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Redistricting Drama Adds a Producer

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Times Staff Writer

Wealthy Hollywood figure Stephen L. Bing, raising the stakes in the fight over redistricting, donated $4 million Friday to oppose Proposition 77, which would strip legislators of the right to draw their own districts.

Bing gave the money to a committee headed by UCLA law professor Daniel Lowenstein, a former chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission and an author of California’s political reform act.

The committee’s backers include Democratic members of California’s congressional delegation. Some members’ jobs could be in jeopardy if voters approve Proposition 77 on the Nov. 8 ballot. The initiative would authorize a panel of retired judges to determine legislative and congressional boundaries.

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“It is $4 million; we’re glad to have the money,” said Stephanie Williamson, spokeswoman for the No on 77 campaign that received the donation.

Bing’s donation is more than double the $1.4 million that the committee had raised so far. Democratic legislators have a separate committee opposing Proposition 77 and have reported raising $2 million.

Supporters of the measure, including several wealthy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, have raised about $5 million. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is backing the measure and is expected to spend heavily to promote it.

“We never thought the political class would surrender their monopoly on power without a fight,” said consultant Wayne C. Johnson, who heads the campaign for Proposition 77.

Bing, an heir to a real estate fortune, heads Shangri-La Entertainment and has written and produced movies. He has long been a donor to Democratic candidates and causes, and was No. 389 on last year’s Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, at $750 million.

Bing had no comment, his assistant said Friday.

With the $4-million donation, Bing becomes the single largest individual contributor in this year’s special election campaign, although several pharmaceutical companies and the California Teachers Assn. have made larger donations. Fundraising overall in the campaign is nearing $200 million.

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Congressional opponents of Proposition 77 include Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Roseville), Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village). Berman’s brother Michael is among the consultants involved in the campaign to defeat the initiative.

Bing has been close to several political leaders, including President Clinton and former state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco). In 2003, he was among the backers of a Burton bill in Sacramento expanding the authority of graduates of naturopathic schools to treat illnesses. Naturopaths rely heavily on herbs and diet to help the body heal.

The measure was signed into law in 2003.

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