NRCC Looks to Tinseltown for Donors

Posted February 9, 2005 at 6:41pm

Attempting to prove that Republicans can find support — and campaign cash — in Tinseltown, a loosely formed group of entertainment executives is hosting a Los Angeles fundraiser for House Republicans later this month.

Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) will be the featured guest at the breakfast event, which is scheduled for Feb. 25 at the exclusive Regency Club on Wilshire Boulevard in West L.A. The fundraiser will benefit the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Several industry giants, including News Corp. head Rupert Murdoch and Walt Disney President Bob Iger, are expected to attend.

Preston Padden, executive vice president of government relations for the Walt Disney Co., said the group, dubbed “Entertaining Republicans,” was motivated to change the perception that only liberals and Democrats populate Hollywood and its industries.

“Our goal is to organize a number of fundraising events for Republicans in and around the entertainment industry to make the point that the industry really is bipartisan and has both Democrats and Republicans in it,” Padden said Wednesday.

Admission to the breakfast is $500, but attendees can pay $1,000 to also attend a pre-breakfast VIP reception. The event’s organizers hope to raise $150,000.

Padden said the group essentially operates as an e-mail list and has a core of about 20 people representing “every major studio and entertainment company” in the United States. Its members primarily reside in New York, Washington, D.C., and L.A.

The group formed about a year ago and the NRCC fundraiser is the second event it has sponsored, although Padden expects it will pale in comparison to the initial, much smaller function.

NRCC spokesman Carl Forti noted that the committee did a Los Angeles fundraiser last year and that with the elimination of soft money after the 2002 elections, both parties have been forced to cast a broader net.

“There are people there who want to support the Republican cause,” Forti said. “With campaign finance reform it’s really necessary for us to go where there’s money to raise. Wherever we need to go to get money, we’re going to go get it.”

Relations between Republicans in Washington and the entertainment community have been strained considerably during the past year, and perceptions of Hollywood’s liberal bias were only exacerbated during the 2004 presidential campaign.

In addition, some Congressional Republicans publicly expressed their displeasure when the Motion Picture Association of America hired a Democrat Dan Glickman to serve as its president last year, replacing Jack Valenti.

Glickman is a former Clinton administration Agriculture secretary and one-time Congressman from Kansas.

To help assuage GOP concerns, Glickman has installed Hastert’s former spokesman, John Feehery, in a top position at the MPAA. Feehery will officially assume his new role as executive vice president and chief communications officer on Monday.

Last year, under GOP pressure, Glickman hired Stacy Carlson away from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) Washington office to become the association’s executive vice president of global government affairs. Carlson has previously been a aide to Republicans on the House Administration Committee and worked on President Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign.

Meanwhile, both party committees are gearing up for their major Washington, D.C., fundraising events next month.

By chance, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the NRCC are both holding their annual fundraisers on March 15.

The NRCC event, featuring Bush, will be held at the Washington Hilton. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) is chairing the dinner, and party leaders hope to raise $7 million.

Democrats, meanwhile, will gather at Charlie Palmer Steak on Capitol Hill for their spring reception. Their goal is to raise $2 million.

The DCCC is shouldering a $11.2 million debt from last cycle. The NRCC has already erased its debt from the 2004 cycle.