For decades, political donors in Hollywood often just gave general contributions to the major candidates or, far more likely, the party itself to divest to big races. And while there is a sizable number of Republican donors among those in Hollywood, the majority tend to donate to more liberal and Democratic causes. Until 10 years ago, most of these fundraisers were for the Democratic Party, the Democratic presidential candidate, or in extreme situations, a close race elsewhere in the country.
But recently, more and more Hollywood donors are giving more and more to individual close races, with some candidates even coming to California to fundraise. Last year, for example, Democratic Florida Governor candidate Andrew Gillum went on a fundraising binge across Los Angeles, even getting $500,000 through one fundraising dinner alone. And while fundraising has slowed down somewhat, with major stars such as Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, Robert De Niro, and others not donating this year despite being large donors to Democratic candidates in previous elections, the number of Hollywood donors donating outside the state and presidential elections has reached new highs. And the results have been pretty staggering.
Georgia has been a main target for many donors. With Georgia a main swing state this year, many candidates have donated to the Georgia Democratic Committee, including George Clooney, who gave a maxed out a $10,000 donation there earlier this year, and Will Smith, who has also maxed out donations to them. A lot of money is also going to Georgia Senate candidate Raphael Warnock, who is hoping to turn Georgia blue in a tight race this year. Leonardo Di Caprio, Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, and others have maxed out donations to him this year.
Texas is also a big target for Democrats this year. In addition to also possibly leaning toward Biden in the presidential race, Hollywood donations have been pouring into races across the state. Laura Dern has been a huge donor behind Congressional candidate Wendy Davis, with many former Texans donating substantially for candidates in their former districts. The Texas Democratic Committee has also benefited greatly, getting donations from Ruffalo and many others.
A lot of close races with national attention have also been drawing Hollywood money. The close Sen. Mitch McConnell – U.S. Amy McGrath Senate race in Kentucky has been noteworthy, with many big Hollywood donors, such as Reese Witherspoon, pouring money in for McGrath. Jane Fonda has been giving incremental donations to many close Democratic races nationwide, with Nebraska Congressional candidate Kara Eastman and Washington Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) getting max or near max donations. Ruffalo has focused on Midwestern races, including giving money to Michigan Senate candidate Gary Peters. Ben Affleck, meanwhile, has been donating more and more to Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Virtually any close race in the U.S. right now has Hollywood funding the Democratic candidate in some way, shape, or form.
Donations to Biden and other Democratic presidential candidates
Not surprisingly, most have also given to Joe Biden, although some appear to have been hurt when he got the nomination. Tom Hanks had maxed out donations to Pete Buttigieg earlier this year but has so far not given to Biden in 2020. George Clooney, besides maxing out $10,000 donations to ten state Democratic Committees, gave nearly $100,000 to the DNC, as well as $2,800 to Biden. Di Caprio’s support can be tracked through his donations, from being a Cory Booker supporter in 2019, to becoming a Kamala Harris supporter late last year, to finally becoming a Biden supporter after Harris dropped out of the race. Will Smith also gave $35,500 to the DNC and maxed out on Biden donations.
Even the Senate PAC group saw a ton of donations come in.
And California wasn’t completely forgotten. Jane Fonda gave $10,000 to the San Diego Democratic Party to help in their close Mayoral race. Several close House races are also getting national party funding, fueled partially by Hollywood funding.
2020 brought a lot of changes to normal fundraising however. Some was through COVID-19. Many prominent Hollywood Republicans opted for more general fundraising methods rather than direct ways, with stars such as Kelsey Grammer not recording any direct donations in 2020. Others, such as Kanye West, are actually in the running for different races this year, so their usual donations have not come in this year.
Despite the fall in total donations and the number of donors, Hollywood donations continue to be a big boost of funding for the Democratic party, with many races nationwide now benefitting.