Hollywood star power is lending celebrity sizzle and cash to the highly competitive race for the White House.
Tinseltown A-listers, including Steven Spielberg, Michael Douglas, Tom Hanks, Will Smith and Paul Newman, are donating big money to the 2008 presidential campaigns, heavily favoring Democratic candidates like New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, according to analysis of recently released campaign finance reports by ABC News.
The entertainment industry has long been a treasure trove of cash for political candidates, giving $27.5 million in the 2004 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Democratic candidates get the lion's share of Tinseltown's political contributions. In the last presidential election, 70 percent of the money from the industry went to Democrats.
"Hollywood has historically been one of the most tried and true ATM machines, particularly for the Democratic Party," said Chris Lehane, a California-based Democratic strategist.
And in the lead up to the 2008 election, Lehane believes that anger toward the Bush administration and predictions of a Democratic presidential win are spurring the rich and famous to open their designer wallets a little wider.
Obama, a candidate who displays celebrity star power of his own, has challenged the early assumption that Hollywood types would flock to the campaign of Clinton, whose husband, former President Clinton, enjoyed support within the entertainment industry.
The latest numbers also showed that some stars who had donated early on to Obama's campaign in the first quarter were now giving money to Clinton.
Among the biggest celebrity names donating to Obama's second-quarter fundraising effort are Hollywood actors Will Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who each gave the maximum donation to Obama — $4,600 — according to an ABC News analysis of the second-quarter campaign finance reports released Sunday by the Federal Election Commission.
The numbers include donations to candidates between April and June 2007. Federal rules mandate that individual donors may give a total of $4,600 to any one candidate — up to $2,300 to any candidate for the primary election, and up to another $2,300 for the general election. While the rules limit the amount of money any one donor can give to any one candidate, donors can give up to the maximum contributions to as many candidates as they like.
Joining the Smiths, Obama's Tinseltown VIP contributors included veteran actor and director Paul Newman and his wife, actress Joanne Woodward, who each gave Obama $4,600; actor and musician Jamie Foxx, who gave Obama $2,300; comedian and actor Cedric "The Entertainer" Kyles, who donated $2,500; and actress Jodie Foster, who gave $1,000,
One donation that may raise eyebrows is that of former "Grey's Anatomy" television star Isaiah Washington, who gave $2,300.
Earlier this year gay and lesbian rights groups demanded the actor apologize for using an anti-gay epithet while referring to cast mate T.R. Knight backstage at the Golden Globe Awards in January.
Washington later accused Knight, who announced shortly after the fracas that he is gay, of exploiting the controversy to enhance his role on the show and get a salary increase.