Since the dawn of the 2016 Democratic primary, there has been a cold war between the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns for the heart and brain of liberal Hollywood. But on the eve of the California primary, the wads of Hollywood-kingmaker money have lined up squarely behind Team Hillary—with the entertainment industry giving her $12 million, which laps the roughly one million dollars Sanders has collected.
“The sense [in Hollywood] is that Sen. Sanders needs to step aside pronto—that money was always going to be Clinton money,” one longtime Democratic fundraiser in Los Angeles told The Daily Beast. “Even if [Bernie] wins California, all that money and support and endorsements isn't going anywhere…Hillary has been Hollywood's candidate for a long time.”
Hillary Clinton—by virtue of being a Clinton—has long enjoyed a deep bench of Hollywood endorsers ready to fundraise, cut ads, hit the campaign trail, and broadcast their pro-Clinton love on social media. But Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont who preaches “revolution” and routinely goes viral, has earned his own loyal following among Hollywood stars and the entertainment industry.
The Sanders campaign has for months touted their “Artists and Cultural Leaders for Bernie Sanders” page, a roster of famous and respected musicians, actors, filmmakers, and other artists who have endorsed the democratic-socialist senator. The curated list includes the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, rapper Killer Mike (who also serves as an unofficial campaign adviser), Oscar-winning director Adam McKay, Ben Folds, Danny DeVito, Margaret Cho, and Susan Sarandon (who is starting to look more and more like a de facto leader in the #NeverHillary Tinseltown contingent).
In this primary, there has been one high-profile Hollywood defection, from Team Bernie to Team Hillary, that truly underscored the uphill battle Sen. Sanders has in the prolonged fight for Hollywood allies—a group of well-connected, incredibly wealthy celebs and executives that the Democratic Party has increasingly relied upon to win national elections and keep the White House.
On the day of the Democratic caucuses in Nevada in late February, actor and Saturday Night Live alumnus Will Ferrell made a surprise appearance in the Silver State with Bill Clinton, flanked by a Secret Service entourage, to tell voters to “pass the word [and] caucus for Hillary.”
Ferrell, who until that very day had appeared as a signatory to “Artists for Bernie,” had officially and very publicly jumped ship.
“LOL yes he’s ours now. I don't know how to put this but…. it’s kind of a big deal,” a Clinton campaign official gleefully messaged The Daily Beast at the time. (“Kind of a big deal” is likely a reference to a line Farrell delivered as Ron Burgundy in the 2004 feminist comedy Anchorman.)
When it comes time for presidential elections, Ferrell functions as something more than just the goofy funnyman who the moviegoing public has watched for decades. He and his wife, Viveca Paulin, have quietly enjoyed status as one of Hollywood’s Democratic power couples. The two of them were major donors in the 2012 election, each maxing out to President Obama‘s reelection campaign and to the Democratic National Committee. (Ferrell had previously cut smaller checks to the campaigns of Democrats Joe Biden and Howard Dean, and has acted in comedies and satires that espouse generally liberal positions such as anti-Koch-brothers and anti-corporate-greed sentiments.)
And by putting himself in Clinton’s corner, Ferrell ended up siding with Hollywood’s campaign-cash elite—almost all of whom had already long announced, “#ImWithHer.”
At the end of the day (or, er, campaign), it doesn’t actually matter how many times Clinton appears in propaganda videos with Lena Dunham, or how often Lady Gaga declares her support for “Hillary, baby” to paparazzi, or how many times Katy Perry stages a concert for Clinton fans.
What does matter is that the ATM of liberal Hollywood is now functionally a subsidiary of the Clinton campaign. This ironclad support from the Los Angeles and celebrity fundraising circuit is in large part thanks to the ties her husband Bill forged during his 1992 presidential campaign, when Donna Bojarsky (now one of Hollywood’s go-to political advisers) served as his national entertainment coordinator.
"Of course Hillary Clinton was going to win the 'Hollywood Primary' this year," another veteran Hollywood fundraiser bluntly told The Daily Beast. "That's about as surprising as a Transformer movie doing well at the box office.”
Eva Longoria, the former Desperate Housewives star who has since evolved into a Democratic powerplayer and one of Obama’s top bundlers, wants to help put another Clinton in the White House. Entertainment mogul Haim Saban has been Ready for Hillary for ages. High-profile couples such as Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw, and Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson (all of whom were leading contributors to Democratic coffers in 2012) are similarly on board and raising money.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, the DreamWorks CEO and “new George Soros,” has been co-hosting cocktail and dinner fundraisers for her with Spielberg, and previously assured her — three years ago — that if she ran for president, he would use everything in his arsenal to support her.
"The center of power in the Democratic Party in terms of money really has moved to Katzenberg," one “top” Democratic strategist told The Hollywood Reporter in 2013. "The most important person you should get is Jeffrey. He should be her No. 1 priority."
And Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams and his wife, Katie McGrath, each donated half a million dollars to the pro-Hillary super-PAC Priorities USA, and have pledged their future support. They are two of the film industry’s biggest Democratic donors and have emerged as the latest inductees into the top-tier of the Hollywood campaign-cash community.
“We are supporting Hillary,” Abrams told The Daily Beast in February. “We believe in her as the strongest candidate. She does have the experience and the politics. She is compassionate, and right. When I look at the people who need the support that aren’t necessarily getting it, I believe that she would provide that.”
Basically, among the small-but-powerful lefty Hollywood clique upon which Democrats rely, none of them are Feeling The Bern.