Alison Lundergan Grimes hangs with Hollywood


(Win McNamee/Getty Images)

(This post has been updated.)

In an effort to woo rural Kentucky voters, Alison Lundergan Grimes strains to distance herself from Washington, President Obama and all the insidery politics condemned by folks outside the Beltway.

But to beat an established institution like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell requires a lot of money, so a candidate can’t afford to be choosy about whose checks she cashes. Even if they’re bound to raise a few eyebrows back home.

Next week, to close out the second quarter, Grimes will be rubbing elbows with Manhattan elites at The Waverly Inn, a see and be seen elite restaurant in the West Village, known for its celebrity sightings. Makes sense since the cocktail party in her honor is hosted by a Hollywood hotshot duo, producer Harvey Weinstein and Dreamworks chief executive Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Grimes is the 2014 “it” girl. Although the Democrats’ hold on the Senate is tenuous, ousting the would-be Majority Leader would be quite the coup for the party. The money isn’t just raining in, it’s a downpour — and with help from some heavy hitters, Grimes outraised McConnell last quarter.

Both Weinstein and Katzenberg have donated heavily to PACs working to unseat McConnell, and have given the max contributions to Grimes. Katzenberg co-hosted another event for her in January in Beverly Hills. Last September, singer will.i.am was a special guest at a Kentucky fundraiser for Grimes. That’s the same guy behind Obama’s 2008 campaign anthem, “Yes, We Can.”

“Gone Hollywood” is a classic Republican attack line on Democrats who tend to have a few more friends in Tinseltown than their GOP  counterparts (just look around the political party national conventions for the celebs in attendance). And Grimes, despite her hard stance on environmental regulations and her iffiness on Obamacare, has quite a few famous allies, suggesting the motivation is more about ousting McConnell.

A quick look through the OpenSecrets.org database found these A-listers have donated directly to Grimes as of the end of March:

Barbra Streisand – $1,000

Ben Affleck – $5,200

Leonardo DiCaprio – $5,200

Woody Allen – $500

Danny Devito – $2,600

Jennifer (Garner) Affleck – $2,600

Tom Hanks – $5,200

Bryan Cranston – $2,500

James Cameron – $2,600

Steven Spielberg – $5,200

Jerry Seinfield – $5,200

Eddie Murphy – $5,200

Naturally, the McConnell camp has seized on this. As she paints him as out of touch with the state, he throws it back. Allison Moore, McConnell campaign spokeswoman, told the Loop that Grimes will abandon Kentucky “at first sight of the Obama enthusiasts funding her campaign.”

Of course Grimes isn’t the only one campaigning out of state. McConnell too gets help from big city wealthy donors.

Asked about Grimes’ out of state fundraising, her campaign manager Jonathan Hurst boasted of cross-party support across Kentucky and her “45,000 grass-roots supporters.”

“And despite the fact that McConnell and his Washington special interest allies have spent nearly $20 million in this race – including millions on false attack ads – McConnell remains stuck in reverse with Kentucky voters,” Hurst said.

Special interests versus Hollywood elites … Now where have we heard that before?

Colby Itkowitz is a national reporter for In The Loop.
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