Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Chris Dodd set off a firestorm of criticism last week when he suggested that Hollywood would withhold campaign money from President Obama and lawmakers who don’t toe the Hollywood line on online piracy.
Losing support of the entertainment industry would not be insignificant for the president: In 2011, DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg gave $2 million to Priorities USA, the super PAC backing Obama. Another major bankroller is Harvey Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax Films, who along with Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour last August co-hosted a $71,600-a-couple fundraiser for Obama at his New York home.
But so far at least, Party Time hasn’t detected any slowdown in the entertainment industry’s enthusiasm for the president, despite the White House’s decision to put the brakes on the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Just a few days before the White House raised concerns about the legislation, which is being enthusiastically backed by the entertainment industry, Obama was raising funds at the New York City home of director Spike Lee.
In addition, Party Time records show a Feb. 7 Runway to Win fundraiser scheduled for the Obama Victory Fund 2012. Hosts for the event include: Wintour, actress Scarlet Johansson, hip-hop moguls Sean Combs and Russell Simmons, singer Beyonce, and fashion designers Diane Von Furstenberg, Marc Jacobs and Vera Wang. Party Time records also show a Jan. 9 reception fundraiser in DC featuring featuring singer-songwriter Sarah Bareilles. Both the fashion and music industries support SOPA.
Meanwhile, back in Washington, the SOPA debate has set off a $100 million lobbying war. Both the entertainment companies who back SOPA and the tech giants who oppose it have lined up blue-chip lobbyists who are regulars on the Party Time circuit.
Former Rep. Victor Fazio, D-Calif., now a lobbyist at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP, represents AT& T, a proponent of SOPA. He was one of the hosts at a dinner fundraiser benefiting Democrats Win Seats, the leadership PAC of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a SOPA supporter and the Democratic Party’s national chair. Reps. Karen Bass, D-Calif and Ted Deutch D-Fla., both SOPA supporters, and Reps. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and Bruce Braley, SOPA opponents, were listed among those scheduled to attend. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, Senate Judiciary Committee member and one of the four co-sponsors of PIPA, has had several fundraisers featuring lobbyists from tApple (has not formally stated a position on SOPA), the Motion Picture Association of America, Time Warner and Time Warner Cable.
And as we’ve previously told you in this space, companies backing SOPA have held several fundraisers benefitting Reps. Howard Berman, Adam Schiff, Joe Baca and Mary Bono Mack of California .
Not to be outdone, the tech industry, which sent a powerful message Jan. 18 about its distaste for SOPA on popular websites such as Google, Wikipedia and Craigslist, has been well represented on the Party Time circuit.
Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., a member of the Judiciary Committee is one of the 27 co-sponsors of SOPA; on the day of the online protest, he issued a press release withdrawing his support, saying his constituents have “made clear” their opposition to legislation. Alex Vogel of Mehlman, Vogel and Castagnetti, who once worked for then-Republican Senate Leader Bill Frist, was one of the four hosts for Griffin’s reception in early December of last year. Vogel clients include CC Media Holdings, eBay Inc., Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and Yahoo! Inc. Yahoo! and eBay are opponents of SOPA. Also hosting the fundraiser were other lobbyists representing a range of communications interests, including some on both sides of the SOPA debate: Marc Lampkin, who represents AT&T, Microsoft Corporation, Sony Corporation and Visa Inc. Kathryn Lehman, who represents Google Inc. and Verizon Communications, and Susan Hirschmann, who represents Comcast Corporation, National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Recording Industry Association of America; US Chamber of Commerce and Visa Inc.
Sen. John Cornyn R-Texas, the chairman National Republican Senatorial Committee and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee member, is another former backer of anti-piracy legislation who shifted his position. Cornyn’s Alamo PAC had two fundraisers featuring a lobbyist from Clear Channel, Verizon Communications and AT&T, all supporters of SOPA. But after the online protest, the Texan took to Facebook to share misgivings about the legislation those companies are backing.“Better to get this done right rather than fast and wrong. Stealing content is theft, plain and simple, but concerns about unintended damage to the internet and innovation in the tech sector require a more thoughtful balance, which will take more time,” Cornyn wrote.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., also once supported the anti-piracy bill but now opposes it. According to Party Time records, he had a fundraiser hosted by lobbyists Doyle Barlett and Becky Relic. Barlett represents clients such as Comcast Corporation, eBay, and the US Chamber of Commerce. Relic represents eBay. Another supporter-turned-opponent, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., had a fundraiser in which three of the hosts are lobbyists who represent Comcast, National Cable and Telecommunications Association, Time Warner Cable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
There are a few lawmakers who have not formally expressed a stand on SOPA. One example is House Oversight Committee member Rep. Ed Towns, D-N.Y. At his 25th Annual Taste of New York fundraising event, Towns had lobbyists representing both sides of the SOPA debate as hosts. Paul Braitwaite, a lobbyist for the Podesta Group represents Google, Time Warner Cable and the National Association of Broadcasters is listed as one of the hosts. The list of hosts for Towns event also included Roger Mott with Verizon Communications, Lyndon Boozer of AT&T, Matt Gelman of Microsoft and Jesse McCollum, a lobbyist with the Eris Group representing the Comcast Corporation.Tweet
Since the bills’ introduction in late October, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) (H.R. 3261) and its Senate counterpart the Protect IP Act (PIPA) (S. 968) have been met with controversy. The legislation has unleashed passions that cross party lines, as vividly illustrated in the California delegation, where the fight over SOPA has turned into battle between the North and South: Hollywood media giants versus the heavy hitters from the tech world in Silicon Valley.
