It may be at least a year before Hillary Clinton announces if she will run for president in 2016, but in the next few weeks, her presence in Los Angeles and Hollywood may be as busy as her last bid for the White House.
On Wednesday, she is scheduled to headline a $15,000-per-person fundraising luncheon for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe at the home of media mogul Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl. That evening, she is scheduled to speak at the environmental org Oceana’s Partners Award Gala at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, with a long list of politically active entertainment figures among those who are chairing the event.
On Nov. 8, she is scheduled to speak at a gala for the International Medical Corps, also at the Beverly Wilshire, at an event where Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg are among the cohosts. The next morning, she is due to be honored by the Mexican American Leadership Initiative at USC. Also on her schedule is a Nov. 8 event on early childhood education, with Rob Reiner, a longtime Clinton supporter and advocate on the issue, as the moderator and the Clinton Foundation as sponsor.
Clinton herself has not said whether she will run — she has indicated that such an announcement would be a year or more away. But Ready for Hillary, a political action committee that was formed to garner contributions as a show of support for her candidacy, is holding a low-dollar fundraiser on Nov. 6 in downtown Los Angeles, with suggested contributions at $20.16. The org already has garnered a smattering of contributions from showbiz figures, including producer Marcy Carsey, who gave $25,000 earlier this year, and writer-producer Bonnie Turner, who gave $10,000, and lists such stars as Scarlett Johansson as already lining up behind her.
“I think everybody hopes that she runs, and I think if she runs we won’t have the divided town like we had last time,” says Reiner, who campaigned and rose money for Clinton in her 2008 bid.
He was referring to the competitive and sometimes bitter battle for industry support between Clinton and Obama as their primary battle lingered on through early summer 2008. It got so heated that donors engaged in heated dinner party arguments and sent out nasty email messages about each other’s candidate. Larry David, an Obama supporter, posted an audio rant about Clinton on Huffington Post.
This time, Reiner says, is different. “What you have got is all the donors frozen in place, waiting to see what she is going to do. No one is going to challenge her at this point.” He adds, “I think there’s a number of good candidates, but they are waiting to see what she does.”
Obama picked up tremendous fundraising momentum in Los Angeles when Katzenberg, David Geffen and Spielberg held a February, 2007 fundraiser for him, sending the signal that Clinton was not going to walk away with industry support despite years of connections to the business. Spielberg co-hosted the event, but ended up endorsing Clinton, but Katzenberg and Geffen backed Obama. It was Geffen who caused an early stir between the Clinton and Obama campaigns when he gave an interview to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd in which he said characterized the Clintons as liars.
But this time around, Katzenberg is lining up early behind a potential Clinton candidacy, as are other industry figures. Katzenberg already has pledged to once again help the SuperPAC Priorities USA, which backed Obama in 2012 with his early seed money, if it shifts to support a Hillary Clinton candidacy. Geffen, too, has softened to the idea. Asked recently by Fortune magazine whether he would support her candidacy, he answered, “Absolutely.”
Katzenberg and Spielberg’s political consultant, Andy Spahn, also advises and raises money for the International Medical Medical Corps, which is giving Clinton an award that evening.
As was shown in 2008, early donor support means much more to a campaign than those who wait for the trend lines toward the end. But there’s also a sense that 2016 will be no different when it comes to raising record amounts for a presidential bid, with just as much reliance on big-dollar bundlers.
Says one prominent fundraiser, “It’s a different day and age. I think there’s a lot of water under the bridge.”
That’s not to say an anti-establishment candidacy could garner a share of support, as the industry has a history of fueling protest runs of such figures as George McGovern and Howard Dean. The question is who could actually have the stature or garner the fervor to raise a substantial amount early on. While there has been talk of such a figure as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) running in 2016, as a campaign from the left, Reiner doesn’t think she would get in the race if Clinton runs.
“If Hillary decides not to run you will see quite a few candidates,” he says, but he thinks Clinton will run. “I would be surprised if she didn’t.”
He adds, “Never before have we had a candidate as qualified to be president as she is. There is nobody even close.” He says that he “will do whatever she asks me to do” if she runs.
In Hollywood’s donor community, “many conversations end with people saying, ‘I can’t wait for Hillary.’ People are ready,” says political consultant Donna Bojarsky, who runs the Foreign Policy Roundtable, an org of industry exec briefings on foreign policy.
Although there was an expectation that Clinton would rest and fade from view after completing her tenure as secretary of state, she has kept up a schedule of speeches, award banquets and, with McAuliffe’s candidacy, fundraising. In Los Angeles, Bojarsky says, “”She is happy to keep her ties to people here and to do things that are supportive of the community.”
One thing won’t be different from 2008: A Hillary Clinton movie, coming from the right. Although CNN and NBC cancelled their Clinton projects, in the face of some protest, Citizens United is planning to followup 2008′s “Hillary, the Movie” with a new documentary, this time focusing on her tenure as secretary of state.