Can Hollywood be Obama’s Sheldon Adelson?

at 01:41 PM ET, 07/19/2012

Actor Morgan Freeman donated $1 million to Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting President Obama, the group announced today.

The contribution is notable because celebrities have so far shied away from super PACs.

A list of Priorities donors shows few bold-faces names. Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks gave two million dollars; Bill Maher gave a million. Steven Spielberg gave $100,000. “Star Trek” director J.J. Abrams and his wife, Kathleen McGrath, each gave $50,000.

But all that is chump change compared to what a few wealthy donors have given to Republican groups. Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has already given $10 million to help Romney. And Priorities has lagged far behind its GOP counterparts in overall funds.

Restore Our Future, a super PAC supporting former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, raised $20 million in June, while Priorities raised only $6 million. And that was the Democratic group’s best month.

Regular campaign committees can only take $2,500 from a single donor; a super PAC can take any amount. While many wealthy liberal stars have donated to Obama’s campaign and helped him raise money in Hollywood, many see the flood of campaign cash from corporations and multimillionaires as a distortion of the political process and want no part of it.

“Democrats are 'schizo' on this issue,” Marge Tabankin, who advises celebrities on political donations, told TheWrap in March, when the first quarter numbers came out. “I have clients now who have maxed out in their individual contributions, but they don't feel this is the right thing to do because they believe this is part of the problem.”

Some of that schizophrenia comes from Obama himself.

Obama initially refused to endorse his own super PAC, in opposition to the court decisions that made such groups possible.

"I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests or, worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people,” the president said in his 2010 State of the Union address.

He relented when he saw how little money the group was raising without his support. But Priorities has still struggled to win over Democrats turned off by the idea of super PACs.

Clearly, the group is hoping Freeman’s big donation will inspire others to make the same move; they sent out a statement from the actor. We’ll find out tomorrow how many of his fellow celebrities have come around.

 
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