizer Saul Alinsky, she became the director of VISTA under President Jimmy Carter, and later the director of the Hollywood Women's Political Committee. Tabankin provides much of political Hollywood's institutional memory and a considerable part of its practical training and education. In a town known for its obsession with thinness, Tabankin looks not unlike a kinder, gentler Bella Abzug, with warm green eyes and an inviting smile. People who have worked with her describe her as detail-oriented and unimpressed by the trappings of celebrity that surround her. She can often be found in her office in the evening and on weekends, stuffing envelopes with her assistants and making important phone calls. At a fundraiser she is more likely to be worrying about whether the nametags are spelled right than to be gossiping with celebrities.
The fellowship of Hollywood political consultants is small, and its members take their politics seriously. Donna Bojarsky, who works with Richard Dreyfuss and Norm Pattiz, the owner of the radio network Westwood One, says, "Everyone believes Hollywood to be so seductive, but we all came from politics and none of us have slid over into entertainment." Along with Tabankin and Bojarsky, the top consultants include Andy Spahn, at DreamWorks SKG; Joyce Deep, who advises Robert Redford and Quincy Jones; Laura Hartigan, who left the Democratic National Committee to work for Haim Saban; and Chad Griffin, who is Rob Reiner's go-to guy. The consultants are political pros who know how to plant stories and can alternate between "background," "off the record," and "not for attribution" as skillfully as any White House press aide. They are paid generously by Washington's standards, though they are paupers by Hollywood's. Tabankin says that a typical fee is "five to ten percent of the payout"; this figure tends to hit a ceiling, she says, of about $100,000 per client. A successful consultant has two to four clients, but Tabankin estimates that no Hollywood consultant makes more than $250,000 a year.
This year perhaps the most visible consultant is Lara Bergthold, the Kerry campaign's deputy director with responsibility for Hollywood. In a sign of the new seriousness with which politicians take the entertainment community's ability to help, the campaign decided that Bergthold's position would involve both "creative" and "finance" responsibilities; that is, she would work on both message and money, rather than on fundraising alone. Bergthold, whose healthy California-girl good looks belie her political savvy, told me recently that in her first week on the job her biggest problem was not recruiting contributors and advisers but handling all the offers coming in. She is a Tabankin protégé: one of her first jobs was working with Tabankin on the HWPC.
The one Hollywood consultant nobody in Democratic politics can afford to alienate is Andy Spahn. Though no one at DreamWorks has a title, Spahn's corporate-relations portfolio covers a host of responsibilities in addition to politics and philanthropy, and he has a staff of ten spread around the DreamWorks headquarters, which are on a tree-lined street in Beverly Hills. Light-haired and ruggedly handsome, Spahn is about as buttoned down as anyone in Hollywood today—which means he wears an open-necked oxford shirt, a sports jacket, and khakis rather than a cashmere V-neck. Behind his quiet, corporate-smoothie demeanor lies a venerable background in leftist politics. Tom Hayden, who hired Spahn in the 1980s to work with the Campaign for Economic Democracy, remembers Spahn's getting dragged away by the police at an anti-apartheid rally, his long hair flying. (Another consultant recalls seeing snapshots of Spahn wearing coal-black eyeliner at the time, à la David Bowie.) After Hayden was elected to the state senate, with Spahn's help, Spahn went to Washington and became a top fundraiser for Democratic politicians and political organizations. He returned to Hollywood and helped build a series of progressive organizations before being hired by David Geffen. After the creation of DreamWorks SKG its three founding partners—Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Geffen—asked Spahn to handle politics and philanthropy for the corporation as a whole.
Those in a position to know say Spahn is perhaps the best in Hollywood at raising hard money—increasingly difficult in the McCain-Feingold era. It is now a lot tougher to raise $100,000 for a candidate, with checks of just $2,000 apiece, than it was two years ago to raise two or three million in soft-money contributions. Spahn and Katzenberg went over their lists and came up with around $150,000 for John Kerry's first big Hollywood fundraiser, at Ron Burkle's home. To the degree that Lew Wasserman's world lives on at all in Hollywood, it does so in the combination of the DreamWorks partners' power and Andy Spahn's phone calls and lists.
The Player
To be a player is to be able to call the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, or Democratic leaders in Congress, and have them drop everything to take your call. It means you can get on the President's schedule—if the President happens to be Bill Clinton—and suggest that he make a few calls, and those calls will be made. Of the tiny number of people who might be said to inhabit the rarefied world of players, the most exclusive category of all in Hollywood, most have bought their way in. They donate millions or raise millions or, most likely, both. David Geffen and his DreamWorks partners fit into this category, as do Haim Saban, Ron Burkle, Barbra Streisand, and Norman Lear. But only one Hollywood player at this level gained membership without buying it: Rob Reiner.
Of course there's also Robert Redford, who in many ways represents the Hollywood player's idea of perfection itself. When the NRDC sends out a mass mailing, the return address reads only "Robert Redford," as if that ought to be enough to get any sane person to open a piece of junk mail. Not only has Redford shown up and raised millions for the past three decades, but he has developed expertise regarding his chosen issues that would rival that of just about any member of Congress, and, more to the point, his or her staffers as well. When you sit down to talk to him about, say, carbon dioxide emissions and their relation to chlorofluorocarbons, it's almost possible to forget you're talking to Robert Redford. What's more, Redford puts his name on the line to try to solve environmental problems by bringing various sides of a dispute together for conferences, seminars, and negotiating sessions. But the admiration he inspires is probably equaled in the industry by resentment of his quite public desire to keep as much distance as possible between himself and the traditional Hollywood movie business while making sure he remains one of the world's biggest movie stars. Redford lives on a mountain in Utah, but in the eyes of Hollywood it might as well be Mount Olympus.
Whereas Rob Reiner lives, breathes, and eats Hollywood. The son of the comedian Carl Reiner, he grew up around the likes of Mel Brooks and Norman Lear. (Reiner bought Lear's old, modest-for-Hollywood, country-style house in Brentwood years ago—the house in which Henry Fonda raised his famous family.) His comfortable, earth-toned office is ornamented by the Hollywood mogul's requisite movie posters and family photos. Although not particularly wealthy by industry standards (when pressed, he will acknowledge a net worth of somewhere between $10 million and $50 million), Reiner has political smarts that enable him to play the game at a level way above his pay grade.
