CNN: At $50,000, 'Stars are Themselves Star Struck' with Obama

Picking up on a Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) report on how several Hollywood actors and actresses have ponied up $50,000 each for VIP access to Barack Obama's inaugural events, CNN reporter Samantha Hayes marveled: “It's a measure of the excitement around Obama, that the stars are themselves star struck.” She highlighted, in a story run on Wednesday's Anderson Cooper 360, that “the Hollywood 'A' list is snapping up top-dollar tickets,” naming Halle Berry, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jamie Foxx, Sharon Stone and Samuel L. Jackson as amongst those who have donated the maximum $50,000 to the inaugural committee.

Hayes, however, stressed how “the Obama inauguration has dramatically cut the ability of the rich and famous to get insider access,” quoting how “Linda Douglass, the top spokesperson for the inauguration committee” (and a former ABC News reporter), told CNN they have “a $50,000 limit on individual donations, far below some limits in the past.” Offering corroboration, Hayes recalled how “the Bush inaugural committee took donations of up to a quarter million dollars.” But Hayes failed to note that, as the CRP report determined, most give the highest allowed and few are small givers: “72 percent of the donors who have contributed to the inauguration have given the maximum $50,000 donation. Only 12 percent of the donors have given less than $25,000.”

CRP's December 15 report: “Wealthy Out-of-Town Donors Foot the Inauguration Bill.”

From the Wednesday, December 17 Anderson Cooper 360:
SAMANTHA HAYES: It promises to be a premier like no other. Marquee performances like Aretha Franklin, Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman. And the Hollywood "A" list is snapping up top-dollar tickets. In the audience for a change, Halle Berry, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jamie Foxx, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson.

GARRETT GRAFF, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, WASHINGTONIAN: What we've certainly seen in this inauguration, I think, is just unprecedented levels of entertainment industry interest and Hollywood interest.

HAYES: For red-carpet treatment, all those stars have paid 50,000 to Obama's inaugural committee. So what does 50 K get you? Four tickets to the swearing in, plum spots on the parade route, and four tickets to the ball of their choice. It's a measure of the excitement around Obama, that the stars are themselves star struck.

GRAFF: We've never seen this before, especially coming off eight years of President Bush, where there just hasn't been that much interest in Hollywood in Washington and the Bush administration.

HAYES: It may sound like a velvet rope sweet deal for the stars, but the truth is, the Obama inauguration has dramatically cut the ability of the rich and famous to get insider access. Linda Douglass, the top spokesperson for the inauguration committee, tells CNN: "We have placed stringent restrictions on fundraising: no funds from lobbyists, corporations, unions or PACs, and a $50,000 limit on individual donations, far below some limits in the past."

The last time around, for example, the Bush inaugural committee took donations of up to a quarter million dollars, and corporate money was welcome. This time, the privately-raised funds will also buy things like JumboTrons and sound systems so people without tickets can see and hear what's happening. Samantha Hayes, CNN, Washington.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center