THE Los Angeles Business Journal published its annual list of Los Angeles -- and Hollywood's -- richest entrepreneurs this week, reminding everyone once again of why national politicians treat the ZIP Codes west of La Cienega Boulevard like their home equity line.
The list was much the same as it has been in recent years -- that is, dominated by people with ties to Hollywood. The names on the list, such as Viacom head Sumner Redstone and casino deal-maker Kirk Kerkorian, are certainly not surprising, but a look at some of their political giving is. With the Internet, anyone can check political donations through various search engines that link directly to the Federal Election Commission's campaign database. (Newsmeat.com is perhaps the best at tallying up the numbers.)
So here's where some of L.A. Business Journal's richest rank on the political front:
* Top L.A. billionaire Kerkorian has given $214,100 in federal campaign donations to Democratic and Republican candidates and special interest groups since 1980. During this presidential campaign cycle, he has supported Sen. John McCain, as well as Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. In 2004, he made a $2,000 contribution to George W. Bush. Over the last two years, he's given $55,200 to both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
* Redstone's donations top $321,000, with 66% going to Democrats, since 1979. For 2008, he's given to the campaigns of Rudolph W. Giuliani and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. He gave $3,000 to Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004. He's also donated to both the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
* Hollywood mogul David Geffen's $1.2 million in giving since 1980 has mostly benefited the Democrats. He's a strong supporter of Sen. Barack Obama (although he also kicked in a little money last year for the presidential campaigns of Sens. Christopher J. Dodd and John Edwards).
* Director Steven Spielberg has made $895,723 in federal campaign contributions since 1984. He's a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton (as he was of Bill Clinton during his White House years). Before officially declaring for Hillary Clinton last year, he gave to the campaigns of Richardson, Edwards and Obama.
* Media mogul Haim Saban has contributed nearly $14 million of his wealth to candidates and special interest groups since 1987. He's firmly in the Clinton camp, but he occasionally donates to Republicans. He gave $2,000 to Bush in 2003 and $1,000 to McCain in 1999.
NBA star courts Darfur aid
Houston Rockets star Tracy McGrady knows all about being the go-to guy on a basketball court. Now he's learning to be a role player in an issue that's taken central stage in Hollywood: Darfur.
This week, the Enough Project, along with McGrady, Warner Bros. and Participant Productions, launched an initiative to build 12 schools for children displaced by the war raging in Sudan. Celebrities involved in raising awareness about the genocide in Sudan believe the world must act immediately to help the innocent victims, especially the children huddled in refugee camps over the Chad border.
McGrady, who traveled to Chad recently to visit the children in the camps, is spearheading the effort. He is working with John Prendergast, co-chairman of Enough Project, aimed at protecting human rights worldwide.
Warner Bros. and Participant are providing funding for the effort, which encourages high schools and universities in the United States to become "sister schools" with the schools in the refugee camps. The two media companies are donating 5,000 copies of their documentary "Darfur Now" and 5,000 copies of the book "Not on Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond," written by Prendergast and actor Don Cheadle, to schools across the U.S.
"My visit to Chad was life-changing," McGrady said in a statement. "I saw the conflict up close, and it is devastating and sad. I listened to the stories and heard the needs of the refugees. They want to be educated so that when this is all over, they can go back home and begin to rebuild. I am committed and believe that we can help the people of Darfur by educating their children."