No Hollywood partnership with a Democratic presidential nominee has been as close as Reiner's was with Al Gore—at least not since Warren Beatty helped run George McGovern's campaign, in 1972. Reiner and the campaign's chief speechwriter, Eli Attie, were the only non-family members in the Gore residence on that fateful December night in 2000 when the U.S. Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush. Conservative pundits may relish the notion of a onetime presidential nominee's huddling with Meathead, but Reiner is one of America's most astute and effective political strategists. "Rob could have made his living in my business," says Paul Begala, the Crossfire host and former Clinton aide.
The demand for Reiner's talents as a campaigner, a strategist, and—not least—a fundraiser is intense. During one of our interviews he took a call from The West Wing's creator, Aaron Sorkin, who agreed to help write an anti-Bush commercial Reiner had promised to make for . When Al Gore announced in 2002, on 60 Minutes, that he had decided against running for President, Reiner came to work the next morning to find four phone messages waiting for him: one from Howard Dean, one from John Kerry, one from John Edwards, and another from Howard Dean. (He went with Dean.) For all Reiner's intimacy with Gore and Dean, though, their careers failed to advance to the next stage. National politics is a cruel mistress.
Reiner operates on all levels; for instance, he managed two successful California ballot initiatives. He works with Chad Griffin, whom he met in Washington in 1994, when Griffin helped him authenticate the script and sets for The American President, a film set in the White House. Griffin, who took two years off between the University of Arkansas and Georgetown to work at the White House, was heading for a job at the State Department; Reiner asked him to go west and head his I Am Your Child Foundation instead. With an ambitious PR campaign the two men helped assemble a coalition to prevent the building of a luxury golf-course community on a 2,800-acre nature preserve called the Ahmanson Ranch, in the Santa Monica Mountains of Ventura County, leading to the state's purchase and protection of the land. In their first ballot initiative they succeeded in passing a fifty-cents-a-pack cigarette tax and then creating a mechanism for distributing the resulting $650 million a year to pre-kindergarten programs. Reiner now chairs the state commission that decides how the money is to be spent.
Taking on the tobacco industry is about as expensive a proposition as can be found in American politics. Tobacco companies spent more than $30 million to bury the initiative; Reiner and Griffin raised $9 million to fight back. Reiner put up $1.5 million of his own, and his parents gave another million. Other top funders included Steve Bing ($1.8 million), Ron Burkle (just over $1 million), and Haim Saban ($500,000).
Reiner is unsure what he will do next. Initially he and Griffin were hoping to take on California's sacred cow, Proposition 13, which caps property taxes and hence starves public education, but they decided to hold off when they realized that they would be facing as many as a dozen other ballot initiatives this November. A prohibitive amount of money would be required just to get the public's attention. "We would have to raise at least thirty to forty million just to break through," he says. He is, however, continuing his work on legislation to ensure that children all over the state have access to preschool programs—work that will most likely result in a 2006 ballot initiative. Also looming is a possible candidacy for governor. Reiner did not throw his hat into the ring during the recall last year because, he says, he "didn't think it was a proper way to run a democracy." The governor's office is now occupied by Reiner's friend and neighbor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose celebrity vastly exceeds Reiner's. Reiner tells me that he has entertained thoughts of being governor; a run would more likely be in 2010 than 2006 (when someone will have to challenge the now popular "Governator"). Don't bet against him.
On a balmy night last spring liberal Hollywood descended on the billionaire Ron Burkle's five-acre estate, "Green Acres," to get the first good look at its party's new standard-bearer, John Kerry. Burkle's forty-room, twenty-six-bathroom Beverly Hills mansion, built by the silent-film star Harold Lloyd in 1929, was also used by its previous owner, the producer Ted Field, for liberal fundraisers. Burkle, the supermarket magnate, is a believer in the separation of supermarket and state ("The first thing they teach you in checkout-counter school," he has said, "is not to talk politics or religion with the customers"). Those five acres of personal territory were saturated with politics that night. Inside the gates big donors—people committed to giving at least $50,000—were whisked up a hill, past a Spanish-style fountain, to the expansive house, where they got face time with the candidate and his wife. After an hour or so of schmoozing with the fat cats, Kerry went outside onto the enormous L-shaped lawn to join 2,000 other people and listen to James Taylor sing and Larry David tell jokes. When he took the stage himself, Kerry did a reasonable job of exciting the crowd. The evening resulted in $3 million in hard-money contributions for his campaign, and another $1 million for the DNC.
It may be true, as the Bush campaign spokesperson Terry Holt insists, that "this campaign will not be won in Hollywood." But it will be at least partly financed there. And it will be financed smartly and professionally, with a view toward the main event and a wariness of distracting sideshows. At a gathering at the lush Santa Monica estate of the screenwriter Steve Byrnes and the lawyer Jamie Mandelbaum, for instance, the difference in sensibility between those in Hollywood who spend a lot of time on politics and those who don't was on clear display. One of the more casually political people in the room expressed a desire that John Kerry would "show moral leadership" in embracing gay marriage, and received no encouragement whatever—this in a group of people for whom gay marriage is perhaps less controversial than the heterosexual kind. Right now nobody in Hollywood who plays politics seriously is talking about how to make the Democrats more liberal. Rather, screenwriter after producer after actor after director at the gathering spoke only of the desire to help Democrats win.
During the Democratic-primary season various candidates enjoyed moments of favorable buzz within the community, and each—John Kerry, alas, excepted—drew on a substantial celebrity contingent. Since Kerry's success, despite his unpopular vote for the war and his near complete lack of Clintonesque charisma, everyone has fallen into line. (Ralph Nader has absolutely no fans in higher Hollywood.) As Julie Bergman Sender put it, "We are not in the luxury position of being able to choose the perfect candidate this time around. If it's John Kerry, that's fine. The house is on fire—we just have to put it out."
George W. Bush, who promised to be "a uniter, not a divider," may not have proved to be one in America as a whole. But in Hollywood, at least, he has kept his word.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Teresa Heinz Kerry tells reporter to 'shove it'