Southern California Democratic Reps. Howard Berman, Joe Baca, Karen Bass, Adam Schiff, Judy Chu and Brad Sherman and Republican Reps. Mary Bono-Mack and Elton Gallegly are proponents of the SOPA bill according to ProRepublica.
Berman has been an active supporter of SOPA since its creation. He joined Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt, and Reps. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, John Conyers, D-Mich., Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., on Capitol Hill in April for a press conference on fighting online infringement.
“The theft of American Intellectual Property not only robs those in the creative chain of adequate compensation, but it also stunts potential for economic growth, cheats our communities out of good paying jobs, and threatens future American innovation,” he said at the media event. “Today I remain as committed to this fight as ever, and I look forward to working with my colleagues – both Republicans and Democrats to protect American businesses, workers, and innovators.”
Party Time records on Berman show that he has had four fundraisers with lobbyists representing clients such as Verizon Communications, Comcast Corporation and the National Association of Broadcasters. One fundraiser in October included the Yahoo! Inc., PAC.
While Berman’s says his aim is to protect American intellectual property, his efforts also would protect a long-time and lucrative constituency in a year when the veteran lawmaker is in the fight of his political life, forced by redistricting into a battle with another powerful Democratic colleague. Berman, who has long represented parts of Hollywood as well as Studio City and Universal City, where many television shows are made, counts television, film and music among his top financial supporters, according to OpenSecrets. Those industries are also leading the fight for enactment of legislation to stop online piracy.
Another California Democrat who backs SOPA, Rep. Adam Schiff, has received contributions from of the legislation such as Comcast, Microsoft (which just announced it opposes the current draft of the bill), the Motion Picture Association of America PAC, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney, and Time Warner.
Schiff’s 29th Congressional District, which includes Burbank, is home to Warner Brothers Studios, Disney Studios, NBC Studios, and DreamWorks Animation Studios. Party Time has the invite to Schiff’s First Annual Weekend with the Stars fundraiser, scheduled for March in Los Angeles.
Among other SOPA supporters who have been feted by backers of the legislation:
Rep. Joe Baca: Jocelyn Hong, a Twenty-First Century Group lobbyist who represents clients such as Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications — both SOPA supporters — has hosted two fundraisers for the California Democrat.
Rep. Mary Bono-Mack: The AT&T Federal PAC hosted a fundraiser for the Palm Springs Republican in April, with tickets ranging from $1,500 for PACs and $1,000 for individuals. The AT&T Federal PAC has given $5,000 to Bono-Mack. Other proponents of SOPA, including, but not limited the Walt Disney Productions Employees PAC, the Motion Pictures Association of America PAC, Comcast Corporation PAC had made contributions to Bono-Mack.
Of the 189 opponents of the SOPA/PIPA legislation, 9 are Democrats from northern California, home of many of the tech firms that are leading the opposition to the bills. The list includes: Reps. Anna Eschoo, Mike Honda, Zoe Lofgren, Doris Matsui, Jerry McNerney, George Miller, Jackie Speirer, Pete Stark, and the leader of the House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi.
Lobbyist Dom Ruscio was one of the hosts for a breakfast reception in June for Honda. Ruscio is a lobbyist at Cavarocchi Ruscio Dennis Associates LLC and one of the clients he represents is the IBM Corporation. IBM is one of many tech companies that oppose SOPA.
Lofgren’s 16th congressional district covers most of the Santa Clara County, which includes the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose. Lofgren’s top contributors are tech industry titans, including Google Inc., which has been a vocal opponent of SOPA.
In March, Rep. Lofgren held a Technology Industry Breakfast, with tickets starting at $2,500 for PACs and $500 for individuals.Tweet
The final push for campaign checks is in full swing, with Mar. 31 marking the end of the first quarter. That’s when campaigns have to close their books and, within 15 days, report the contributions they received to the Federal Election Commission.
Based on the invitations we have received so far, there are at least 500 fundraisers planned this month, the busiest month for such events since September 2010, which was just before the mid-term elections.
The above graph shows the number of fundraisers each month over the past year. Notice that the totals tend to spike at the end of quarters.
The next graph focuses on this month, when fundraising consultants are prodding PAC representatives and donors to send in checks before March expires. There are more than 100 fundraisers scheduled in the last three days of the month. Last week there were nearly 200 such events planned but because Congress is on recess this week, there are only a few—mostly outside the capital—scheduled for this week.
