- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Big Democratic fund-raisers and donors from Hollywood to New York are being courted aggressively, but many are waiting for presidential hopefuls to emerge from the pack before committing to a candidate.
Among reasons cited are a desire to see the candidates distinguish themselves and prove their campaigns viable; misgivings that the Democratic donor base may be unable to sustain so many national campaigns; and the thinking that even if candidates are campaigning this early, party activists do not have to.
"The election's two years off. We're making movies," said Andy Spahn, spokesman for DreamWorks SKG, a film studio.
He said Democratic heavyweights Steven Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks' founding triumvirate, have not committed to a candidate despite pursuit by at least six of the nine in the 2004 race.
"We don't feel a sense of urgency," Mr. Spahn said.
In New York City and elsewhere, many donors and volunteer fund-raisers are forming informal groups and asking candidates to meet them before they choose sides, said Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic National Committee member and chairman of the Gore-Lieberman New York campaign in 2000.
"I realize donors want to feel a connection" to a candidate, he said.
Barbra Streisand, who helped House Democrats raise $6 million in one night in the fall, is doing her homework on the candidates and is holding off on an endorsement for now, a spokesman said.
Solicitations are pouring in to Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of Miramax Films, but he is focused on the Oscars.
In donor-rich Florida, Sen. Bob Graham's decision to start a fund-raising committee is expected to shift most of the state's Democratic givers to him.
Pensacola, Fla., lawyer Fred Levin said he considers himself a good friend of Mr. Graham and Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, and has contributed to both in the past. Mr. Levin said he had planned to help Mr. Edwards raise money for his presidential campaign, but has known Mr. Graham for decades and now feels he should help him instead.
"I'm in a very difficult situation. I had committed to Johnny, never expecting that Bob Graham was going to jump into the race," Mr. Levin said. "When things do shake out, maybe they'll be a ticket together."
In California, Democratic activists estimate that a third to a majority of the big donors and volunteer fund-raisers in San Francisco, Silicon Valley and Los Angeles are on the sidelines. Of the others, many are giving to more than one candidate, they said.
"I don't get any sense that there's a favorite here at all at the moment," said Garry South, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis' senior political adviser, who is being courted by several candidates.
Some question just how many presidential campaigns Democratic donors can sustain.
Silicon Valley Democratic campaign veteran Donnie Fowler said he has heard that four to five candidates expect to raise about $30 million with higher figures mentioned for their primary campaigns.
"That's $100 million to $150 million [total] compared to the $32 million to $34 million Gore spent as sitting vice president," Mr. Fowler said. "The first thing that baffles me is where is this money coming from for these many candidates?"
"I don't think the money is here, and I think you're going to have a lot of people, based on the Gore experience in 2000 … sitting back to some degree seeing how they put their campaigns together," Mr. South said.

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