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Political parties need Hollywood's handouts

ElectionsBarack ObamaRepublican PartyEntertainmentDemocratic Party

Anyone who doubts, or resents, Hollywood's importance to American politics these days simply needs to watch where the candidates and their surrogates go when the going gets tough. The fact of the matter is that Hollywood is to both parties -- but particularly the Democrats -- what the Fed's discount window is to American banking: the place to go when you need big money fast.

With the presidential campaign running neck and neck and the congressional races increasingly volatile, both major parties are looking for the funds that will make a last-minute push possible.

Since the conventions, political Hollywood's social calendar has been full -- and the parties' coffers are filling up as well. The amount of money raised since Sept. 1 in Hollywood for the Democrats could easily top $20 million by election day, with some industry politicos writing checks for $28,500 each. They don't call them the liberal elite for nothing.

Consider:

* Michelle Obama made a quick trip here two weeks ago, bringing in $1.5 million.

* Sen. Barack Obama was in Beverly Hills on Sept. 16 for two star-studded fundraisers, raising an estimated $11 million total. (What do you expect from an evening featuring Barbra Streisand?)

* On Friday night, Al Gore swung by a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraiser with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at Alan and Cindy Horn's Bel-Air estate. ( Leonardo DiCaprio and Annette Bening were the special guests.) Inside, the mood was somber, with speakers such as Oliver Stone opining on the country's prospects if the Republicans win. By the end of the evening, a reported $850,000 had been raised.

*This Saturday, more than 50 Hollywood female power brokers -- including political stalwarts such as Marge Tabankin and entertainers such as actress Jennifer Garner -- are coming together to host their first "Voices for a Senate Majority" fundraiser to support Democratic senatatorial candidates. Event co-chairs include Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams, Brad Grey, Sherry Lansing, Lyn and Norman Lear, Kelly and Ron Meyer, Paula Wagner and Rick Nicita, Jodie Evans and Max Palevsky, and Laura and Casey Wasserman. (There are at least two dozen more names on the list. For brevity, just assume that almost everyone in town is involved.)

Martin Short is set to host the evening with a few of his "friends." (They include Larry David, Victor Garber, Tom Hanks, Diane Keaton, John Krasinski, Catherine O'Hara, Paul Shaffer, Marc Shaiman and "surprise guests.") The take could top $1.5 million.

* Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will be in town Oct. 4 to raise funds for Obama at the Edison, a former power plant turned lounge in downtown Los Angeles. The event will feature discussion about alternative energy sources. Chris Cornell is scheduled to perform.

Hollywood Republicans will also have their chance to participate. MGM's Harry Sloan is helping organize an event for Sen. John McCain. ( Sarah Palin, his running mate, will be dropping in on donors in Orange County.)

The old joke is that Hollywood is the parties' ATM, but these days it's more like the bailout.

tina.daunt@latimes.com

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