Teresa Heinz Kerry urged her home-state delegates to the Democratic National Convention to restore a more civil tone to American politics, then minutes later told a newspaperman to "shove it."
"We need to turn back some of the creeping, un-Pennsylvanian and sometimes un-American traits that are coming into some of our politics," the wife of Sen. John Kerry told her fellow Pennsylvanians on Sunday night at a Massachusetts Statehouse reception.

Minutes later, Colin McNickle, the editorial page editor of the conservative Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, questioned her on what she meant by the term "un-American," according to a tape of the encounter recorded by Pittsburgh television station WTAE.
Heinz Kerry said, "I didn't say that" several times to McNickle. She then turned to confer with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and others. When she faced McNickle again a short time later, he continued to question her, and she replied: "You said something I didn't say. Now shove it.''

The Pennsylvania delegation was the first to be visited by the wife of Kerry, the presumed Democratic nominee. Before her encounter with McNickle, she criticized the tenor of modern political campaigns, without being specific.

A spokesperson for Heinz Kerry later said, "This was sheer frustration aimed at a right-wing rag that has consistently and purposely misrepresented the facts in reporting on Mrs. Kerry and her family.''

Asked about the exchange on CNN's "American Morning," Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said today, "A lot of Americans are going to say, 'Good for you, you go, girl,' and that's certainly how I feel about it.''

Vice President Dick Cheney recently came under criticism for using a four-letter obscenity in an exchange with Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., on the Senate floor. He later was unapologetic about the remark, saying: "I felt better after I said it.''

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Top Democratic donor entrapping his brother in law?

