Hollywood Cool to GOP, But Business Doesn't Waffle

When it comes to stars donating to political campaigns, the GOP has little to cheer about.

By and + More

When it comes to Hollywood's funding of national Republicans, there is little to cheer about, unless you think Total Gym salesman Chuck Norris and Cheers star Kelsey Grammer's support of the party are notable. Because unlike the Democratic Party, which Whispers reported receives tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from film, TV, and media stars, the GOP doesn't have many friends in Tinseltown. [See a slide show of 10 celebrities who give big to Democrats.]

In fact, many stars who lean conservative have over time bemoaned the lack of political diversity in Hollywood. And despite a belief that politics plays a role in getting parts, some Republicans don't shy from writing checks to Republican organizations. [See a slide show of 10 celebrities and business leaders who give to Republicans.]

Among the few notable donors to the Republican Party is Grammer, star of Cheers and Frasier, who gave $2,400 to North Carolina congressional candidate Ilario Gregory Pantano. Grammer's wife, Camille, also donated $2,400 to Pantano.

Political commentator and former Nixon and Ford speechwriter Ben Stein—perhaps better known for his role as a painfully dull teacher in the 1980s classic Ferris Bueller's Day Off ("Bueller…Bueller…")—gave over $5,000 to various Republican committees and campaigns, including $1,000 to Scott Brown's successful run for the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Perhaps the most famous donor to the Republican Party is Walker, Texas Ranger star Chuck Norris, who gave $5,000 to the Our Country Deserves Better PAC, a Republican political action committee. [See who in Congress gets the most from the entertainment industry.]

What Republicans see instead of movie stars are contributions from sports and music celebs like former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling who also donated to Brown, giving $2,400 in January to his campaign. There are also rock stars among famous donors to Republicans. Though he has a history of supporting Democrats, including John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama, Jon Bon Jovi gave $1,000 this year to Ohio Republican Congressional candidate James Renacci (Renacci's campaign manager has said that the two became friends through the Arena Football League, in which both Bon Jovi and Renacci were team owners). Christian rocker Pat Boone, a longtime Republican supporter, also gave nearly $1,500 to various GOP candidates and organizations.

If Republican donors lack star power, they make up for it in business clout. In a year in which former CEOs like Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett-Packard), Meg Whitman (eBay), and Linda McMahon (World Wrestling Entertainment) are vying for high-profile political offices, the heads of some of America's most prominent companies have also given high-profile money. Several gave $30,400, the maximum allowable annual donation under the law, to the Republican National Committee: Robert "Woody" Johnson (owner and CEO, NY Jets) and L. Lowry Mays (founder and former CEO, Clear Channel Communications) both gave the RNC $30,400. Mays also gave $35,400 ($5,000 in 2009 and $30,400 in 2010) to the National Republican Congressional Committee and over $15,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. In addition, New Balance chairman James Davis gave $25,000 to both the RNC and the NRSC, and former Levi Strauss CEO T. Gary Rogers gave $15,000 to the RNC.

Several prominent business executives also gave the maximum annual amount to the NRSC:

• Don Blankenship (chairman and CEO of Massey Energy, the company at the center of April's Upper Big Branch mine explosion in West Virginia) donated $30,400 to the NRSC, plus $4,000 to other Republican candidates

• Gary Heavin (founder and CEO, Curves, Inc.) gave $30,400 to the NRSC, plus $25,000 to the NRCC and over $12,000 to various other Republican candidates

• Mark Mays (president and CEO, Clear Channel Communications) gave $30,400 to the NRSC and $5,000 to the NRCC

• Joe Rogers, Jr. (chairman and CEO, Waffle House) donated $55,400 to the NRSC ($25,000 in 2009 and $30,400 in 2010), plus almost $10,000 to other Republican candidates and committees

• Robert Steel (former CEO, Wachovia) gave $60,800 to the NRSC ($30,400 in each 2009 and 2010)

Target, Inc., is also among the most well-represented firms in terms of executives' donations. Former chairman and CEO Robert Ulrich has given over $90,000 to various Republican candidates, committees, and PACs (plus $4,800 to Minnesota Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar). Current Target chairman, president, and CEO Gregg Steinhafel has also given over $25,000 to various Republican recipients. [See where Klobuchar's campaign cash is coming from.]

  • See which industries give the most to Congress.
  • See the entertainment industry's favorite lawmakers.
  • See a slide show of the alcohol industry's favorite lawmakers.
  •  See a slide show of 10 celebrities who give big to Democrats.