Maybe Bill Clinton is no longer as popular in Hollywood as he thinks. At a charity fundraiser for cardiovascular research in L.A. last Thursday, U2 lead singer Bono was honored by the usual throng of celebrities and hangers-on for his “extraordinary philanthropy.” The “Love Rocks” event featured everyone from comedian Drew Carey to Cher. Even Larry King dropped by. Bono is best known for his longtime advocacy of debt relief for third-world nations and has lobbied the United States Congress for debt forgiveness for African and Latin American countries. He’s also served as a spokesman for Amnesty International.
Now a self-important Hollywood event wouldn’t be self-important if it didn’t include Bill Clinton. This time, it was Bill on video, greeting Bono, just after Mick Jagger‘s video tribute. When Clinton’s face appeared on the giant screen over the stage, it was met with not very friendly laughter from the audience, and Clinton’s first couple of sentences were inaudible. “It was embarrassing, to say the least,” says a spokesperson for the Entertainment Industry Foundation, which helped organize the event. “Clinton got less respect here than Sylvester Stallone, and that’s saying something with this crowd.”
The laughs didn’t end there. A few minutes later, Academy Award winning actor Kevin Spacey stood at the podium and performed a dead-on impression of Clinton uttering his usual pieties with his trademark squint. “It was hysterical, especially coming from Spacey, who’s supposed to be a big fan of Clinton,” says the EIF staffer self.”
As for Bono, he may be liberal but he’s also smart. Two weeks ago, after spending time with Bill Gates in New York at the World Economic conference, Bono flew down to Washington and spent an evening with Republicans senators and their staffs and families at the Greenbrier resort. He mingled, joked and signed autographs, and seemed to enjoy himself.
“He was very moderate in his talk,” says one Senate staffer, whose 14-year-old daughter was practically in tears of excitement upon meeting the rocker. “He seems to understand that he’s going to have to deal with us, and with President Bush.”
When asked about Bush, Bono is said to have told Republican senators that his first impression of the man was that he was “serious” and “straight,” not a “phony like other men who have sat in his office.” Anyone in particular?
GO FOR BROKE
No sooner had House minority leader Dick Gephardt last week completed a press conference singing the praises of the Meehan-Shays Campaign Finance Reform bill, than he rushed off to a conference call with several big-money Democratic Party donors, including the AFL-CIO. “This reform bill has moved so swiftly that no one is prepared for what may happen after next November,” says a House Democratic leadership aide. “Gephardt and Daschle and [DNC chair] Terry McAuliffe want to regain the House and hold on to the Senate, and they want some big-money donations in the bank before it all dries up.”
Democratic leaders are mapping out plans for a series of DNC-sponsored fundraisers in the spring and throughout the summer to build up the party war chest. “They’d like to have more than $100 million cash in the bank by September 1,” says one DNC source. “That amount is unheard of this time of year, perhaps any time. It would mean taking money from every sleazeball we know from the Clinton era. But if that’s what it takes to match the Republicans, then that’s what we have to do.”
RAHM AT THE TOP
Final filings for the 2001 political fundraising are in and cocky former Clinton senior adviser Rahm Emanuel appears to have laid the groundwork for a successful run at the congressional seat once owned by Dan Rostenkowski. An examination of Emanuel’s filings reveals strong backing from Hollywood, with everyone from “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin to Rob Reiner to Michael Douglas pitching in at least $1,000. As well, Emanuel, who worked as a partner in a Chicago investment banking firm, has garnered much support from New York money, including more than $15,000 from partners in the Dresdner Bank (DRKW), by far Emanuel’s largest financial givers.
Who didn’t give or max out to Emanuel? His pals from the White House. Gene Sperling, one of Emanuel’s best friends in Washington, gave only $250. Mark Fabiani also came up with only $250. Bill and Hillary Clinton contributed zilch, though the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation got one of its employees to hand over $250.