- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2001

Hollywood celebrities are becoming increasingly common on Capitol Hill, carrying the cause de jour for both Democrats and Republicans who hope the stars' limelight will illuminate their pet issues.

Rock stars, actors, even British royalty, are mixing it up with politicians to promote everything from election reform to overhauling health care.

"Hollywood and Washington have this mutual love affair that's kind of bizarre," said John Czwartacki, former press secretary to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.

"Politicians love Hollywood because it's the lifestyle they want and [stars] receive a public embrace they envy," said Mr. Czwartacki, a communications consultant for Greener and Hook.

"And the reverse is true: Hollywood loves politics because it makes them look smarter than they are, and care more than they actually do," Mr. Czwartacki said.

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, was seen on Capitol Hill recently lobbying for the American Heart Association.

David Crosby of the rock group Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes Young, attended a March 30 Democratic luncheon and pushed for campaign finance reform.

On Tuesday, actor David Hyde Pierce of TVs "Frasier" fame testified before a Senate subcommittee on the need to increase funding to cure Alzheimer's, and rockers Don Henley and Alanis Morissette appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about on-line entertainment.

On Wednesday, Backstreet Boy Kevin Richardson appeared at a news conference with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, to discuss colorectal cancer awareness.

Mr. Richardson, whose father died of colorectal cancer, said he was there to "lend my celebrity to draw awareness."

"The fact that I was asked to come here today was an honor," said Mr. Richardson, whose presence quickly drew hundreds of teen-age girls to witness the introduction of legislation designed to eliminate colorectal cancer.

Ed Marsy is not a Hollywood star, but actor Albert Finney's portrayal of Mr. Marsy in the Academy Award-winning movie "Erin Brockovich," made the trial lawyer a household name.

The film featured a legal suit Mr. Marsy and Mrs. Brockovich spearheaded against Pacific Gas and Electric, which blamed the company's use of a chemical called chromium 6 for causing cancer in hundreds of residents in a small California town.

Mr. Marsy attended a Wednesday news conference with Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat, to introduce a bill that would establish a federal standard for chromium 6 in water.

"If you drink enough chromium 6, you will die; this bill will show how much you can drink without it hurting you," Mr. Marsy said.

The news conference also drew a sizable crowd from the media and passing tourists, hoping to catch a glimpse of actress Julia Roberts, who played the title role. However, she did not attend.

There is not much of a downside to having a famous person at your side in making these announcements, Mr. Czwartacki said.

"The old adage is true, there is really no such thing as bad PR if it gets your cause in the paper. Even if it's linked to a vapid boy band, there is that many more people who are aware of cancer, and that's a good thing," he said

Finally, diva Barbra Streisand met with House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, the previous weekend and issued a three-page memo to Democrats on how to take back the House, Senate and White House.

"We should draw attention to the differences in our parties, hold accountable those currently in power and make them pay for their actions on Election Day. This is not a time to be weak," Miss Streisand wrote.

In the memo, Miss Streisand also criticized Democrats for allowing Republicans to "use the pardon issue as a tool of distraction."

"Clinton's pardons have no impact on the health and welfare of the American people," Miss Streisand stated.

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