Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Chicago Goes Hollywood in Fundraiser for Rahm Emanuel

The Hollywood fundraiser being staged on November 4th in Beverly Hills for Rahm Emanuel brings the presumed mayoral front-runner squarely into the big bucks game of presidential campaigns. One of the organizers of the party, to be held just two days after the midterms, is Rahm’s younger brother Ari, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. As political junkies everywhere know, Ari is a…

The Hollywood fundraiser being staged on November 4th in Beverly Hills for Rahm Emanuel brings the presumed mayoral front-runner squarely into the big bucks game of presidential campaigns.

One of the organizers of the party, to be held just two days after the midterms, is Rahm’s younger brother Ari, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. As political junkies everywhere know, Ari is a hard-hitting Hollywood agent—and, like his brother Rahm, a man with no small ego. In his Who’s Who entry, Ari notes that Entertainment Weekly in 2007 named him “one of the 50 Smartest People in Hollywood.” 

Then again, maybe he’s not so smart about Chicago. 

While a no-brainer for a national campaign—say, the presidency or even the U.S. Senate—a Hollywood fundraiser might not be a good idea in a local race. Some Chicagoans (and all of Rahm’s eventual opponents) are sure to look askance. What do these L.A. big shots have to do with Chicago? they’re sure to ask.

As first reported by Nikki Finke in her “Deadline Hollywood” blog, the hosts are a quintet of Hollywood honchos whose checkbooks have previously been at the service of the DNC, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. (One of the many readers who commented under Finke’s post wrote, “I hope the people of Chicago pick their Mayor, not the billionaires of California.”)

The event will be held at the Beverly Hills neo-French chateau of Haim Saban, 65, a former DNC finance chairman who made his multi-billions by producing and importing from Japan the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Saban also co-owns Univision, the largest Spanish-language broadcaster, and is   chairman and CEO of Saban Capital Group.

I looked closely at Saban while writing a book on Bill Clinton’s post presidency. An Egyptian-born Israeli, Saban spent his childhood in Israel, moving to France in 1975 and to the U.S. in 1983. He was a Bill Clinton loyalist and moneyman in good times and bad, even during the worst days of the Lewinsky scandal. (Also a Hillary loyalist, Saban was among her biggest financial backers in the primary battle with Obama.)

Consider just one example of the scale of the money Saban has contributed: Leading up to the 2002 midterms, he wrote a $7 million check to the DNC to help build its new headquarters in Washington, D.C. That election cycle, in the days before restrictions on soft-money donations, his gifts to Democrats totaled $100 million.

Corky Hale, a Hollywood activist and supporter of Democrats, told me that Saban is second only to financier/philanthropist George Soros in generosity to Democrats.

Saban and Rahm—whose father is an Israeli—are an obvious match. Alan Solomont, another former D.N.C. national finance chairman, described Saban as “a classic Israeli, kind of gruff exterior, tough guy.”

The other hosts of Rahm’s fundraiser are Robert Iger, 58, CEO of Walt Disney Company; Peter Chernin, 58, the former second-in-command at Murdoch’s News Corp; and David Geffen, 66, record producer, founding partner of Dreamworks, and the early Obama champion who came out raging against Hillary and Bill.

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