Maybe it's the immigrant roots of the Jewish founders of Hollywood, the early studio chiefs; maybe it's the old connection with the Kennedy family - patriarch Joe Kennedy dabbled in the film business, and his sons John and Robert reportedly dabbled with its stars. Whatever the reason, Hollywood has become one of the most important corporate backers of the Democratic Party's liberal social agenda.
Already a major source of cash, the movie business has doubled its donations to politicians in the last two years, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. The amount is estimated to be $50 million a year, and most of it has gone to the party of Bill Clinton.With all that money comes a great deal of theatrical devotion.
At a star-studded event for Clinton this week, the President was described as "a mirror for all of us," by actress Shirley MacLaine, and "a righteous brother," by actress Alfre Woodard, who waxed slightly Homeric in her praise.
"Not in the holy way, necessarily," Woodard said. "But in that brother-man way, that one-with-the-people kind of way, coming from them, moving among them. . . ."
This was just the warm-up for actor John Travolta, who produced a virtual prose anthem of tribute:
"Bill Clinton is our president, my president, and these have been the best eight years of our lives. . . . What will we miss? What endeared you to us? I can only speak for myself. If I were ever in Washington and asked you for directions, you'd listen, you'd think about it, and you'd put me on the right path. . . . If I were hungry, you'd sit right down and eat a cheeseburger with me. . . ."
Why are stars and their studio bosses so attracted to Democrats?
"God, I don't know why," said actress Illeana Douglas. "My guess, it would be because actors are artists, so we're all really sensitive."
She said it with a wink.
Movie-making is a glamorous business, but films often act out the dreams, hardships, sentiments and issues of everyman. Those are the people these fabulously rich Hollywood people think they are siding with by giving to the Democrats.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of the founders of Dreamworks (along with Steven Spielberg and David Geffen), is in a better position than most to give piles of money.
"I can't speak for all of Hollywood," Katzenberg said after a luncheon he hosted Monday to raise money for Democratic women congressional candidates, a breezy affair headlined by Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"For me, when I look at the people in this room, I see women who have mounted campaigns for things like improving education, gun control, health care, and for protecting a woman's reproductive rights. These are issues I believe in and support, and these are the people I want leading our country."
Douglas' allegiance comes naturally. She is the granddaughter of screen legend Melvyn Douglas and Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas - who was ousted from Congress by Richard Nixon a half century ago.
"I'm mostly interested in women's issues, . . . and the Democrats have always been in the forefront on those issues," she said.
That connection on the liberal social front has been nurtured by the Clintons, who have hosted a stream of movie folk in Washington. Actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg said that the Clintons were responsible for her meeting kings and queens on her visits to the White House.
Hillary Clinton has used her Hollywood connections to help raise money for her Senate race. Jinks recalled that he and his partner, Bruce Cohen, got a call from the first lady in November.
"At first she called to tell me how much she and the President liked our movie," he said. "Then, a while later, we got a call asking if we'd host a luncheon here to introduce Hillary to Hollywood's gay community. Bruce had done some political work around gay issues, so we ended up having it about two months ago at Bruce's place."
At least some of Tinseltown's affection might not survive a transition to a Gore-Lieberman administration.
There has been a less-than-overwhelming enthusiasm for Al Gore's vice presidential choice, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, who in the past has warned that Congress might act if Hollywood didn't voluntarily clean up its movies.
"Absolutely that hurts Gore," said Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of films such as Top Gun.
"The stalwart supporters of the Democrats will still be there for him, but then there are those of us who are more apolitical, and we don't take kindly to anyone bashing us just to get some attention. So there may be some backing away in support for them, but basically the connection is not going to change."
Mark Bowden's e-mail address is email@example.com