Tales from the Trail

The Oscars, an evening of golden statues and golden donors – to Democrats

In a presidential election year, the Oscar statuettes are not the only gold-plated figures at Hollywood’s annual Academy Awards ceremony. The audience on Sunday will be sprinkled with big political donors — at least to Democrats.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of DreamWorks Animation, which has three films up for awards, is a top bundler for President Obama who has donated $4 million in national and state-level races, according to The Sunlight Foundation, which analyzed data about filmdom donations. Katzenberg gave half that total – $2 million – to Priorities USA Action, a pro-Obama Super PAC.

Steven Spielberg, who produced the best picture nominee “War Horse,” has spent $1.6 million in donations to Democratic state and federal candidates and committees, including Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and California Governor Jerry Brown, Sunlight said.

Among other big names, George Clooney, a best actor nominee for “The Descendants,” has given $178,000 to Democratic candidates and committees including Obama and the Democratic National Committee. Brad Pitt, a Best Actor nominee for “Moneyball,” donated $100,000 against California’s Proposition 8, the effort to ban same-sex marriage. Glenn Close, a best actress nominee for “Albert Nobbs,” has donated $47,900 to recipients including Obama and the DNC. And director Martin Scorsese, up for best director for “Hugo,” has made donations totaling $27,600, to recipients including Obama, the DNC and New York’s two senators, both Democrats, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

“The results of our inquiry do absolutely nothing to dispel the notion that the Hollywood hills are a Democratic stronghold,” Sunlight said.

URL mischief crops up on the campaign front

It’s early in the 2012 presidential election campaign, but dirty tricks are alive and well, at least on the Internet.

In the days after President Barack Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden, someone bought a new Internet URL, “GutsyCall.com,” and set it to redirect to Obama’s BarackObama.com campaign re-election website. The reference was to reports that John Brennan, a White House counterterrorism adviser, had characterized Obama’s order to send troops after bin Laden as “one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.”

The connection was seized upon by conservative-leaning media, which portrayed it as an attempt by campaign officials to politicize bin Laden’s death despite their assertions that they did not intend to do so. The problem with that assertion? The campaign and the Democratic National Committee insisted they had nothing to do with the URL and knew nothing about it.

Paint Texas blue? Kaine won’t guarantee it

WASHINGTON – New Democratic Party head Tim Kaine wants to continue to win territory from Republicans, but he’s not ready to guarantee victory in George W. Bush’s home state.

As he took control of the Democratic National Committee from outgoing chairman Howard Dean on Wednesday, Kaine said he would continue Dean’s “50 State Strategy” to win votes in conservative places like Idaho and Utah.

“We will never again be a party that writes off states or regions or people,” Kaine said. “The 50 state strategy is now and forever what Democrats do.”

Obama campaign looks for dollars to help retire DNC debt

WASHINGTON – The 2008 campaign is over and while President-elect Barack Obama shattered pretty much every fundraising record in the book, he’s still looking for a buck or two.

Obama’s campaign sent out an appeal on Monday, almost a week after the election, seeking to help retire debt incurred by the Democratic National Committee. As a thank you, the campaign offered to throw in a commemorative 2008 victory t-shirt for contributors who give $30 or more.

“The Democratic National Committee poured all of its resources into building our successful 50-state field program. And they played a crucial role in helping Barack win in unlikely states like North Carolina and Indiana. We even picked up an electoral vote in Nebraska,” said the e-mail appeal sent to millions of Obama supporters.

Dean not expected to seek another term as DNC chairman

WASHINGTON – Howard Dean seems ready to move on as chairman of the Democratic party after a successful four-year stint that included twice helping his colleagues win Congress and recapture the White House.

Dean has said he doesn’t plan to seek another term as chairman and names of potential successors have begun to surface in anticipation of his January departure, a party source said on Monday.

President-elect Barack Obama, as the party’s new leader, is expected to soon name his choice for Democratic National Committee chairman. And the DNC is expected to formally go along with Obama’s selection at its January meeting.

Inside the Tent: Winning trust on the Middle East

In the hours before Barack Obama‘s acceptance speech at Invesco Field in Denver, Yoel Lefkowitz talks about what he wants to hear the candidate, and what it will take to win the support of Brooklyn’s Hasidic community.

Reuters Inside the Tent has more than 40 delegates and other attendees in Denver and St. Paul, equipped with video cameras to capture the conventions from the ground up. Adam Pasick is the U.S Consumer Media Editor for Reuters.com.

Click here for a full list of contributors at the Democratic National Convention. We’ll be moving to St. Paul for the Republican National Convention next week.

Al Jazeera reception less than Golden in Colorado

DENVER – The English-language channel of the Arabic news network Al Jazeera is getting a Colorado reception as frosty as a cold Coors Light.

coors.jpgAl Jazeera English is broadcasting from Golden, Colo., home of the Coors Brewing Company , as part of its coverage of the Democratic National Convention, as well as from the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field.

The broadcasts from small-town Colorado are intended to show their international audience a slice of Americana, according to political program editor Julian Ingle. Only one satellite provider and a handful of cable companies carry Al Jazeera English in the United States, but the network is available in 120 million homes in 80 countries.

Inside the Tent: Clinton’s supporters in Denver

The following video was made by Huffington Post’s Off the Bus, a partner in the Reuters Inside the Tent project. YouTube Preview Image

The video was created by Hunter Weeks, who worked with Off The Bus reporters Dawn Teo, Nathaniel Bach, M.S. Bellows, Jr. and Kelly Nuxoll.

Inside the Tent has more than 40 delegates and other attendees in Denver and St. Paul, equipped with video cameras to capture the conventions from the ground up. TK is not a Reuters employee and any opinions expressed are TK own.

Greek gods, a birthday billboard and other Denver nuggets

And the Obama campaign thought their biggest worry was getting the right mix of substance and style in tonight’s big speech. Not so much.

rtr21rli.jpgThe task now seems to be either: a) recapturing the attention of 15,000 journalists busy Googling the difference between Doric and Ionic columns, or b) attacking McCain’s lack of global experience because his campaign is mixing up the Romans and Greeks.
Someone should have put a primer on Classical Architecture and History in the DNC convention guide.

The controversy of course is the unveiling of preparations for Obama’s speech at Denver’s massive football stadium, Invesco Field, which has been transformed into what the McCain campaign has called “The Temple of Obama.”

Ever the writer, Obama took hands-on role in preparing big speech

DENVER – Democrat Barack Obama spent long hours crafting the speech in which he will make history by formally accepting his party’s presidential nomination.

The White House contender looked to past nominee acceptance speeches for ideas, including those of Bill Clinton in 1992, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and John F. Kennedy in 1960, according to Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod.

speak.jpgObama worked largely by himself on the first draft, writing it out long-hand on legal pads and then typing it into a computer for review by his top aides.