Garcetti taps Hollywood ties to fuel 2020 campaign

- Mei 16, 2018

LOS ANGELES — Eric Garcetti is employing a unique and potentially potent home state advantage as he prepares for an expected presidential campaign — delivering Hollywood’s expansive donor network to Democratic Party officials from early primary states.

The Los Angeles mayor hosted the South Carolina Democratic Party on Tuesday for a fundraiser in the city’s Hancock Park, raising about as much in a few hours as the state party collected in the entire month of March.

Presidential candidates have long sought ways to ingratiate themselves with early presidential primary state officials, but Garcetti is taking an unorthodox route. He’s drawing small-state parties across state lines and offering them an opportunity to tap into one of the nation’s most lucrative donor bases, while providing himself a rare platform to connect with operatives in the key early-voting states that make or break presidential campaigns.

Thanking Garcetti in front of more than 100 donors and guests, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson hinted at the inroads Garcetti is making in the run-up to 2020, saying to applause, “After the mess we’ve got in Washington, we all may need somebody who’s got experience managing a large government and an economy.”

Garcetti advisers said they are talking with party officials in other states about hosting similar events, though they declined to identify them. The effort comes as Garcetti and a large field of potential presidential candidates begin jockeying ahead of the 2020 election, while Democrats search for new avenues to fund down-ballot campaigns in Republican-held states like South Carolina.


“I haven’t heard of too many candidates doing fundraising in their home states for [other state] parties,” said Rose Kapolczynski, a Democratic strategist and adviser to former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). “Of course, most candidates don’t have that advantage.”

Garcetti, she said, is “mayor of one of the Democratic ATMs and can introduce people to wealthy progressives who are willing to give. That’s an advantage over say, [Montana Sen.] Jon Tester. You’re not going to raise a lot of Democratic money in the state of Montana, as lovely as that state is.”

Garcetti’s advisers said his party fundraising effort is focused on the midterm elections, addressing a simmering frustration among state Democratic Party officials who have seen a surge in fundraising for candidates and outside interest groups nationally, while many state parties struggle to pay for the political organizing operations that could help down-ticket Democrats compete in their states.

“This is a first,” Garcetti adviser Rick Jacobs said before the South Carolina event, held at the home of Showtime Networks Inc. President David Nevins and his wife, Andrea Blaugrund Nevins. “The mayor really wanted to do it … He really thinks it’s a great opportunity to encourage donors in Los Angeles to invest, frankly, in things that aren’t often seen as sexy as a candidate.”

He added, “We can’t rule entire swaths of the country out anymore. If we learned anything in 2016, we learned that.”

On a patio beneath a massive stone pine tree in the Nevins’ backyard, Garcetti looked on as South Carolina officials argued to California donors that their money could go further in a small state such as South Carolina than in Garcetti’s own, heavily Democratic state.

Garcetti called South Carolina “a state that with a little bit of effort from all of us wouldn’t just be about winning one campaign, but could be about flipping a state that right now we ignore.” And when Jaime Harrison, associate chair of the Democratic National Committee and a former South Carolina state party chair, asked Robertson in front of the crowd what he could do with $1 million, Robertson said the party could pick up 10 or 15 legislative seats.

Turning to an audience that included Nevins, fashion designer and actress Nicole Richie and the film studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, Harrison said, “Now $1 million here, you guys don’t even turn your heads, right?”


A Garcetti adviser said the event would raise at least $100,000 for the South Carolina party through Garcetti’s Democratic Midterm Victory Fund. The event came two days after Garcetti’s most recent visit to New Hampshire, where he delivered a commencement address in that early voting state.

For Democrats, South Carolina presents especially difficult terrain. The party currently holds no statewide office and sits in the minority in both houses of the legislature. Just one of South Carolina’s seven House seats is occupied by a Democrat.

Still, there are signs of life in the party. Facing a Democratic filibuster in the statehouse earlier this month, Republicans abandoned a bill that would have outlawed most abortions in the state. Democrats who in previous years have struggled even to field candidates in some races have 21 candidates running in six Republican-held House seats.

Michael Ceraso, a Democratic strategist who is helping the South Carolina Democratic Party to raise money, organized a smaller fundraiser Wednesday to benefit the party in San Francisco.

“It’s a challenging situation,” said Ceraso, who worked on the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama and attended the Garcetti event Tuesday. “If you run [for local office] in a poor area in South Carolina, that’s great, but you don’t have the donor networks.”

Cerasso said his group, Winning Margins, hopes to hold five more events this year in California and elsewhere to benefit South Carolina Democrats, with a goal of expanding eventually to assisting the Democratic Party in Alabama, another Southern state where the party is struggling to compete. On the patio at Nevins’ house on Tuesday, donors with ties to a variety of Southern states talked informally about the party’s prospects outside of California.

Among donors, Nevins said, “There’s a lot of state by state conversation.” He said, “It’s trying to get smarter about where you can have impact.”

Garcetti has previously helped raise money for Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), who is running for U.S. Senate in Nevada, and for Doug Jones’ Senate run in Alabama. He also traveled to South Carolina in February to raise money for the party -- the more traditional venue for such fundraisers.


“Everybody wants to tap into that L.A. network. That’s where the money is, and that’s really the way it’s been certainly since Ronald Reagan was president, and probably before,” said Doug Elmets, a Sacramento public affairs consultant who worked in the Reagan White House. “Whether [Garcetti’s] really got the same cache that others did remains to be seen. But I will say this: If he can become a kingmaker, it only goes to his benefit when he decides to run for president, which I think he will.”

Raising money in California does not come without risk for Democrats in more conservative states, with Republicans routinely pillorying Democrats who travel here for associating with the entertainment industry.

Addressing that possibility head on, Robertson told the crowd, “They sure as hell don’t care when [real estate investor] Howard Rich from New York or the Koch brothers send money into South Carolina.” He said, “We have to start investing in the South, and we have to stop the stranglehold that the Republicans have in the South.”

For Garcetti, however, there is no downside to the affiliation. Matt Littman, a Democratic strategist who works in Hollywood, said Garcetti “certainly does not have a monopoly on the Hollywood community.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden, California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, among others, all have ties to donors in the area. As the pre-presidential campaign unfolds, Littman said, “there will be 25 people running for president, many of whom have good relationships in Hollywood.”

For now, however, Garcetti is “smartly capitalizing on his relationships,” Littman said. “He’s a very popular figure in Los Angeles, and he’s smart to bring people to where the action is.”


 

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