The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Hollywood political donors are spreading the wealth in surprising ways

August 12, 2010 |  1:56 pm

Haim_saban I love it that these days everyone gets to know which bigwigs are giving the most money to which political candidates. It's a great way to see who puts their money where their mouth is and who is, ahem, adroitly hedging their bets. The Hollywood Reporter has posted a fascinating chart that shows the top showbiz contributors in the Meg Whitman vs. Jerry Brown California governor's race -- and there are definitely some intriguing examples of money going where you'd least expect it.

It's no surprise to see that Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and David Geffen are big Brown givers, along with J.J. Abrams, Magic Johnson and Hugh Hefner. Ditto for Whitman givers, who include such GOP stalwarts as Harry Sloan, Terry Semel and Mike Ovitz.

But then it gets interesting. First off, Whitman is getting big-time money from sports owners like the Dodgers' Frank McCourt, as well as out-of-towners like the New England Patriots' Robert Kraft and the Dallas Cowboys' Jerry Jones. Is that just because sport tycoons tend to be conservatives? Or is it because NFL owners like Jones and Kraft somehow think that Whitman might be of help in bringing an NFL franchise back to L.A., which could be a big boost for the league?

And then there are the genuine surprises, like ultra-conservative media tycoon Phil Anschutz giving $45,400 to Brown and apparently nothing to Whitman. And ultra-liberal Sony chief Michael Lynton giving $25,900 to Whitman, but apparently zip to Brown. I've heard from Sony insiders that Lynton and Whitman are old pals, but still -- that shouldn't leave Brown, a longtime supporter of entertainment industry causes, entirely out in the cold, should it?

And when it comes to double dipping, no one tops Haim Saban, who even though he has been a huge FOB (friend of Bill Clinton) and one of the most lavish supporters of Democratic Party causes, gave $25,900 to Whitman while also giving $50,800 to Brown. You'd have to assume that Saban is protecting his interests by giving generously to both sides of the battle, something you rarely see from such a devoted Democratic stalwart.

And oh yes, my favorite fast-food joint, In-N-Out Burger, gave $2,000 to Whitman. Does that mean that if she wins, there could be a Whitman double cheeseburger on the menu? As always, when it comes to showbiz political contributions, there's always some ulterior motive, even if it's not always readily apparent. 

Photo: Haim Saban, listening to Bill Clinton's closing address at the  Clinton Global Initiative summit in 2006.

Credit: Stephen Hilger / Bloomberg News