So, did you get my gift?
Monday, July 19, 2004 Posted: 11:25 PM EDT (0325 GMT)

A top Democratic donor is accused of entrapping his brother-in-law -- and sending his sister the tape

One must work hard to resist the Sopranos comparison. If the show has taught anything, it's that beneath the garish veneer of suburban New Jersey family life steams a sewer of betrayal.

But the comparison is actually unfair to the Soprano clan. Bad as he is, Tony would never pull something as bumbling and psychosexually crude as what Charles Kushner, a real estate impresario and one of the Democratic Party's most generous political donors, is alleged to have done to his sister.

U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie filed a complaint last week charging that Kushner, whose company's holdings are said to be worth $1 billion, recruited a prostitute to seduce a man who used to work for him.

The complaint says the man's wife was cooperating with investigators examining whether Kushner broke tax and campaign-finance laws. Kushner, prosecutors say, wanted leverage over the ex-employee, so he not only hired the hooker to have sex with the man but had their congress videotaped.

The woman approached the target in December by saying her car had stalled. The next day, the complaint says, he met her at the Red Bull Inn in Bridgewater, N.J. They had sex as a hidden camera rolled.

Kushner held on to the tape for several months. The complaint doesn't accuse him of trying to blackmail the ex-employee during this period (although, in an unnecessarily ribald aside, the complaint notes that Kushner watched the video and "expressed satisfaction").

In May, for reasons that defy immediate explanation, he sent a copy of the tape to the man's wife, who turned it over to federal law enforcers. Although the complaint omits the other players' names, it wasn't long before they were leaked: the wife is Kushner's sister Esther. The ex-employee is Kushner's brother-in-law William Schulder.

Neither of the Schulders returned calls, but Benjamin Brafman, Kushner's lawyer (past clients: Michael Jackson, P. Diddy), said his client would be exonerated. He also sent a statement saying Kushner who could face 25 years in prison on charges that include promoting prostitution and obstruction of justice is "widely known as a very generous philanthropist."

That, at least, is true. Kushner's cash has built a school, inner-city programs and several political careers. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, employees of Kushner Cos. gave more money ($82,000) to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton from 1997 to 2002 than those at any other firm. (A Clinton spokeswoman says the Senator will return Kushner's latest contributions if he is convicted.)

In October 2002, Kushner made a single donation of $1 million to the Democratic Party. Kushner is also the biggest financial backer of New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who was only a mayor when Kushner began writing him checks in the '90s. "The amount of money he raised is unusual for one person," says Ingrid Reed of the Eagleton Institute of Politics. "He's not a household word...but he was a respected, well-known figure among the elite."

Of course, you can't link the beneficiaries of Kushner's largesse to the current allegations. U.S. Attorney Christie, a Republican who has not ruled out a race against McGreevey next year, was careful to say last week that none of these charges "has anything to do with Mr. McGreevey."

But many people including Kushner's brother Murray; Robert Yontef, a former Kushner accountant; and at least one state senator have raised questions about Kushner's political donations over the years. In a February 2003 suit, for instance, Yontef alleged that Kushner asked him to conceal use of the firm's holdings to make campaign gifts. He also said Kushner gave money in partners' names without their knowledge.

At the time, Kushner's spokesman said Yontef was just a disgruntled ex-employee. But Christie's complaint last week says Kushner actually tried to have another prostitute entrap Yontef, who didn't take the bait. Theodore Moskowitz, Yontef's lawyer, says his client had no idea the woman's proposition had been orchestrated: "He thought it was funny. He called his wife on his way home."

Yontef's suit against Kushner was dropped earlier this year as part of a settlement. But last month Kushner agreed to pay a $508,900 fine to the Federal Election Commission for various mistakes.

Despite his earlier troubles, Kushner's friends were stunned by last week's lurid charges. "I have only seen the righteous side of this man, the side that gives an enormous amount to charitable causes," says former Newark city council member Cory Booker, who accepted $15,000 from Kushner in his unsuccessful bid to become Newark mayor in 2002.

Booker says he sat shivah with Kushner recently after the death of his mother Rae, a Holocaust survivor. Booker saw only a grieving son, not the venal plotter who would mail motel-room porn to his sister.

While Kushner awaits arraignment, New Jersey debates McGreevey's future. Besides the Kushner affair, the Governor is coping with the resignation of his commerce secretary amid charges of a sweetheart loan offer as well as the indictment of yet another of his fund raisers, David D'Amiano. (D'Amiano has pleaded not guilty to charges of influence peddling.)

The Governor said of Kushner last week, "I just pray for him and his family." But if McGreevey doesn't begin to follow through on promises to clean up New Jersey politics, he may be praying for a new job.