Franken’s Pals Dig Deep for Senate Campaign

Posted June 19, 2007 at 6:48pm

Al Franken won Ben Stein’s money — and high-dollar contributions from scads of other celebrities in his bid for Minnesota’s Democratic Senate nomination, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

Stein, who hosted the eponymous Comedy Central game show “Win Ben Stein’s Money” for six years, gave the former “Saturday Night Live” writer $1,000.

Stein, a lawyer and former Nixon White House speechwriter, is probably best known for his small but memorable role as a teacher in John Hughes’ film, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

Almost 40 other celebrities from “Xena, Warrior Princess” star Lucy Lawless to Larry Hagman — Major Nelson on “I Dream of Jeannie” and J.R. Ewing on “Dallas,” stoked Franken’s campaign war chest. Lawless gave Franken $2,000 and Hagman chipped in $500.

Franken is competing with wealthy Minneapolis attorney Mike Ciresi (D) for the right to take on Sen. Norm Coleman (R) next year.

Not surprisingly, the man who used to implore “SNL” audiences to “send your money to me, Al Franken,” has gotten help from his former “Saturday Night Live” colleagues.

Jane Curtin gave Franken $4,600, the most the law allows, while Donna Dixon, a blast-from-the-past sitcom star herself — she co-starred with Tom Hanks on “Bosom Buddies” — kicked in $2,300. Dixon is married to Dan Aykroyd, who in the ‘70s routinely chided Curtin with: “Jane, you ignorant slut!” from the “SNL” news desk.

Speaking of Hanks, he too gave the maximum, $4,600.

“Saturday Night Live” creator Lorne Michaels also maxed out to his one-time employee.

Republicans have had fun pointing out all of Franken’s celebrity donors and derided him as the “Hollywood” candidate, but Franken spokesman Andy Barr said that caricature is as made up as Franken’s Stuart “I’m smart enough, I’m good enough and gosh darnit, people like me” Smalley character from “SNL.”

“We’re having fun with the 10,300 non-celebreties who have given us money,” Barr said. “Al doesn’t have the resources the incumbent has in being able to call upon ‘big oil,’ ‘big utilities,’ and ‘big PhRMA.’ He does have a little bit of swing with ‘big comedy’ but mostly it’s ‘big Minnesota’ — it’s over 10,000 donors, more than 90 percent of whom gave us $100 or less, donating to the campaign.”

Whether Franken’s Hollywood ties hurt him with the voters remains to be seen. He grew up in Minnesota, spent most of his professional life in New York, then moved back to Minnesota a few years back to host a radio show and test the political waters. Franken has been active in Minnesota political affairs since then.

What’s more, Franken is not the only person connected to the race with Hollywood ties. Laurie Coleman, the Senator’s wife, is an actress.

But the incumbent cannot match Franken’s industry firepower.

Icon Paul Newman, who just announced that at age 82 he is done acting, even as he continues to peddle salad dressing and pasta sauce, doled out $4,600.

Franken’s campaign treasurer got one-step closer to actor and drinking game star Kevin Bacon (“Six degrees of Kevin Bacon” for those tea-tottlers out there) when she deposited his $1,000 check to the campaign.

Franken is also big with those behind the camera.

Rob Reiner, who went from “Meathead” on “All in the Family” to directing the Oscar-winning picture “A Few Good Men,” kicked in $2,300.

Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein parted with $4,600.

Nora Ephron, the screenwriter who gave the world such “chic flicks” as “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally,” contributed $2,300. On the opposite end of the comedy spectrum, Peter Farrelly, half of the Farrelly brothers duo that created “Dumb and Dumber” and “Fargo” gave $4,600.

Baltimore native Barry Levinson, who counts “Rain Man” and “Good Morning Vietnam” among his many directing credits, gave Franken $4,600.

James Brooks, creator of TV’s “The Simpsons” also maxed out to Franken’s campaign.

“Seinfeld” creator Larry David and estranged wife Laurie, stars of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” both gave the maximum as did “Seinfeld” actor Jason Alexander, David’s alter ego on the show who was known as George Costanza.

Bradley Whitford, co-star of NBC’s ill-fated drama about a late-night sketch comedy show that was not supposed to be “Saturday Night Live” called “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” gave $4,600 even though the show was canceled after one season.

Whitford can probably afford it as he also was a main character in creator Aaron Sorkin’s much more successful NBC political drama “The West Wing.”

Actor Leonard Nimoy, who forever will be known as “Star Trek’s” Mr. Spock, gave $4,000.

Political comedian Bill Maher, who describes himself as a libertarian, gave Franken $1,000.

And for good measure, a few musicians also donated to Franken’s campaign. Most are “old timers” such as former Eagles frontman Don Henley and ‘70s heart throb Linda Ronstadt, but Pearl Jam’s Stone Gossard also turned up on the list.

Gossard gave $2,000. No word if Franken, like Pearl Jam’s alter ego in Cameron Crowe’s movie “Singles” is “loved in Belgium” too.

Emma Dumain contributed to this report.