Trump Taps Tinseltown for Cash
The presumptive Republican nominee will kick off an attempt to charm Hollywood’s conservatives when he attends a lavish LA fundraiser today, but it looks like an uphill battle.
Today, right after taping an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! at the El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, Trump will attend a nearby fundraiser thrown at the mansion owned by Tom and Rachelle Barrack (a real-estate investor who endorsed Trump earlier this year, Tom Barrack founded Colony Capital and did business with Trump in the ’80s).
The posh fundraiser is set to include a photo line, a dinner, and cocktails galore—and it marks the first event planned in Team Trump and the RNC’s upcoming fundraising blitz. The GOP and Trump campaign are planning as many as 50 such events as they race to quickly appeal to major-league donors, and to hit their $1 billion fundraising target for the Republican presidential contender. (The Trump campaign claimed on Tuesday that the LA-area fundraiser will bring in $5 million, double the $2-2.5 million they originally sought.)
The Barrack mansion fundraiser comes as the activists and donors of the Hollywood-conservative elite—operating within the liberal bastion of Tinseltown—come to terms with supporting Trump in a general election. Before the real-estate mogul had secured the GOP nomination, there was a much stronger level of support for Sen. Ted Cruz than Trump among film-industry conservatives.
Sources told The Hollywood Reporter that there will be a “small Hollywood presence” (without naming names) at Wednesday's dinner, emphasizing that many big-name Republicans in the film industry are worried about being publicly labeled pro-Trump at this time. “This town will get vicious to those who support Trump,” one filmmaker told THR.
However, former studio head Frank Price, an icon of the conservative Hollywood community, confirmed to The Daily Beast that he has been invited and plans to attend the fundraiser. And he is openly declaring his support for Donald Trump.
Price, a former CEO of Columbia Pictures and ex-president of Universal Pictures, has been a regular on the conservative-Hollywood fundraising circuit for years, and showed up on the Hollywood donor rolls for Mitt Romney during the last presidential election. And he’s backing Trump now because Price approves of Trump’s hardline positions on immigration.
“The Democratic Party hasn't represented blue-collar workers well because [it is] more open to illegal immigration … which means [Democratic] votes,” Price told The Daily Beast.
“With the fundraiser coming up, up until very recently there was very little support for Trump [in conservative Hollywood] — there was much more of a Cruz presence,” he continued. “I think that’s since been modifying.”
Trump’s well of financial and public support in Hollywood is shallow, but not without its marquee talent. Actor Jon Voight, one of the most famous members of the secretive right-wing Hollywood fellowship Friends of Abe (which recently shuttered its nonprofit), formally endorsed Trump in March. Columnist Ann Coulter, one of Trump’s most devoted supporters, has been actively lobbying for Trump at private dinners and social events in Hollywood. Among her targets in the film and TV business has been Clint Eastwood—an anti-war, libertarian Republican and top FOA member who last endorsed Romney. (The Daily Beast could not confirm whether Eastwood, Coulter, or Voight were invited to, or will be attending, Wednesday’s Trump event.)
But Team Trump has a lot of work to do if it’s serious about tapping Hollywood for significant creative or financial support. Numerous Friends of Abe and conservative activists in Los Angeles are irked by what they consider the Trump campaign’s indifference when it comes to currying favor with their community. (Team Cruz, on the other hand, had worked for years to build political relationships and a rapport with Hollywood Republicans, starting early in Cruz’s Senate career.)
“We feel that [Trump] snubs conservative Hollywood,” said one conservative filmmaker active in Hollywood GOP circles. “Is it much of a surprise? He's surrounded himself with Hollywood liberals for decades, [and] partied with them.”
And for Trump and his allies, it’ll be even harder to win over the cluster of Hollywood conservatives who strongly identify with that one-time, ill-fated #NeverTrump movement.
“Plenty of my friends will back him, but I gotta tell you, it's hard enough being a conservative in this town,” said another member of Friends of Abe. “And [Trump] is everything that liberals have said conservatives are … He has fascist tendencies when he calls for violence, he winks and nods at racists. It's dispiriting to see that happen.”
Update: On Thursday, Frank Price told The Daily Beast that actor Jon Voight was indeed in attendance at Wednesday's flashy Trump fundraiser. Price said that he and Voight talked about how impressed they were by Trump and how it was a shame that Price and Voight "only see each other on occasions like this," the former studio head recalled.