Monday, May 24, 2004
O father, let me help fill thy coffers
George Clooney taps celebs for cash as his dad seeks House seat
Star-powered California cash from a who's who of Hollywood has poured into an unlikely political race in recent weeks -- the fight for Kentucky's Fourth Congressional District.
The movie money flowing to a region best known for horses and coal is aimed at Democratic hopeful Nick Clooney, who -- while not exactly a household name in California -- has the family connections that count. In recent weeks, Clooney has recently reaped an "Ocean's 11" of contributions, thanks to the clout of his son -- actor George Clooney.
The seat has been held by Democratic Rep. Ken Lucas, who won a narrow victory two years ago over Republican Geoff Davis. Now, Clooney is set to face Davis, who won a GOP primary last week, and celebrities are rushing like "Three Kings" to help out their colleague's dad by writing fat campaign checks.
Indeed, a full two-thirds of Clooney's donations to date come from outside his own home state, according to OpenSecrets.org, a campaign donation watchdog group.
Check out the lists of A-list donors that John Kerry can only wish for:
In the $2,000 range: Kevin Spacey; Danny DeVito and wife Rhea Perlman; Kevin Costner; Paul Newman; Oscar-winning actors Adrien Brody and Renee Zellweger; actor-director Michael Douglas; TV star Bonnie Hunt; Screen Actors Guild president Melissa Gilbert; "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc and his wife, Melissa; singer Bette Midler; former "ER" star Noah Wyle and his wife; producer Jerry Weintraub; and of course, George Clooney and his personal assistant Amy Cohen.
Bigwig producer Harvey Weinstein and director Steven Soderbergh each donated $2,000; they co-produced the Clooney-directed "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," the story of TV producer Chuck Barris -- who also donated $2,000. The checks may illustrate what might be called a "Perfect Storm" of politics: an open seat in a conservative district in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives -- and a politically inclined, savvy son who clearly has the means and the well-placed contacts to help make it happen for his father.
But Democratic insiders say the elder Clooney never would have gotten this far without his own credentials: he's a much-beloved and respected TV newscaster who has been a familiar face to a generation of Kentuckians.
Still, it's not a cinch for any Democrat in the conservative district where 61 percent of the electorate voted for President Bush in 2000. And where Lucas, the outgoing Democratic congressman, is so conservative he once refused to meet former Democratic President Bill Clinton at the local airport -- and voted "present" rather than support Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco as minority leader.
The younger Clooney held a fund-raiser for his dad at his home in Studio City recently that apparently scored a windfall for the candidate.
And the former "Batman" star's handwritten appeal, according to reports, was alone worth the price of admission -- a minimum $500 to the maximum $2, 000 general election donation.
"OK, this is a little tricky," began the note from the star of "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Thin Red Line":
"I'll start with a warning: I'm asking for money so you might want to stop reading and pretend you never got this letter,'' it said. "My father, Nick, is running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Kentucky's 4th District. He's the Democratic candidate.
"If he wins, he'll be the only Democrat from Kentucky in Congress.
"If I was allowed, I'd pay for the whole thing (and cover a few Father's Days), but I can't,'' he wrote, according to reports. "So, I'm writing you in hopes of scaring up some cash for his Congressional bid.
The capper: "And I'll wash your car every week till it's paid off, and Armor-all the tires ... in a toga. Hope to see you there.''
No word from Clooney's camp on whether the toga campaign promise will be kept.
Who's who of political donors
Some of Hollywood's entertainers and power brokers who are writing checks to the Kentucky 4th Congressional District campaign of Democrat Nick Clooney:
$2,000 contributions: Kevin Spacey, Kevin Costner, Steven Soderbergh, Harvey Weinstein, Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman, Paul Newman, Adrien Brody, Renee Zellweger, Jerry Weintraub, Michael Douglas, Matt LeBlanc, Bette Midler
$1,000 contributions: Salma Hayek, Drew Barrymore, Nancy Sinatra, Steven Spielberg, Meg Ryan, Norman Lear, Jeffrey Katzenberg
$500 contributions: Courteney Cox Arquette, Andy Garcia, Lucy Liu, Julianna Margulies, William H. Macy
Chronicle student researcher Julia Malta-Weingard contributed to this report.E-mail Carla Marinucci at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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