los angeles | Steven Spielberg, arguably Hollywood’s most influential citizen, co-hosted a fundraiser early last year that netted $2.1 million for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
A few weeks later, Spielberg joined DreamWorks partners Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen in throwing a fundraiser for Barack Obama that yielded $2.2 million.
Since then, Spielberg formally endorsed Clinton and gave her the maximum donation of $2,300. He also contributed the same amount to Obama, John Edwards and Bill Richardson, who has since dropped out of the race.
The director of “Schindler’s List” may have been hedging his bets, but a more charitable explanation is that Spielberg, like most of Jewish Hollywood, has been genuinely in conflict in his choice of candidates.
Barbra Streisand, Rob Reiner, Michael Douglas, Bette Midler, former Paramount chief Sherry Lansing are backing Clinton — but they also contributed to Obama, Richardson and other Democratic candidates.
Katzenberg and actor Paul Newman are in the Obama camp, but they have signed checks as well for Clinton and other candidates.
“At this point, I still don’t know what Democrat I’ll vote for, I am still learning,” said Deborah Oppenheimer, an Oscar winner for her documentary on Jewish refugee children.
Similarly, director Paul Mazursky noted, “I am leaning toward Hillary, but I wouldn’t be upset if Obama won. The first priority is to find the best person who can undo the damage of the last eight years.”
With the California primary coming up on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, the time to make up their minds is running out.
Andy Spahn, the veteran political adviser to Spielberg and other top Hollywood Democrats, notes that “there is tremendous excitement this year, but also indecision because all our front-runners are so attractive. Furthermore, by moving up the primary date, Californians will finally have a real say in the selection of the Democratic standard-bearer.”
Hollywood loves a new face and talent, which partially helps account for the Obama strength in what has been considered solid Clinton territory for the past 15 years.
More Obama supporters and contributors in the movie, television and literary world include actors Larry David, Leonard Nimoy, Gene Wilder, Rosanna Arquette, producer Norman Lear, ex-Disney chief Michael Eisner and author Michael Chabon.
The Illinois senator’s most glamorous fan is actress Scarlett Johansson, who has a Jewish mother and lists her religion as Jewish. Natalie Portman is also reportedly backing Obama.
Lined up behind Clinton are actors Billy Crystal and Fran Drescher, fashion designer Calvin Klein, Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, studio head Harvey Weinstein, talk-show host Jerry Springer and media mogul Haim Saban.
Republicans, particularly Jewish Republicans, have always been a modest minority in Hollywood, and most were leaning toward former New York City Rudy Giuliani prior to his departure from the race, according to writer-producer Lionel Chetwynd, the dean of Tinseltown’s Jewish conservatives.
Actor Adam Sandler attended a Giuliani fundraiser and contributed $2,100 toward his campaign. Giuliani’s list of supporters also included actress Melissa Gilbert and director David Zucker.
Another of his backers was Jon Voight, who is not Jewish but was appeared on many Chabad telethons and has close ties to the Jewish community. An email under Voight’s name has been widely circulated asserting that no other candidate has “closer ties and understands, respects and loves the Jewish people as does Rudy Giuliani.”
In a class by himself in terms of spreading his support is singer Barry Manilow, who has contributed equal sums to such disparate candidates as Clinton, Obama and another former Democratic contender, Joe Biden, as well as Republican Ron Paul.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the entertainment industry has funneled $386,000 to McCain and $376,000 to Giuliani, with no other Republican candidates listed.