Hollywood Trio Endorses Governor

Times Staff Writer

Some of Hollywood’s most reliable and generous donors to the Democratic Party -- Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and media mogul Haim Saban -- are endorsing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bid for reelection.

Their support is partly a matter of friendship over partisanship. But it could deal a blow to the governor’s main opponent, state Treasurer Phil Angelides, by signaling to other Democrats that it’s acceptable to embrace a Republican.

“It starts with a personal relationship. They are friends,” said Andy Spahn, a spokesman for both Spielberg and Katzenberg.


The two men also like Schwarzenegger’s plans to tackle global warming and fund schools. But further, Spahn said, “they are receptive to the governor’s taking a less partisan approach to the job and a more inclusive approach to government.”

Perhaps the deepest pockets among those embracing Schwarzenegger belong to the Egyptian-born Saban, who produced the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” and eventually created a media empire.

Saban, who is trying to acquire the Spanish-language network Univision with other investors, is a former trustee of the Democratic National Committee and one of its biggest donors. He spent $200,000 fighting the 2003 recall election that brought Schwarzenegger to power.

Other Hollywood Democrats on the list of Schwarzenegger supporters include Jerry Zucker of “Airplane!” fame, movie producer Jonathan Sheinberg and Bud Yorkin, a longtime TV director and producer.

“I can’t run away from the fact that I am a friend of Arnold. But if I disagreed with him, I wouldn’t have voted for him,” Yorkin said Friday. “People think Hollywood is one giant liberal. That’s not the truth.”

Few people have more influence in Hollywood than Spielberg and Katzenberg, who co-founded the DreamWorks SKG studio along with mogul David Geffen. They have not done major projects with Schwarzenegger, but they all move in the same Hollywood circles.


Spielberg, Katzenberg and Saban have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic Party over the last 15 years. The trio backed former Gov. Gray Davis before he was recalled from office in 2003.

Spielberg and Katzenberg donated to Angelides in his race for treasurer four years ago -- $2,500 each, state records show.

Angelides campaign officials said they are not worried about the endorsements.

“Arnold Schwarzenegger has become a fake Democrat in a Republican power tie, and a few friends of his in Hollywood seem to be buying his new act,” said Angelides spokesman Steve Maviglio. “But it shouldn’t surprise anyone that his network of Hollywood friends -- that he has known for decades -- is supporting him.”

As for whether the endorsements would hurt Democratic fundraising, Maviglio said no: “No one else is buying it.”

Angelides has not been left behind Hollywood’s rope line. His campaign cites more than two dozen celebrities, such as Barbra Streisand and Jeremy Piven, who are backing him.

Former President Clinton, a longtime friend of Spielberg and Katzenberg, hosted a Beverly Hills fundraiser for Angelides this week that raised an estimated $4 million.

Producer and writer Larry David, known as the self-destructive eccentric from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” headlined a fundraiser for Angelides as well. Ed Begley Jr. and Dana Delany attended a get-out-the-vote rally for him.

Other supporters include Diane Keaton, Will Ferrell, Matt Dillon, Laura Dern and Olympia Dukakis, according to the Angelides campaign.

In this election year, Schwarzenegger has been on a public pursuit of Democrats. To win reelection, he needs to capture their votes; Republicans represent only 34% of California’s electorate.

The governor has lavished praise on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and his effort to gain more control over the L.A. Unified School District, a proposal that would require approval of the governor and Legislature. The mayor has yet to endorse Angelides.

Schwarzenegger has also been lauding former Vice President Al Gore’s global warming documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” Two months ago, the governor turned his motorcade around and headed to Dutton’s bookstore in Beverly Hills when he heard that Gore was signing books there. He got Gore’s autograph.

Schwarzenegger campaign officials said most of the Democratic supporters were asked to sign a basic form verifying their endorsement, a formality they called simple recordkeeping.

The vast majority of California’s most influential Democrats, including U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, have backed Angelides. But with about three months left in the race, Angelides is facing trouble within his own party.

A handful of longtime Democrats have defected to Schwarzenegger in recent weeks. They include former Rep. Doug Bosco of Santa Rosa and Angela M. Bradstreet, a San Francisco lawyer and prominent fundraiser for Feinstein.

“The point is the governor is a moderate,” Bradstreet said. “I think he is a strong leader.”

A recent Field Poll showed that only about two-thirds of Democrats surveyed were supporting Angelides. Only about half of Democrats thought he could beat Schwarzenegger.

When it comes to California politics, Saban sometimes plays the field. During the turbulent recall in 2003, he gave $200,000 to a political committee supporting Davis. Saban was one of Davis’ most reliable donors and friends.

Soon after Schwarzenegger was inaugurated, Saban donated $22,200 to the new Republican governor’s campaign. Two months later, he donated the same amount to Angelides. Five months after that, he gave $10,000 to Schwarzenegger’s political committee.

Saban is expected to host a fundraiser for Schwarzenegger in October, campaign officials said.

A representative for Saban did not return a call seeking comment.

Katzenberg and Spielberg donated $25,000 each to Davis’ reelection committee in 2002. They did not get involved in the recall fight.

In 2004, when Schwarzenegger was courting Democrats for his agenda, Spielberg donated $100,000 to the governor’s political committee, the California Recovery Team.

Elizabeth Garrett, director of the USC/Caltech Center for the Study of Law and Politics, said knowing that high-profile Democratic donors are supporting Schwarzenegger could unfetter others to join him.

Saban, Spielberg and Katzenberg “are known as people who can raise money for political causes,” Garrett said, “and their high-profile support could enable Schwarzenegger to raise money in arenas where he has not gone before.”