This week’s out-of-town moneymakers include Rep. Collin Peterson’s, D-Minn., three-day central Florida turkey hunt for his leadership PAC and Mike Ross’s, D-Ark. trip to an Arkansas racetrack and casino, both scheduled for this weekend. On the West Coast, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., planned an eponymously named golf tournament yesterday, according to the invitation.
Next week, Reps. John Barrow, D-Ga., and Tom Price, R-Ga., are each fundraising at Nationals Park on Opening Day. At the upscale Palm Steakhouse, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has planned its second fundraiser this month aimed at labor interests. That comes at a time when state legislatures have passed recent laws to limit public unions’ bargaining rights.Tweet
On Valentine’s Day, at least two members of Congress are using love to attract some special interest honey. Two other members also planned Cupid-themed events in advance of the holiday this week.
Rep. Connie Mack’s, R-Fla., is putting on a couples-themed, early-evening, wine bar event with his wife, Rep. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif. (Sorry, Party Time only has a blurb, not the full-page invitation).
The congressional pair wanted to put on an event for other couples, said GOP Fundraiser Rob Jennings, who is accepting checks for the affair. “They thought it would be fun to have a one hour reception before votes and try to get people together to celebrate Valentine’s Day,” he added.
The event is also an occasion for PAC representatives and lobbyists to let the congressman know their love equals $1,000. But, Jennings said, the event is just like many others in the nation’s capital.
“In Washington everyone finds an excuse one way or another to have a fundraiser,” he said.
If not romance, Rep. Mike Michaud, D-Maine, is luring lobbyists with the promise of the holiday’s other mainstay: chocolate. The Democrat is asking PACs for between $1,000 and $5,000 to attend his lunch at a classic D.C. establishment. That is, according to the invitation, as Michaud’s office has not confirmed whether the event will happen.
This week, at least two other members tried to romance their donors. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., invited “you and your sweetheart” to an evening reception with candies, asking for donations between $1,000 and $5,000. Speier’s chief of staff would not say whether the fundraiser actually took place, saying that she does not comment to the press on the congresswoman’s fundraising activities despite the fact that the aide is listed as the person to contact to RSVP for the event.
Earlier this week, Rep. Don Manzullo, R-Ill., and his wife invited donors — and their significant others — to their annual Valentine’s Day dinner at an Italian restaurant. Manzullo’s fundraising consultant has not responded to an email confirming if this event was held.
But not all of Monday’s gatherings are for lovers.
Joe Pitts, R-Pa., is putting on an intimate, $2,000-per-head, lunch but there is “nothing romantic” about it, said fundraising consultant Meredith Mino.
“It just happened to fall on that day,” she said.Tweet
Beer: it’s not just for diffusing racial tensions. It’s also for political fundraising. As are wine, bourbon, cocktails, margaritas, and mojitos–all used as attractions for recent fundraisers by members of Congress, according to our Party Time database. It’s as if lawmakers and lobbyists are living out the famous lines of the George Thorogood song: “One bourbon, one scotch, one beer.”
Tomorrow President Barack Obama is welcoming Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley to the White House, where they’re planning to quaff some suds. It’s an an attempt to put to rest the controversy over Gates’ recent arrest by Crowley and Obama’s comments soon thereafter.
Meanwhile, lawmakers routinely count on the relaxing properties of alcohol to get donors to open their wallets. But the drinks don’t come cheap.
Tonight alone Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is charging $5,000 for those who want to sponsor his “Beers, Brats, Wines, and Squeaky Cheese” fundraiser at the UPS Townhouse. There’s no mention on the invite of whether he’ll be doling out alka seltzer. Showing that beer has bipartisan appeal, Rep. Dan Boren (D-OK) tonight hosts a “Beer Tasting and Dinner” at Brasserie Beck, proceeds going to his leadership PAC, the Great American Fund. The event costs $1,500 for a PAC, $500 for an individual.
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) apparently has an annual Kentucky bourbon tasting–this year marked his third. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) likes to combine cocktails and cigars. Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) goes for margaritas and mojitos (and those events were just one day apart). Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) represents the Pittsburgh, a beer sort of place, but nevertheless planned a wine tasting at Sonoma.
Check out our map for recent fundraisers featuring alcohol. If you click on the pins, you’ll find links to the invitations.Tweet
Beneficiary: congressional candidate, lawmaker, or entity which collects funds raised at party
Host: person who is hosting party-often, but not always, a registered federal lobbyist
Venue Name: where the party is
Entertainment Type: type of gathering, such as "breakfast," "ski trip," "bowling"
Other Lawmakers Mentioned: lawmakers mentioned on invitation who are used as a draw for the event
Sunlight's Party Time is a project to track parties for members of Congress or congressional candidates that happen all year round in Washington, D.C. and beyond. (read more)
We also post information we receive about parties where members of Congress are expected to participate—such as convention or inaugural parties.
Since we don't hear about all the parties, you can also tell us if you know where the party is and we don't.