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Stars Come Out for Al Franken: How He’s Cashing In on Hollywood

Wed, 13 Aug 2014 15:12:57 +0000

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Al Franken eked out a victory in his high-spending 2008 Senate race with Hollywood’s help.

Now, as the Minnesota Democrat and former comedian faces reelection, entertainers are once again pitching in on his behalf in his contest with Republican challenger, Mike McFadden.

Hollywood has helped Franken’s campaign raise more than $19 million, dwarfing McFadden’s $3 million in the cycle, according to recent Federal Election Commission filings and data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Franken has built a $4 million reserve, compared to McFadden, who had $2.7 million cash on hand through late July.

The former Saturday Night Live writer’s celebrity donors are a mix of Hollywood’s high-spending Democratic boosters (such as directors JJ Abrams and Steven Spielberg ), friends and former SNL colleagues, including Mike Myers and Dan Aykroyd. And Jason Alexander, who played George Costanza on Seinfeld, has contributed $4,200 to Franken this cycle.

“Al is a friend…he’s got what it takes to do the hard-thinking, hard work of being a politician,” Bob Odenkirk, who played Saul Goodman on AMC’s Breaking Bad and worked with Franken on SNL, told ABC News by email.

Franken’s campaign has downplayed the support from entertainers. A campaign spokeswoman, Alexandra Fetissoff, said that 97 percent of his contributions have come from donations of $100 or less.

Celebrities bring name recognition to Franken’s campaign, said University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs.

“When voters hear about well-known stars supporting a candidate, it can give them some luster,” Jacobs said.

But Hollywood’s deep pockets might be even more valuable than a chance to meet Amy Poehler, Jon Hamm or Conan O’Brien.

In 2008, when Franken defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman by just 312 votes, both candidates spent a combined $46 million.

Franken has already spent about $15 million on reelection through late July, according to his campaign's most recent filings.

After securing the GOP nomination on Tuesday, McFadden, an investment banker, will likely receive national support from fundraisers and outside groups, forcing Franken to enlist Hollywood’s help to keep his spending advantage.

So far, the industry has donated $400,000 to Franken’s efforts, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“The race is still pretty sleepy,” Jacobs said. “If Franken finds himself in trouble, I expect him to go back to his friends.”

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