Harris Senate run fueled by lawyers, Hollywood executives

Kamala Harris
State Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, speaking in January at UCLA.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris reported more than 2,800 contributions to her U.S. Senate campaign in a report Wednesday that underscored her quick emergence as a top contender to succeed Democrat Barbara Boxer.

Harris, the only well-known Democrat in the race, raised $2.5 million in the three months that ended March 31, much of it from the legal and entertainment industries, according to the report she filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The breadth of Harris’ fundraising gives her a major advantage in the Senate contest. Several Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives are weighing whether to run against her.

Harris’ Hollywood contributors included actor Sean Penn, production mogul Norman Lear, Walt Disney Studios Chairman Alan Horn, Imagine Entertainment co-founder Brian Grazer, Viacom Entertainment Group President Doug Herzog and MGM Motion Picture Group President Jonathan Glickman.


Also contributing were a large stable of producers, writers and talent agents, including Ari Emanuel of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment.

Scores of lawyers in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento and Washington were donors, along with a handful of lobbyists such as Darius Anderson of Platinum Advisors in Sacramento. Another contributor was Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer.

Even for a member of Congress with a seven-figure campaign account, Harris’ donor roster could prove intimidating — and a deterrent to entering the race, said Fred Register, a Democratic strategist who is not working on the campaign.

“I think it would be one more sign of how difficult it will be to take on Harris,” he said.


The only well-known Republican in the contest so far is Rocky Chavez, an Oceanside state assemblyman who launched his campaign March 5.

The report he filed Wednesday showed he raised $12,030 in March, most of it from Oceanside-area donors, and finished the month with just under $5,000.

Many of the lawyers and entertainment executives who gave money to Harris donated the maximum of $5,400 — half for the June 2016 primary and half, should she win that, for the November general election.

The relatively low federal donation limits make it important for Senate candidates to maximize the number of contributors; a campaign can easily cost $20 million or more. Since she entered the race on Jan. 13, Harris has collected more than $225,000 per week, on average.

Assisting her are supporters with huge donor networks, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Cory Booker of New Jersey, as well as Emily’s List, a national group that steers campaign money to women who support abortion rights.

After spending on travel, consultants and other expenses, Harris wound up with $2.2 million cash on hand at the end of March.

Twitter: @finneganLAT

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