Obama speaks at DreamWorks: How liberal is Hollywood?

President Obama is attending several fundraisers in California. When tracking political money for a particular industry, it’s good to look at group contributions in addition to individual donors.

Ben Margot/AP
A US Army Military Aide waits for Air Force One to taxi as President Barack Obama arrives at San Francisco International Airport, Nov. 25, in San Francisco.

[Updated: 7:45 p.m. Eastern time] President Obama met with actors and animators at DreamWorks in Glendale, Calif., on Tuesday, including banjo player/comedian Steve Martin, who is the voice of a villain in an upcoming film. In remarks afterwards Obama stressed the importance of the movie industry to the US economy.

“In a global race for jobs and industries, the thing we do better than anybody is creativity,” said Obama.

Why DreamWorks? CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg is a longtime Obama friend, supporter, and fundraiser, so we’ll go with that. However, we’ll also note that the White House rejects such a direct connection. Mr. Katzenberg’s past support for Obama, it says, has no bearing on the locale.

“DreamWorks obviously is a thriving business and is creating lots of jobs in southern California,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest, according to the Associated Press.

But cash is clearly a central purpose of the president’s current two-day swing through Los Angeles. He’s spending lots of time raising money from Hollywood liberals.

Obama attended two fundraisers on Monday, one at the home of former Lakers great Magic Johnson, another at the home of media mogul Haim Saban. On Tuesday he’s hitting another cohosted by Marta Kauffman, co-creator of the sitcom “Friends.”

Obama’s not running again, so the money’s not for his own political coffers, of course. It’s for the Democratic Party as a whole and for a party fund that donates to House and Senate Democratic candidates.

Variety has good figures on the estimated attendance and ticket prices at these events. Mr. Johnson expected about 160 guests, paying from $2,500 to $15,000 a ticket. Using the highly scientific method of just picking a number in between, we’d say the average guest paid $8,000, which would roughly lead to a haul of $1.3 million.

The Saban party had 120 guests at $16,200 a ticket. That’s $1.9 million. The “Friends” fundraiser was expected to draw 30, at $32,500. That’s another $975,000.

Altogether, that’s an estimate of about $4.175 million in Democratic Party money raised. Not bad for delivering a couple of speeches in a city that’s not getting hit by a cold storm, as Washington is.

Of course, Republicans have long tried to use the Democrats' Hollywood connection against them. This election cycle, a "super PAC" associated with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is already running a Web ad hitting Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes for her Hollywood support.

“Why does Alison Lundergan Grimes take money from Obama-backing Hollywood celebrities who don’t share our Kentucky values?” the ad concludes.

And Hollywood does seem pretty liberal if all you are looking at is the actual stars. The invaluable political-money research group Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) analyzed the political contributions of the 2013 Academy Award nominees, for instance, and found them overwhelmingly directed toward Democrats.

Nominees and their families have made more than $3.6 million in federal political contributions since 1990, but only $4,000 of that went to Republicans, according to CRP. (That $4K came from film director Steven Spielberg, if you’re interested.)

But when tracking political money for a particular industry, it’s always good to look beyond the individuals. Hollywood in a corporate sense spends its political money differently. In the 2012 election cycle, the PAC of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), film’s D.C. trade arm, gave slightly more money to Republicans than to Democrats, according to a CRP estimate. And it gave $100,000 to Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-tax group led by conservative Grover Norquist.

The MPAA “is a savvy Washington organization. Its chairman and CEO is retired Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), but by no means does it support only liberals,” according to CRP.

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