Many Hollywood celebrities rally behind Obama

Thu Jun 19, 2008 7:58pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Many Hollywood heavyweights who had supported Hillary Clinton are rallying behind Barack Obama, pledging money and star power to his U.S. presidential bid before a big fundraiser next week.

Experts say that since Clinton conceded defeat this month after a grueling Democratic nominating contest, celebrities have quickly united behind Obama.

The result, they said, could be a campaign cash windfall for the senator from Illinois, but star support doesn't necessarily translate directly to votes.

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a senior scholar at the University of Southern California, said that once a politician becomes known, voters look for candidates with positions they like and with whom they can identify, regardless of celebrity backing.

In fact, stars can cause harm if a performer's public image rubs voters the wrong way. That happened when Jane Fonda and Barbra Streisand campaigned for former Texas Gov. Ann Richards in her conservative state, and Richards lost the bid.

"Sometimes they can come back to bite the candidate," Jeffe said.

But Los Angeles is a town where stars wield a great deal of power and have money to spend, and numerous celebrities are expected to turn out at a Tuesday fundraiser featuring the singer Seal -- at a cost of $2,300 per ticket.

Director Steven Spielberg and his partner in the Dreamworks movie studio, David Geffen, and Dreamworks Animation Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Katzenberg are organizing another Obama fundraiser later this year, said Andy Spahn, a consultant to the Hollywood power trio.   Continued...

<p>Academy awarding-winning actor George Clooney (L) looks on as Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) speaks about the Darfur region of Sudan, in Washington April 27, 2006. REUTERS/Jason Reed</p>