Meet the Hollywood Power Couple Who Bet Big on the Midterms—and Lost
You might not know who Rick Rosenthal and Nancy Stephens are. But the director and actress are huge on the liberal-Hollywood money scene.
When you think of the heavy hitters in the Hollywood political money game, a few people immediately jump to mind. Eva Longoria, who has emerged as a genuine player in Democratic politics, was one of the President Obama’s top bundlers for the 2012 election. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of DreamWorks Animation, is basically the “new George Soros.” Other obvious picks are Steven Spielberg, David Geffen, and Oprah.
But chances are good your list doesn’t include Rick Rosenthal and Nancy Stephens. Rosenthal directed Halloween II, and episodes of such shows as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Smallville.
Stephens is an actress who has starred in soap operas, appeared in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, and played Nurse Chambers in the Halloween franchise. (The two met on the Halloween II set, and later married and have three children.) Here’s Stephens signing Halloween posters:
Rosenthal describes Stephens as the “[political] brains behind me” and says she is generally more involved in the political scene than he is (forming friendships with politicians, talking to senators on a regular basis, etc.) “She’s the political star in the family,” he says.
Though the couple may not enjoy the name recognition or marquee status of a Spielberg or a Longoria, they have long been extremely active in liberal-Hollywood fundraising and activism. If there’s a high-profile Democratic fundraiser in Los Angeles, you’d probably spot them there.
This election cycle alone, they have sunk tens of thousands of dollars into Democratic war chests, including the campaigns of Ed Markey, Jeanne Shaheen, Mark Begich, Alison Lundergan Grimes, Mark Udall, Tom Udall, Kay Hagan, Bruce Braley, and many others. Their total contributions put them among this election’s top Hollywood donors, during a season marked by low interest and low voter turnout.
You can probably guess that they aren’t thrilled with Tuesday night’s results.
“This is devastating, especially Mark Udall’s loss to Cory Gardner,” Stephens told The Daily Beast, as she watched Election Night unfold in real time.
“The Personhood Amendment was defeated in Colorado by 64% and Gardner was the [co-sponsor]! Where is the disconnect? Is it voter ignorance, or lack of bragging in the things that were accomplished by this president, or is everyone just on Facebook or binge watching Orange is the New Black as though elections don’t have consequences!”
Stephens specifically cites senators Shaheen, Hagan, Franken, Coons, Markey, Merkley, Begich, and both Udalls as people she supported because they believe in (all-caps) “SCIENCE,” as well as women’s and civil rights, and affordable education and the arts. (Hagan Mark Udall will not be returning to the Senate; Begich’s fate is up in the air.)
The 65-year-old actress strongly felt that if the Democrats lost control of the Senate, it would threatened all the liberal progress she has worked for and seen in the last 40 years.
“The idea of Mitch McConnell as the Majority Leader is too bizarre and dark to contemplate [right now],” she said. “I am so saddened for the people of this country because they will feel it all around. And now Joni Ernst—hog-castrating is not a great qualification for being a stateswoman and she does not believe in climate science!”
Her filmmaking husband was similarly distressed.
“It hurts to watch Georgia and Kentucky fall,” Rosenthal said. “So close and yet so far…But it turns out just to be the beginning. The pain continues. So many good people fall…Maybe the Democrats have lost their voice as the party of hope and taken on the high-pitched squeak as the party of desperation.”
Even if the situation is as dire (apocalyptic?) as they think it is, Rosenthal and Stephens can of course look to 2016 for hope and silver linings. Democratic strategists sure are.
“Back to the drawing board and what a circus we will have to watch,” Stephens said.
Now, with the election over, she emphasizes that she will direct her energy toward campaign finance reform and overturning Citizens United.