Skip to comments.McConnell foe expected to get boost from Hollywood
Posted on 09/12/2013 3:40:08 AM PDT by markomalley
An early rush of celebrity fundraising help for Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is fueling expectations she will become the next big thing for Hollywood liberals eager to make a splash on the national political stage.
Mega-producer Jeffrey Katzenberg said in a recent email to his network of Democratic donors that theres no more important election being held next year in this country than the Kentucky Senate race, and pop giant will.i.am will appear at Lundergan Grimess first Kentucky fundraiser in a few weeks.
Katzenberg urged his friends to support the Kentucky secretary of state when she makes a late September swing through California.
Kentucky Democrats say the celebrity fundraisers are likely the first of many assists Lundergan Grimes will get from stars eager to topple Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). George Clooney, a Kentucky native who has dipped into Democratic politics and activism before in the state, is one star observers hope to see support Lundergan Grimess bid.
More help could come from actress Ashley Judd, who initially considered running against McConnell herself. Judd has already endorsed Lundergan Grimes, and could be a powerful fundraising force for the candidate.
Several other reliable Hollywood Democratic donors are rumored to be looking at ways they can help.
Katzenberg and [Steven] Spielberg and [Harvey] Weinstein, a lot of those people involved with DreamWorks and other Hollywood production companies, are gonna raise a lot of money for her. Thats the expectation, said Kentucky Democratic operative Danny Briscoe.
Democrats, and their donors, have placed McConnell at the top of the 2014 hit list, largely because hes seen as one of the biggest obstacles to President Obamas agenda.
Lundergan Grimes, a 34-year-old relative political newcomer, stands to benefit because early polls have shown her competitive against McConnell.
But the Hollywood money will only continue to flow, Democrats warn, if Lundergan Grimes proves herself as a credible threat to McConnell.
Briscoe said the onus is on Lundergan Grimes to build a strong campaign, even if the ultimate focus is McConnell.
The motivation is, they wanna get rid of McConnell, and its any port in the storm to do that. But theres gotta be a port, Briscoe said.
The first clear measure of the enthusiasm behind Lundergan Grimess campaign finances will come in mid-October, with the release of her first fundraising report.
Two numbers from her campaign will matter: the overall amount raised, an indication of how eager Democrats nationwide are to defeat McConnell; and the amount raised from in-state donors, an indication of how much support shes picking up in Kentucky.
But Kentuckys not a wealthy state, and its base of Democratic donors is thin.
Thats where Hollywood donors, and the Democratic Partys own stars, could make a difference for Lundergan Grimes, who must contend against McConnells fundraising juggernaut.
Lundergan Grimes has already shown shes keen to tap into the network of celebrity donors, employing Diane Hamwi, who was Hillary Clintons Western regional finance director in 2008, as her California fundraising chairwoman.
The Clintons themselves are expected to give a hefty boost to Lundergan Grimess campaign.
Her father, Jerry Lundergan, is a prominent Kentucky Democrat who previously served as chairman of the state party and as Kentucky chairman of Hillary Clintons presidential campaign.
Bill Clinton has already appeared in a video message at the candidates kickoff event earlier this summer.
One of the Clintons was in talks to appear at another fundraiser before the close of the coming filing deadline, but scheduling conflicts caused them to postpone that visit.
Lundergan Grimess campaign declined to discuss its fundraising and said only that it was proceeding at a good pace.
Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conways $2.7 million in-state haul for his 2010 Senate campaign against Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is currently considered the high-water mark for a Democrat running in a federal race in the Bluegrass State.
Lundergan Grimes could easily top that, said Achim Bergmann, who ran the campaign of McConnells last Democratic opponent, Bruce Lunsford.
Id expect her to raise $4 million in-state with her network, combined with the real belief McConnell can lose and that belief is growing, he told The Hill.
But observers are expecting Lundergan Grimes will need upward of $15 million to even match half the amount McConnell is likely to spend.
Attracting Hollywood money to close the fundraising gap, however, presents its own dangers.
Already, McConnells team has used the news of Katzenbergs support in its own fundraising pitch, warning that out of touch liberal extremists ... want to transform Kentucky and America into their own personal Hollywood, limousine liberal fantasy.
And as Judd learned, some Hollywood stars come with baggage of their own that could make it difficult for them to make Lundergan Grimes their cause célèbre in 2014.
Its becoming clear that Alison Lundergan Grimes got into this race to mingle with the Hollywood elite and make herself famous amongst the national liberal chattering class instead of representing the hard working families of Kentucky, McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said.
One Kentucky Democratic operative, who requested anonymity to speak frankly on the race, was surprised at will.i.ams inclusion at Lundergan Grimess first Kentucky fundraiser.
Im a little surprised that, right out of the gate, when the race is still not defined on Kentuckys terms, that outside help, so to speak, is being brought in so quickly, the Democratic operative said.
Another risk stars who are flashy enough to raise big bucks are also flashy enough to draw increased scrutiny and distract from Lundergan Grimess main goal: keeping the focus on McConnell.
The distractions of Hollywood influence became an issue for George Clooneys father, Nick, who ran and lost as a Democrat in Kentuckys 4th Congressional District in 2004. His defeat was blamed, in part, on controversy surrounding the help he received from his son.
At the time, a spokesman for Clooneys Republican opponent accused Nick Clooney of relying on his famous son because he cant raise the money on his own.
Nathan Smith, whos hosting the will.i.am fundraiser for Lundergan Grimes, dismissed suggestions that the pop stars appearance could fuel Republican attacks on the candidate.
He noted McConnell has controversial ties of his own to various interest groups, and has also had his own big-money fundraisers in Hollywood and elsewhere.
Its not like McConnells not open to the same attacks. That wont hold water in Kentucky, he said.
I hope Kentucky Republicans take away this “how we are going to run against McConnell in the general election” problem from the Democrats.
May he get stomped and crushed in the primary, and his challenger go on from there to give the Dems a whole new “solidly conservative” problem to deal with.
Ashly Judd my ass.
Bevin is the man... hollyweird and mayor doomberg can keep pissing away their money. America is sinking and she is listing to the starboard. Only Conservatives have the pumps to save her.
Outside money really helped the Dems in Colorado!
All the republicans need to do is keep running ads that say she is the Choice of the Hollywood Liberals who have decided they know better the Kentukians what Kentucky needs.
Go see Olympus has fallen. Judd dies 5 minutes into it. Best movie ever!
Bill Clinton is her big supporter behind the scenes! He has already (quietly) come to Kentucky twice for her...
If the DIMS aren’t careful, they could lose one of the best friends they have in the Senate.
I saw it - yep, great role!.....given our current government, I can’t say that I was rooting for the ‘good’ guys the whole time.
The people from Hollywood are not anxious to get rid of McConnell. McConnell is a weak RINO who heads the minority and in that position they love him.
They are afraid McConnell will be replaced by a Conservative in the primaries.. When that happens we get a new Minority leader or perhaps even a strong majority leader.
McConnell is in trouble and the Democrats know it. so they take advantage of the situation by trying to give us another liberal POS in the Senate.