Cash from the stars boosts Dems

People | ASSOCIATED PRESS 18 Apr 2019

From Ben Affleck and Susan Sarandon to Anna Wintour and Willie Nelson, celebrities have lined up to give money to Democratic presidential candidates ahead of the first quarter fundraising deadline.

For months, candidates in a field of more than a dozen contenders have been aggressive in courting figures in music, television, publishing and film - among the most reliable sources of campaign cash.

Although many donors remain on the sidelines, an early snapshot included in campaign finance reports to the Federal Election Commission offers a glimpse of who is drawing attention from the entertainment industry in the early stages of the race.

"When you talk about Hollywood, yes, we are talking about movie stars and writers and directors, but we are also talking about people with decades of experience with presidential campaigns," said California political strategist Yusef Robb. "Earning support from somebody with a lot of connections in the political world couples with star power, which people in the chattering classes notice."

California senator Kamala Harris has long-time relationships with entertainment industry figures in her state, while former Texas representative Beto O'Rourke, Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana, mayor Pete Buttigieg are also among candidates who count celebrities as donors.

So far, few donors are bundling large sums of money for candidates by asking their friends, family and colleagues to give, too. But many have given individually, which is limited by law to a US$2,800 (HK$21,780) contribution during the primary election and another US$2,800 for the general election.

Harris was last month feted at the Pacific Palisades home of director J J Abrams in a gathering of Hollywood powerbrokers. She also has received money from Ben Affleck, who gave US$2,800, actress Eva Longoria (US$2,400), composer Quincy Jones (US$2,800) and former Mad Men star Jon Hamm (US$1,000).

O'Rourke, a former punk rocker, received among other donations US$2,800 from fellow Texan and country music icon Willie Nelson.

Sanders received US$2,700 from comedian Danny DeVito, US$2,800 from actress Susan Sarandon, US$2,500 from piano player Norah Jones and US$1,000 from Foo Fighters guitarist Christopher Shiflett.

Buttigieg, whose campaign raked in US$7 million after emerging as an unexpected hit, has also started to draw celebrity attention, including from West Wing star Bradley Whitford with US$2,000.

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