Bush's Hollywood contributions far outstrip Dole's in 1996

By Michelle DeArmond, Associated Press, 01/15/00

LOS ANGELES -- In a show of strength in the Democratic stronghold of Hollywood, George W. Bush has taken in more than twice the amount of entertainment industry money that Republican candidate Bob Dole raised during his 1996 campaign.

Bush's success carries benefits beyond the dollars amassed, which account for only a fraction of the more than $67 million he has raised for his Republican presidential campaign. His fund-raising ability in Hollywood suggests he has avoided the polarizing struggle with popular culture that has dogged past GOP candidates, observers say.

"The importance of Hollywood to any political organization or any group trying to get the public eye in this country is enormous," said Lionel Chetwynd, a conservative writer-director who wrote the film "The Hanoi Hilton." "The next step will be to see Hollywood personalities out on the stump for Republican candidates."

Donors in the television, film and music industries gave $488,327 to Bush between Jan. 1, 1999, and Sept. 30, 1999, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. Dole raised a total of $193,170 by the close of the 1996 race.

While Bush's entertainment industry contributions lag behind Vice President Al Gore's take of $642,865, the Texas governor has outpaced Democratic contender Bill Bradley, who raised $328,524, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., with $180,938.

Bush has received more Hollywood money than Bill Clinton did in his entire 1992 campaign and nearly as much as the president brought in during his 1996 re-election. Clinton, however, has raised extensive Hollywood monies for Democratic Party committees to finance other candidates in non-presidential election years.

Bush's father, former President Bush, raised $140,750 from the entertainment industry in his entire 1992 campaign.

The figures come from a database created by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks money in politics.

The totals do not include money from people tied to Hollywood who did not list their occupation as the television, film or movie industry.

Bush's prolific fund-raising in Hollywood can be attributed to a thriving economy and the lack of an incumbent running for office, said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, senior associate at Claremont Graduate University's School of Politics and Economics.

Additionally, Hollywood is full of aging, and increasingly pragmatic, baby boomers who want access to the next president and protection for their business, she said. The entertainment industry has come under fire for the violent content of films, videos and music, particularly in the wake of the shootings last April at Columbine High School.

"They've got enough to hedge their bets," she said. "They are not intensely ideological."

Bob Graham, an agent at Creative Artists Agency and a registered Republican, gave $1,000 because he was impressed by the number of people contributing to Bush's campaign and saw that as a sign that other people wanted a change in government.

"I don't like the current state of the executive (branch) and the policies that they are espousing," he said. "I don't agree with everything that George Bush has said, but I agree with many things he has said."

Pamela Beck, a writer and producer for a film company, paid $1,000 to attend a Bush fund-raiser in Los Angeles to satisfy her curiosity, but hasn't settled on a candidate for this year. As a registered Democrat with a Libertarian bent, she sometimes donates to candidates from both major parties.

Beck said she thinks more people may be evaluating candidates as she does -- on individual merits rather than the party they represent.

"Perhaps baby boomers are getting older and being less tied to a particular party and being more interested in a candidate as opposed to a party," Beck said.