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Hollywood Digs Deep to Support Political Causes

In the last presidential election, Hollywood movers and shakers raised millions in political money. Those dollars went to the candidate campaigns, the Democratic National Committee and the groups known as 527 committees, nonprofit organizations that have been exempt from contribution limits in the past.

For example, in 2004, Hollywood money helped finance the activities of Americans Coming Together (ACT), a 527 dedicated to mobilizing Democratic voters. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, donors from the movie industry also sent about $1.3 million to Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, and not quite $350,000 to former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, before he dropped out of the primaries.

Those deep pockets included the political action committees associated with big corporations such as Time Warner and Sony Pictures. They also included Hollywood moguls like Steven Bing, head of Shangri-La Entertainment, who single-handedly contributed more than $8 million to 527 committees in 2004.

When Hollywood donors gave $25,000 each at Kerry fundraisers — as hundreds did in 2004 — that money went to the Democratic National Committee, not to the candidate. The maximum individual donation allowed was $2,000 to a candidate and $25,000 to a party.

Even with those limits, several fundraising events managed to take in large hauls three years ago. A Disney Hall concert collected $5 million, and a Beverly Hills fundraising dinner held at an investment banker's home netted more than $4 million.

That dinner drew big names — Ben Affleck, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aniston, Sharon Stone, Kevin Costner, Ted Danson, Daryl Hannah, Oliver Stone, former presidential candidate Jerry Brown, and more.

While Hollywood's politics are largely perceived as liberal — a perception supported by campaign donations — there are some big names in the movie biz who count themselves as GOP supporters.

Besides the movie star currently most famous for his GOP affiliation, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tinseltown's Republicans include Bruce Willis, Dennis Miller, Mel Gibson, Chuck Norris, Ben Stein, Kelsey Grammer, Patricia Heaton and James Woods.

Sources: Center for Responsive Politics, Hollywood Reporter, Los Angeles Times

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