The Hollywood Elites Can't Quit Obama

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The trade group that represents Hollywood loathes President Obama's opposition to SOPA but that won't stop Tinseltown's biggest names from pouring cash into his re-election bid. In their coverage of the first California fundraising trip since Congress shelved the SOPA and PIPA, The New York Times and Bloomberg are playing up the "juggling act" the president must perform to curry favor with both Hollywood, which supported SOPA, and the tech industry, which opposed it. But some ties run deeper than business interests and Hollywood's effection for Obama appears to be one of them—despite protestations from the Motion Picture Association of America. 

But as John Emerson, a veteran Democratic fundraiser, explains to the Los Angeles Times"Hollywood money for the most part is actually quite pure. It's given by people who really believe in the issues. They're not writing the checks because they're after some regulatory change." There's another way to put it, though: while the famous names on some of Obama's fundraisers (say, Will Ferrell) have little in common with the lesser-known suits who write their checks, like Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman who compared the anti-SOPA campaign to a "mob mentality." So, when MPAA president Chris Dodd threatens to leverage the entertainment industry's financial clout over the president  ( he told Fox News, “Those who count on quote Hollywood for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who’s going to stand up for them"), he's talking more about people like Dauman, who gives the bulk of his political donations to industry PACs, than Ferrell, who has already given $35,800 to the Obama campaign and DNC this election cycle.

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Folks in the latter camp are expected to contribute more than $3 million to Obama at an event today by Ferrell and his wife Viveca Paulin at the home of television producer Bradley Bell and his wife Colleen. An intriguing factoid: the event sold out faster than any fundraiser in the last several years, according to the Los Angeles Times citing Ken Solomon, co-chairman of Obama's Southern California fundraising committee. The event includes a reception featuring an acoustic performance by the Foo Fighters with a ticket price of $250 to $500 per person. A private dinner will cost you $35,800. 

The reason the MPAA's behavior doesn't line up with the people it represents seems pretty clear: Business interests don't always trump political ideology. Will Ferrell might find it annoying that projects he's executive produced, like Talladega Nightsare getting pirated online. But in Hollywood, like most left-of-center places, when people who talk politics they're more likely to discuss issues like the environment, gay marriage or abortion. 

That seems to suggest Obama played the SOPA issue to his advantage. With little chance of losing "core Hollywood," he seems to be doing quite well with the tech sector. According to Bloomberg, "In 2011, the employees of computer and Internet companies gave Obama $1.7 million compared with $1.1 million during the same period in 2007, according to the center. Employees of Google, the world’s most popular search engine, were the third-biggest corporate source of Obama’s campaign cash."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.