City of Angels and political fundraisers


HOLLYWOOD -- Guess who's been making the political rounds in Hollywood recently?

Not just Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, though she's made two major fundraising trips to Los Angeles in the past six months. Or Al Gore. (Though he's a frequent visitor.)

Try Sen. John Kerry.

Followed by Howard Dean.

Followed by Sen. John McCain.

And this week, it's Andrew Cuomo (2016, anyone?), before Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. drops by.

Los Angeles has been humming along in one of its favorite roles: early-bird talent scout looking over a steady parade of politicians here to court Hollywood's most influential Democratic fundraisers.

"Los Angeles is like the Iowa caucus of the fundraising scene," said campaign strategist Bill Carrick. "Even people who say they're opposed to Hollywood values are out here raising money."

So three years before a presidential election, the West Coast pre-pre-primaries have already begun.

On a recent balmy Friday evening, Clinton - raising money for her 2006 re-election campaign - mingled with Ted Danson and wife Mary Steenburgen at the Women's Foundation of California gala benefit in Beverly Hills. Afterward, she headed to Rob Reiner's Brentwood home, where she stood before a sold-out audience of 150 people, each paying at least $500 to hear the New York Democrat speak.

The next day, she was at a private brunch, with about 75 people, at American Beauty producer Bruce Cohen's ultra-modern Frank Lloyd Wright house off Hollywood Boulevard. From there, she headed to Hancock Park for a 1 p.m. lunch, an event co-sponsored by Barbra Streisand, Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito.

A few days after Clinton headed back to Washington - with more than $300,000 collected at three fundraisers, on top of the $1 million she raised at a series of fundraisers in May - there was another gathering of Hollywood bigwigs, this time at the Wilshire Ebell Theater, where former Vice President Gore was the guest of honor.

Midway through the evening, Lyn Lear and Cindy Horn, the wife of Alan Horn, president of Warner Bros. Entertainment, took the stage. They looked directly at Gore and urged him to consider another run for president in 2008. Next, Reiner and his teenage son, one of the young award recipients of the evening, stood before the crowd, also voicing support for the former vice president.

Amid the praise, the former vice president smiled, and then he privately told some of his supporters that he wasn't interested. But will he change his mind?

"To the surprise of many, Gore has emerged as a candidate who is passionate and who is not as focus-group driven as Hillary," said political columnist Arianna Huffington. "There's a lot of talk about Gore redeeming and transforming himself."

Gore has been spending time in Los Angeles working on a documentary on global warming with Good Will Hunting producer Lawrence Bender, who says the former vice president seems more relaxed these days. "I'm hoping he runs," said Bender, who raised $600,000 for Kerry during the last campaign. "I think the only way he'll do it is if enough people tell him to do it."

Then there's McCain, the Arizona Republican, who was seen recently dining with Warren Beatty in Beverly Hills. The actor is coy about whether he'll support longtime friend McCain for president.

"There's a lot of people who are coming out who are running for Senate or Congress in '06," said Bender. In return, Hollywood gets a sneak preview of possible candidates, sometimes long before they become household names. Lesser-known lawmakers on the radar include Tennessee Rep. Harold E. Ford Jr. and Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, both Democrats and recent visitors.

Tina Daunt writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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