On a breezy day this summer, about 40 people mingled at the Malibu home of a Hollywood television writer, the sounds of the Pacific Ocean crashing outside. They were there to meet and raise money for a political candidate, a typical scene in this go-to region for Democratic campaign cash.
Except that the candidate — Madeleine Dean — is not a national rising star. She is a state lawmaker and first-time House candidate from southeast Pennsylvania.
The host, Bill Chais, co-executive producer of the CBS drama “Bull,” said he has become “maniacal” about helping Democrats take back the House in 2018. But rather than cutting a check to the Democratic Party, he is picking individual candidates — poring over endorsements by Emily’s List and trading political handicapping emails with Hollywood friends.
Hollywood’s fervor for this year’s midterm elections rivals that of recent presidential campaigns, according to Democratic donors and strategists in the Los Angeles area who say the energy is driven by a belief that a Democratic-controlled House can serve as a powerful check on President Trump.
People who work in the television, movie and music industry in the Los Angeles metro area have given $2.4 million to House candidate committees so far this election, with the vast majority going to support Democrats, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That is the largest sum from these donors to House Democratic campaigns since at least 2008, and it’s nearly $1 million more than they gave for the 2016 elections.
“We’re raising presidential-election-level dollars to take back the House,” said Andy Spahn, a political adviser to some of Hollywood’s biggest donors.
But the giving is causing concern among some Democratic strategists, who privately worry that the money is being splintered between individual candidates and “resistance” groups rather than the major party committees and PACs, limiting their ability to combat well-funded GOP groups.
In an indication of that trend, members of Los Angeles’s entertainment industry have so far given $300,000 to the Democratic National Committee; during the 2014 midterms, they contributed nearly $1 million, CRP data show.